The Khori village lies at an altitude of 2.650 meters in the Far Western district of Bajhang, which is one of the poorest of the 77 districts in Nepal. The village of 120 families comprises farmers, who grow various crops in their fields. But it was mostly the women who worked in the fields or carried heavy loads as daily laborers, while the male members spent leisurely hours playing cards and board games all day long. The women were forced to give their earnings to their husbands who would spend it on alcohol. When they returned home drunk, they would usually beat their wives and children.
Finally, one day, the women had had enough. They gathered to create a group and went to the local alcohol-maker and forbade him to make alcohol. They then imposed hefty fines of up to 5000 Rupees (€ 35) for anyone found drunk in the streets. They spent the money they made on the fines to improve the infrastructure in the village, for example, by laying water pipes into the houses so they would not have to collect water every day at the well. They also installed toilets in all houses. Their actions were very well received by the local municipality who provided financial help for them to build greenhouses so they could grow vegetables that could not normally be grown at that altitude. They also abolished the tradition of Chhaupadi, whereby all menstruating girls and women are forced to live in unheated and unsanitary cow sheds during their periods from menarche to menopause. They then started to make washable menstrual pads for themselves and sold them to others. By now, after some 7 years, it is a prosperous village. The men, who initially were a bit critical, by now appreciate the leadership of the women in all walks of life.
The women of Khori with HEAR Nepal representatives in the back row
More about the women in Khori can be found in this Kathmandu Post article.
In our experience, true power cannot be given, it can only be taken. Power that can be given can be taken away. We therefore were ecstatic as we read about women taking their own power in their village and we discussed how the spirit of self-empowerment by the women in Khori could be spread to the women in other villages, motivating them to do the same, since the situation is similar in most villages in Bajhang and to her districts.
It is well known that storytelling is one of the most effective methods of getting a message across. We therefore believe that letting the women from Khori tell their story is the best way to motivate women in other villages to also take their power and change their situation. We are not trying to teach the women something, simply to motivate them to come together to take their lives into their own hands and improve the situation in their villages.
We are therefore starting a small pilot project, covering 10 similar villages in Bajhang. HEAR Nepal has visited Khori several and the women have agreed that three of them would be willing to go to these other villages and spend two days speaking to the women there about their experiences with taking their power, encouraging them to get together to discuss what they can do about their most pressing problems. Should this yield good results, i.e., if the women in the other villages also start to take control of their lives, the project could be expanded to include many other villages in Bajhang and elsewhere.
Although the project is focused on the self-empowerment of women, it would be good to get as much support as possible for the project from the men. To mitigate the likelihood of resistance from them we therefore intend to begin the training by briefly including the men, describing to the entire village what we are doing and the positive outcomes that are possible as they have been in Khori.
We will start the project with a baseline survey to determine the situation in the villages and to choose 10 villages with similar issues as Khori had. The survey results will be compared with the results of an endline survey to be conducted at the end of the project to determine the effectiveness of the project. We estimate that the project will take 4 months: 3 months plus 1 month to carry out the two surveys and analyze the results.
In our view, this project has the potential to radically change the balance of power between men and women in rural villages in Nepal, resulting in a higher measure of gender equality. When I visited Khori in May this year and met with the women’s group, they had a request for us. Since they have no place to meet, they meet outside, which is often difficult because of the weather. They thus asked if we could provide funding to build a meeting hall. They would provide the land to build on and asked if we could provide the approximately NPR 1,000,000 (EUR 7.000 or US$ 7.500) to build the hall. We said we would try to raise the corresponding funds, which we have included in the budget for the project.
The staff required for the project consists of the project coordinator and an organizer, as well as a team of 3 persons who will conduct the two surveys.
The coordinator of the Khori Project, who will bear overall responsible for planning, management, and control of the project finances, will be Puja Shahi, District Coordinator of HEAR Nepal in Bajhang. She has a BA in nursing and has several years of experience coordinating the Girls’ and Women’s project of HEAR Nepal in Bajhang, during which she managed a team of 6 staff and impeccably did all the financial accounting and reporting for the project.
Puja Shahi, Project Coordinator
The two surveys will be conducted by a team of locals who will be trained to properly conduct them. Transportation of the survey staff to the villages will be less than for the entire team, since some villages can be surveyed consecutively. To prepare the surveys we have gained the cooperation of Prof. Dr. Narbada Thapa, who has extensive experience conducting such surveys, analyzing them, and writing reports that are published in scientific journals.
Professor Narbada Thapa, responsible for our two surveys
In addition to the salaries of the project coordinator and an organizer, three women from Khori will be employed for 3 months to visit the villages, and the team from HEAR Nepal plus the women from Khori will be fed and lodged in the 10 villages. As is customary, the approximately 30 participating women/village will receive a small allowance and food contribution. A major cost will be transportation from the capital of Bajhang to Khori and to the other villages, which, due to the remoteness of the villages and the bad roads, is only possible by Jeep.
Budget (Exchange rate of November 8, 2023: 1.000 NPR = 7,03 EUR = 7.505 USD)
|Budget Khori Project
|Budget in NPR*
|Budget in EUR
|Budget in USD
|HEAR Nepal Team
|Salary, Project Coordinator, 4 months at 35,000 NPR
|Salary, male coordinator, 4 months at 32,000 NPR
|Salary, organizer, 4 months à 30.000 NPR
|Compensation 2 women from Khori, 3 months at 30,000 NPR
|Compensation 2 men from Khori, 3 months at 30,000 NPR
|Accommodation, 10 x 7 people x 2 nights at 600 NPR/night
|Food, 10 x 7 persons x 3 days x 300/day
|Participating women: approx. 30/village
|Daily allowance, 30 women + 30 men x 10 villages, 2 days, 300/day
|Food for 30 women + 30 men x 10 villages, 2 days, NPR 100/day
|Transportation of team to the villages
|Jeep, 20 round trips from the district capital of Bajhang à NPR 10,000
|Baseline survey + final survey
|2 x plane fare KTM-BJH: M. Joshi + Prof. N. Thapa
|Transportation by jeep 2 x to 10 villages, 10,000/village
|Remuneration Prof. Thapa, development and execution of two surveys
|Food M. Joshi + Prof. Thapa
|Food for survey participants from the 10 villages, 2 x 10 persons, 50/day
|Evaluation and report writing for the two surveys by Prof. Dr. Narbada Thapa
|Construction of a meeting hall in Khori
|Cost of construction = 1,000,000 NPR
* Exchange rate of Nov. 8, 2023: NPR 1.000.00 = EUR 7,03 = USD 7,505