Honouring Nepal’s remarkable women within the Rural Access Programme

IMC has celebrated International Women’s Day with an award ceremony in our Nepal office in Kathmandu, to highlight women’s achievements and contribution to their communities within the UK Aid-funded Rural Access Programme.

Thursday 08 March 2018, Ruth McPake, Lorenza Geronimo

The Rural Access Programme (RAP), which has been delivered by IMC since 1999 to alleviate poverty in Nepal, has built and maintained thousands of kilometres of climate-resilient roads to connect remote communities to market, healthcare and education.

RAP employs individuals from the poorest households in road maintenance and construction. Many of these are earning a wage for the first time. In the selection process, we prioritise marginalised and disadvantaged groups and require that the workforce be 33% female.

RAP socioeconomic component, CONNECT, boosts the economy in the Mid and Far West regions by building partnerships between banks, multinationals, micro, small and medium enterprises and farmers. A sharp focus is on the empowerment of players who are poorly represented on the entrepreneurial landscape, such as women and youth.

The women that work for and with RAP have distinguished themselves for defying stereotypes, challenging social norms, inspiring their communities, achieving academic success and taking on leadership roles.

The RAP team has nominated 52 women across the districts where the programme is operational, based on their achievements. Today, the Head of the UK Department of International Development (DFID) in Nepal, Dr Rurik Marsden, has awarded five winners across five categories during a ceremony in Kathmandu.

Everyone can make a contribution toward women’s rights. Women are and should be taking on strong leadership roles. We should all be in a position where the opportunities and pay are equal for men and women.

– Head of DFID Nepal Dr Rurik Marsden

Defying stereotypes

Pushpa Hamal, from Dailekh district, has won in this category for her courage to speak up for equal pay as member of the Special Maintenance Group (SMG) and Chairperson, leading it for the last year.

Due to the division of labour within the SMG, the 8 male members undertake skilled work while the 12 women are responsible for unskilled labour. Men have demanded higher pay, which has created issues in the group. Despite this pressure, Pushpa has been arguing and defending women’s rights to equal pay. Her leadership has inspired other female SMG members and women in the local community to follow suit.

Challenging social norms

Devsara Devi Budha, from Bajura, won in this category.

The local community recommended her as a member of the Local Road Coordination Committee based on her contribution to the community. Working with the Mahila Adhikar Munch platform, Devsara was key in challenging the Chhaupadi practice, which prevents Hindu women from participating in normal family activities and forces them to live in cattle sheds or makeshift huts while menstruating, as they are considered ‘impure’. The campaign for safe and clean resting places at the time of Chhaupadi led to women remaining in their respective houses and the demolition of 20 sheds. She has also worked with the village clean coordination committee to fight against open defecation and encouraged communities to use toilets and wash their hands with soap.

Devsara also campaigned against early and multi marriage and raised awareness of conflicts arising from alcohol consumption. Finally, she is the Vice Chairperson of Chhatara Agriculture Cooperative.

Head of DFID Nepal Dr Rurik Marsden with some of the winners at the award ceremony in Kathmandu on 8 March 2018.
Head of DFID Nepal Dr Rurik Marsden with four of the winners at the award ceremony in Kathmandu on 8 March 2018.

Inspiring and energising communities

The winner in this category is Satyadevi Shahi, from Kalikot. In addition to being a Road Maintenance Group member, she advocates to prevent violence against women, the Chhaupadi tradition and discrimination. Satyadevi has received training from the Women Development Office (WDO). Working with the WDO and the Village Development Committee (VDC), she has participated in street dramas and campaigns and encouraged women to use funds available via the VDC for women’s empowerment.

Achieving academic success

Dhana BC, from Dailekh, is a single mother. Through the partnership that RAP CONNECT built with Unilever Nepal, she was appointed as rural sales agent and is consistently a high performer.  Dhana has been educating herself and her child with the profits she makes and is studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Despite the challenge of raising a child as a single mother, she is demonstrating that with determination you can improve your circumstances.

Taking on leadership roles

Mata Devi Saud, from Bajura, was awarded in this category. She is a Road Building Group facilitator, a local road treasurer, the elected ward member for Tribeni Municipality and has been nominated as Municipality Executive Committee member.  She has also been actively involved in her mother group since 1999, was elected as a rural health worker, organised vaccination campaigns and worked to end open defecation. Her husband works in India, her eldest daughter is married and her three other children are all studying.

Walking the walk

International Women’s Day, on 8 March each year, aims to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

The global theme this year is #PressforProgress, a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

RAP demonstrates its commitment to these goals, acknowledging women’s achievements and creating a workplace where everyone’s contribution is valued equally.

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