Community-level Development Happening in Nepal

World Neighbors - Kate Schecter, President and CEO

Interview by Sai Nikesh D

Years of socio-political-economic struggle gave Nepal what it is today. Decades-long struggle is turning into real-time development in a gradual and phased manner, resulting in long-awaited transformation for the country in almost every way, i.e. social progress, sustainable development, human rights, governance, etc.

And, Nepali Sansar (NS) has always been conscious about every small step that contributed to Nepal’s development in the recent times. In its journey of continuous coverage, NS Bureau got a chance to interact with World Neighbors (WN.org), one of the world’s leading development organizations into human rights protection across nations.

In an exclusive interview with NS, WN’s President and CEO, Kate Schecter shared her experiences and knowledge about overall development scenario of Nepal.

Here are some of the excerpts from the interview:

1. NSB: Years of experience in dealing with diverse communities continues to be your strength. What is your take on current socio-economic-political scenario globally, developed vs underdeveloped nations, in brief? 

Kate Schecter: My take is that life is stressful for people all around the world, whether they are in urban settings or rural. The people living in wealthy countries may have jobs, but they are often dealing with political conflicts, the threat of terrorism or crime, and other urban woes. 

In poorer, rural communities, there may not be the same stresses, but millions of people are still living at subsistence levels and lack of food and water are causing stress. One big difference I see is that in the very remote rural communities where we work in 13 countries around the world, people work together. The concept of community and helping one’s neighbors is alive and well in these remote villages in under-developed areas of the world. That sense of community is less prevalent in wealthier urban environments.

2. NSB: Coming to Asian region in specific, there still seems to be a long way for the region to see a full-fledged change in society, almost in many aspects. What do you feel about this?

Kate Schecter: I just spent three weeks traveling to Nepal, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. I saw a lot of change happening in all three countries in the rural areas. Women are speaking out more. Through the savings and credit groups that World Neighbors (WN) has helped them from, women can access credit now. They are starting to make money either through the sale of vegetables and other produce they grow on their farms or through their own small businesses.

By generating their own revenue, they can pay for school fees, health care costs, and many other important expenditures. This also gives them confidence and more freedom to exercise their own ideas and choices. From my perspective, these changes are happening faster than they used to and women are becoming more assertive in these rural areas.

3. NSB: Many feel that long-awaited revolution against women violence has come in the form of the today’s burning #MeToo movement. To what extent do you think is this movement doing its part in unfolding sad stories and ways to address them?

Kate Schecter: I think in many cases the movement is helping victims to get justice and to deal with their trauma. While the #MeToo movement has mostly been about wealthier famous women, I hope this leads to a change in societal norms all around the world. Women shouldn’t have to be treated this way and have no recourse, but unfortunately, despite the movement, many women are still treated badly throughout the world. 

4. NSB:  #MeToo is leaving no stone unturned! Besides India, the movement is finding its high relevance in neighboring Nepal, which is already undergoing a turmoil due to rise in women-related crimes. How do you look at #MeTooNepal?

Kate Schecter: Women in Nepal are no exception when it comes to sexual harassment and violence. I think the movement needs to keep trying to expose the difficulties that women face in Nepal and to make women feel secure enough that when they do report a crime there are consequences for the perpetrators.

5. NSB: Little further about Nepal, Human Rights scenario in the Himalayan nation has never been stable because of its political instability. How do you find it now after the long-awaited political transformation that took place this year?

Kate Schecter: WN has always encouraged the breaking down of castes, religious, ethnic and other differences. In Bihar of India, we have been very successful and thousands of women from different castes, religions, and ethnic backgrounds work together in a Federation of Women to implement changes for all the communities.

We have also succeeded in many villages in Nepal in getting communities to work together despite these differences. While there are still many miles to go before all people are treated equally in Nepal, I have seen a lot of improvement in this area over the past five years

6. NSB: As an organization working for diverse communities, how do you see community-level development in Nepal at the local level?

Kate Schecter: There is a strong sense of commitment to the land and to one’s neighbors in Nepal. A good example of this is that we see communities teaching each other new techniques in sustainable agriculture, water conservation, and many other essential areas of life. This kind of sharing of knowledge is the true sign of the nature of these communities.  Despite their diverse backgrounds, they care about one another and are helping each other.

7. NSB: While the country is making strides towards overall development, issues like gender inequality, education, community-based discrimination, health care services & connectivity continue to be major hurdles for inclusive development in Nepal. What do you think is need of the hour for the country?

Kate Schecter: I believe that education is the key to sustainable development. All children—boys and girls—need to have access to good education. Once there is universal education for all children for a full 12 years with the opportunity to advance to university, the country will move forward in all of the other areas you mention above. If young people have access to affordable education, there will be fewer young people leaving to find education and work in other countries. 

8. NSB: How do you find the governmental, policy and public level support to address such scenarios in the Himalayan nation?

Kate Schecter: WN’s experience has been very good. The national government has been very supportive of our work. In many cases, local governments have invested their own funds into communities, where we work to promote sustainability and to scale up our programs.

9. NSB: Overall, how has been your journey with Nepal over the years and where is it heading further?

Kate Schecter: I have grown to love the country even though I only started traveling there in 2014. Since then, I have visited three times and been to many villages throughout the country. On this last trip, I visited communities that just started to work with WN a year or two ago and have already changed their farming methods, started small businesses and are thriving. The visits are very inspiring and one can’t help but feel humbled and privileged to have the opportunity to meet such hard-working wonderful people throughout the country.

Our future looks bright to continue to expand our work in Nepal as we continue to meet with new communities who want to improve their lives.

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