Nepal’s Take on Women Empowerment –A Step Towards a Golden Tomorrow
Interview by Savina Xavier
The main goal of GET-Nepal is to provide safe travel opportunities for girls and women and meanwhile contribute to the needy communities
With many initiatives being targeted towards women empowerment across the world, many young girls are coming to realize their roles in changing social norms and erasing the stigma around women. These projects are being implemented at the grass-root level, where young girls are encouraged to be a part of them.
In line with the global nations, Nepal as a developing country is also actively taking up initiatives and creating opportunities for women and young girls to help them have a brighter tomorrow. While there are close to 75,000 NGOs in Nepal working towards various causes, Girls Empowered by Travel (GET) – Nepal is one among these organizations that is creating empowerment opportunities for Nepali women and young girl community through projects like Hitaishi that help in building a powerful network of Girl Travel Circles (GTC).
In an interview with Sajana Bhadel, the President of GET-Nepal, Nepali Sansar Bureau (NSB) explored the nature and prospects of such projects striving for women and girl empowerment, alongside the challenges that crop up whilst implementing them. Here are some of the excerpts from the interview:
1. NSB: Introduce yourself, what is your role at the organization? How did you get to be a part of the organization?
Sajana Bhadel: I am Sajana Bhadel, currently living in Basantapur but originally from Changunarayan, Bhaktapur. I am the President of GET-Nepal. Being the President implies a lot of responsibilities, from organizing programs and events to raising funds. My role mostly consists of doing research on related legal issues, interaction with local people and different stakeholders, as well as execution of all the projects, handling financial and legal matters of Girls Empowered by Travel-Nepal.
2. NSB: What lead to this initiative started and what was the idea behind it?
Sajana Bhadel: Everyone knows that traveling is always fun, but we have this misconception that travel is confined to rich people going to some beautiful and luxurious places and spending money. We have come up with this brilliant idea to integrate traveling and social activities. In developing countries like Nepal, traveling for girl seems almost impossible. They are unaware of existence of various communities in the world. They are confined in the four walls. We are trying to give some meaning behind this deeply rooted so-called definition of travel. Traveling is movement from one place to another and learning about different cultures, lifestyles and exchanging the skills/ knowledge at the same time.
3. NSB: What was the one thing that inspired you about GET-Nepal?
Sajana Bhadel: The main goal of GET-Nepal is to provide safe travel opportunities for girls and women and meanwhile contribute to the needy communities
4. NSB: What are the other projects taken up by GET-Nepal related to women?
Sajana Bhadel: Besides Hitaishi, we have different projects to help marginalized communities. Champak Namuna Home (https://www.facebook.com/GEThomestayNepal/) is a homestay located in Tamang community of Changunarayan, Bhaktapur. Changunarayan temple is listed in the World Heritage site. It is a home to Lord Bishnu and was built in the 3rd Century. But it has been famous among neither national nor international tourists. This place has lots of potential in attracting all kinds of tourists from hikers to cyclists, who come here to enjoy beautiful mountain views.
Champak Namuna Home welcomes tourists and the homestay here helps promote women’s economic advancement. Research from Homestay Association has found that more than 80% of women are directly involved in the homestay to serve guests. So, we believe that it will help women’s economic independence as well as address major problems like child marriage and overconsumption of alcohol in this village. In addition, Homestay has helped preserve culture and traditions of the Tamang community.
Currently, we are developing a project to educate children of Brick Kiln. These children are obliged to drop out of school while moving with their parents to the brick factory. So, the project helps to provide basic education to kids, so they can continue their studies after six months’ stay in the factories. This project also educates and raise awareness about Menstruation and Health among young girls working in the factories.
We also frequently organize hikes near Kathmandu valley.
5. NSB: What are the challenges that the organization experiences in terms of day-to-day activity and project-specific implementation? What was the most challenging problem you faced in the leadership and management of GET-Nepal?
Sajana Bhadel: There are over 75,000 non-profit companies and organizations in Nepal. After the devastating earthquake in 2015, the number of non-profit organizations has soared up. So, it has created challenges to raise funds.
Writing proposals for grants is the most challenging task as well. We are trying our best to put our ideas in words. GET-Nepal is in developing phase and we are learning everything by doing. Most of the GET-Nepal members are students, so time management is also one of the toughest part in terms of day-to-day activities.
6. NSB: Are there any associations that GET-Nepal associated with? If yes, then who are they and what kind of support do they offer?
Sajana Bhadel: We are not associated with any associations yet, but we are in the process of becoming a member of Association of Youth Organizations Nepal (AYON) and NGO Federation in Nepal.
7. NSB: What sort of support have you been receiving for your activities, either from the government or any local groups for your programs?
Sajana Bhadel: We haven’t received any support from the Government of Nepal, but local communities and related municipalities have been a great support during our programs in the community.
8. NSB: Since GET-Nepal has initiatives for women and young girls, do you get any support from them as well? If yes, what is their role in making these initiatives a success?
Sajana Bhadel: Women and girls are the strongest forces of GET-Nepal. We would never be able to organize the program without their support. They trust and motivate us, and also show their interest to participate in our programs. But it is hard to ensure proactive participation from rural girls. Since our programs are travel-based, rural girls are hesitant to participate. We are trying hard to take them out from their communities to explore and observe different communities.
9. NSB: What initiatives do you plan to implement in the coming months? What significant changes do you foresee in the near future?
Sajana Bhadel: From our latest project Hitaishi, we have found that health issues and more rape cases are present in the Dhanusha district (one of the low land region of Nepal). Students dropped their classes when health teacher taught reproductive and sexual education, so teachers are obliged to skip these courses. Addressing the issues, participants of Hitaishi-2 from the district will teach about Menstruation and Health. They will create a small group of local girls to share their knowledge. In addition, some experts from Health and Reproductive sectors will visit Dhanusha district to facilitate groups of local girls. These girls will teach young students with the help of Health teachers in different public schools.
We won’t be able to solve the problems overnight, but we can bring awareness to some extent.
10. NSB: Would you like to convey any message regarding the initiatives you are taking?
Sajana Bhadel: Anyone can be the part of GET-Nepal. We welcome any innovative ideas if it is about supporting young girls and women in the entire world. Youth are the strongest foundation to paving a smooth path of development. More than half of the population is women, so they must equally participate in all developmental and policy-making activities. They must be visible in the mainstream of the nation’s developmental process. So, anyone can join us to make a difference in the local community.
Let’s create meaningful and safe traveling opportunities for women and young girls. None should be left behind. Travel can make a difference and it could be a best tool for experiential learning.