Support network in United States to empower Nepali women
Washington, March 8:
In a message to Nepali women on International Women’s Day, a woman from the developed world writes, “You give me inspiration when life is difficult. Thanks for your liveliness and persistence.”
The Educate the Children organisation relays many such messages to its Nepali women members from their sisters across the globe. Instead of treating International Women’s Day as a political event, the ETC marks the occasion in this low-key but more personal way. “Women focus on recognising the gains they’ve made through the ETC programs and on their link to the broader international community,” says ETC executive director Susanna Pearce.
Pearce stresses that it means a lot to these women to hear about the international support for their efforts, and the impact they’re making on other women’s lives. The Educate the Children organisation (www.etc-nepal.org) is itself a product of one American woman’s wish to help Nepalis. This US-based non-profit organisation was established by Pamela Carson in 1990 after her visit to Nepal. It is and has been a women-led non-profit organisation both here and in Nepal.
The aim of many foreign nationals and Nepalis is to help improve the lives of rural people through non-profit agencies like ETC. While the Maoist insurgency has disrupted their work in many areas, it has also increased the need and urgency to help villagers. Sadly, most programmes are concentrated within the periphery of the Kathmandu valley, although there are still some projects running in other areas.
In the past few years, more and more rural women have benefited from non-profit literacy and vocational programs. Hom Raj Acharya of the Books for Every Home (www.nepalibooks.org) programme says 80 per cent of its 6,000 beneficiaries are women. Acharya’s literacy program serves six districts in the Terai, far eastern and western hills.
“It’s partly a chance happening that more women today participate in our programs,” says Acharya. “The Maoist insurgency has left villages with fewer men. As a result, women have had to learn skills and become self-reliant to provide for their families.” He says women juggle between long hours of laborious chores and participating in the programmes.
But the increase in women’s participation is also partly due to the freedom and opportunities that the 1990 democracy brought for all Nepalis, says Acharya. Although generations-old discriminatory practices still exist, he feels that Nepali women today enjoy more freedom to advance and improve their lives.
The number of Nepali women going overseas to work and study has increased considerably. With more and more Nepali women coming to the United States alone or with their families, their sisters in America have set up their own network (www.nepaliwomen.org) since 2002.
The Nepali Women’s Network - North America promotes self-reliance of Nepali women in the U.S. and Canada. Network president Annapurna Deo says there was a need for Nepali women here to come together to support one another, socialise, learn and share ideas and experiences.
The network serves as a helpful source for information sharing, community news, and advice for Nepali women who have recently arrived in North America, as well as for those who have been living here a long time.
The network also collaborates with other organizations to assist Nepali women, particularly in education. With the aid of the US-based Scholarship Program Administrators Inc, it is providing the Mary Interlandi Memorial Scholarships to two Nepali women currently studying in the US.
The scholarships are named after a young American whose love for Nepal and its culture was cut short by her untimely death at 19 years of age. The network is also providing two scholarships through funds from Indira Foundation, another non-profit agency in the US, for Nepali women to study in Kathmandu’s nursing schools. The generous support has made it possible for two women, one from Sindhupalchowk and another from Baitadi, to go to nursing school this year.