Namaste our friends - how are you?
What a question in this unbelievable time. It goes without saying, we’re all adjusting to a new kind of normal. We hope you and your families are staying healthy, navigating the anxiety, confusion and enormity of COVID-19 and finding some social solidarity in the isolation.
We’re concerned for our colleagues and friends in Nepal, who like us, are working out how to move forward. Nepal has only 2 confirmed cases, but some say this number reflects a lack of tests. There is a strict stay-at-home order in place, with schools, businesses and government offices closed and domestic and international flights grounded.
Nepal has also closed its land borders with India and China. When one of our co-founders, Sarah, left Nepal over a week ago there were already queues for petrol, gas and cooking oil, with fear of fuel and food shortages, much of which comes from India and China.
The women and girls and our colleagues at our partner, Asha Nepal, are all healthy. They have closed the office and are continuing to support the family care homes and families in the community with the team working from home where possible. The family care homes are well stocked with food, toiletries and basic medical care. Asha has purchased induction heating stoves in anticipation of a shortage in cooking gas. With schools closed, the family care mothers are considering creative ways to make the time productive and not too disruptive for the girls. They have been reading, cooking together, playing indoor games, doing art and watching movies.
These are heartbreaking times for so many and especially for already fragile communities. For those already vulnerable from violence and precarious livelihoods, unable to rely on an affordable or adequate healthcare system, COVID-19 will be devastating. There are no stimulus packages in Nepal.
It’s also a testing time for our global community and the shared connections we have built across cultures and borders, as we, by necessity, turn to our here and now.
After a cooking class with one of our groups in Nepal last year, Mina*, who along with a number of the family based care mothers have set up a catering business, said
“I felt really joyful while conducting the cooking class."
So in the spirit of finding joy where we can and remembering we are part of a global community, the Project Didi team have decided to cook a number of the mothers’ recipes.
We’ve shared a recipe below, so we hope you’ll join in our Nepali feast and find joy in the food and connection to our didis in Nepal.
Mixed Vegetable Curry
*Name changed to protect privacy.
A reporter once asked A.J. Muste, a Dutch born American clergyman and
pacifist who protested against the Vietnam War, “Do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night in front of the White House with a candle?” Muste replied softly,
“Oh I don’t do this to change the country.
I do this so the country won’t change me.”
In a world so complex, so overwhelmed with systemic poverty and injustice, it can be flummoxing and down-right exhausting deciding where your precious effort and resources should go, and even more so, understanding whether you are having any real impact.
2019 was my first year formally involved with Project Didi as President of the Board, and this role has been my own lit candle: the time I give and the work I do is my act of service to what I think is truly important. It has kept me tethered to the legacy I want to create in my life. I imagine it is the same for our supporters and the Project Didi community broadly.
There are many important causes in the world, and we as individuals cannot address every single one. What is important is that something about Project Didi’s mission resonated with you as it does with us. And you made the conscious decision to allocate your time or energy or resources to this community.
You, like us, understand how precious women and girls are to this planet. How critical education is to the lives of women, their families and their communities. You understand how critical it is to address the urgent crisis of trafficking and modern slavery. How central child rights are to a flourishing world. How everybody loses when gender inequality goes unchallenged.
We expanded our trips offering two new opportunities to travel to Nepal
We were thrilled to partner with Fernwood Tuggeranong, a female gym and health club in Canberra, to run a trip in March. We ran our first Women Empowering Women trip with nine women from across Australia. These trips provide valuable funding for critical care for survivors of trafficking and abuse, but they also are an opportunity for our community to gain an understanding of Nepal and the complexities facing women and girls through meeting Nepali community leaders, artisans and entrepreneurs. Travel with us in 2020! Read more about our trips over on our blog & sign up below to be the first to know about this year's trip.
We continued our strong partnerships in Nepal
We're proud to mark 5 years in our partnership with Asha Nepal. We supported the development of the growth of the women-led catering program with new women undertaking training. The women also landed a catering booking for a 5-day local government training session for over 30 people! Both our women's trips to Nepal enjoyed cooking alongside the women in their homes.
It’s been a week since we waved goodbye to these 9 brilliant women who joined us on our women empowering women trip, making it the 7th trip we’ve taken to Nepal.
We’re grateful that they chose to travel this way. Through the trip's contribution to our work in Nepal and through the women-led organisations we support through our tourism, the trip opens opportunities for women and girls, who have experienced adversity, discrimination, trafficking and violence.
But who is empowering who? It is our intention that it goes both ways, that the trips are a shared learning experience.
You can think of it a bit like Nepal’s roads where everything and everyone is going all directions (with the occasional cow added into the mix!). Despite the different destinations, the shared journey is the fun bit!
Emerging unscathed from the Nepali traffic, here's what we learnt on our most recent trip.
“Amazing”, “spectacular,” and “sensational” were just a few of the words our Fernwood Tuggeranong trekking group used to describe their recent trip to Nepal with us.
Seeing Everest, learning to cook a traditional Nepali dinner and experiencing first hand the work being done to support survivors of trafficking and abuse were just some highlights.
We were blessed with perfect weather and the adventure kicked off with a trek along the first leg of the Everest Base Camp trek where the group got a taste of village life in remote areas of Nepal, spent a day in the traditional Sherpa trading centre of Namche Bazaar, and saw spectacular views of the Himalayas, including Everest and Lhotse.
Most had never travelled to Nepal and many hadn’t trekked, overcoming personal challenges they never thought possible, such as a fear of flying in small planes (we flew into Lukla to start the trek), walking along suspension bridges and completing a relatively challenging trek.
Back in Kathmandu the group spent time at our local partner, learning about the issues of trafficking and abuse in Nepal and the work being done to support survivors. We were also treated to a traditional Nepali lunch prepared by the team at our partner. Delicious!
The following day the group learnt how to cook a traditional Nepali dinner of dahl baht and vegetable curry in our partner's family based care homes, small family units for children who have survived trafficking or abuse with a mother who is a survivor herself. The cooking class is a recent Project Didi initiative to provide income generation opportunities for the mothers. A visit to the home also allowed the group to see first hand the positive impact family based care has for survivors. Read more about our family based care.
Other highlights included tours of the UNESCO World heritage Bouddhanath, Durbar Square and the Ason Tole markets in Kathmandu.
The tour was a huge success and judging by the feedback enjoyed by all - so much so that plans are already underway for another Fernwood Tuggeranong tour next year!
We would like to thank Fernwood Tuggeranong and the participants for making the trip so enjoyable and memorable, enabling us to raised funds to continue our work in Nepal and most importantly raise awareness of the issue of trafficking.
Words & images: Leonie Keogh, Project Didi co-founder and Board Member
This month, the UN released its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons that examines the prevalence of trafficking, including forced labour, sexual exploitation and forced marriage across 142 countries.
It wasn’t good news for women and girls. Trafficking disproportionately affects women and it’s only on the rise, particularly for young girls. The report found that since 2014, there has been an increase in traffickers targeting girls below the age of 18.
The young girls we work with in Nepal, survivors of trafficking, have missed their childhood. They’ve missed critical years of schooling. Stigma often prevents them from finding employment and independence. Their confidence and self-worth has been shattered by years of degradation and violence.
These lives seem far away from our reality, but we are hold more power in Australia than we might think to prevent trafficking and ensure that all women and girls have safe, dignified futures.
It's not too late to make a New Year's Resolution. Today, for the last day of January, commit to standing up for the freedom of our sisters with these 3 simple steps.
A lack of transparency in fashion supply chains (your t-shirt might pass through hundreds of stages to get to you - from the cotton picking to the printing and packaging!) and a demand for new, cheap and more has fueled forced labour and exploitative, unsafe working conditions for the garment workers, many female, who make our clothes.
We hold power in our wallets. Use the Good on You app to look up brands that respect their workers, pay them a fair wage and have no child or forced labour in their production.
On your next trip, take 4 photos of your hotel room and upload them to TraffickCam. The app’s database of photos are used by law enforcement to locate traffickers who are selling women into sexual slavery using online advertisements taken in hotel rooms.
Get involved with organisations, like us, that work to prevent trafficking and support survivors to rebuild their lives!
Could you put one of our donation boxes in your office or local cafe? Would you like some of our beautiful cards for your shop? Could you help us run an event? Or are you an admin whizz? We’re always looking for volunteers to support our work with women and girls in Nepal!
Author: Clare Bartram
Images: Project Didi & Unsplash.