At our recent AGM, we reflected on the challenges of the past year for our partners in Nepal. There are now more fatalities from COVID-19 than the 2015 earthquake and the impact of livelihoods has been devestating. Reports of domestic violence to Nepal’s government-run domestic violence hotline have significantly increased since 2019. The inability to run in-person events and trips to Nepal has made fundraising challenging.
We're proud that despite a tough year, we've been able to continue to provide vital funding for programs that have real impact for women and girls in Nepal. With your generosity, we've expanded our funding from one to two Family Based Care homes and supported new education projects.
We focus on having deep, rather than wide, impact. In the past year, we supported:
These may seem like small numbers but we know family strengthening, education and safe employment breaks intergenerational cycles of poverty and violence. We know that a child that grows up in a safe family has stronger health, wellbeing and resilience and has greater opportunity to make informed decisions about their future. We also know that a girl with an education has a decreased risk of domestic violence, greater decision-making power and is more likely to educate her own children.
Seeing the Everest trek advertised as empowering travel for women, I thought I’d better go before I get too rickety and humourless. It was good to be free, to fill up on pure air, be inspired and walk. I adore monasteries, singing, eating momos, watching Sherpa and their pack animals tackle the days with tenacity. With the challenge of altitude, appreciating the hard lives of others was ever present.
Project Didi helps young women who need protection from violence, sexual abuse and support to be self- determining. Climbing escarpments of fear, discrimination and repression is exhausting. Asha Nepal work tirelessly to help women who have no family support. I’m glad our donation really helps. Housemothers are kind. Solidarity and safety their strength.
Whilst Nepal’s sights and sounds are tantalising, a visual surprise around every Kathmandu corner, the real life of cultural constraints and customs makes a tattoo. Take your laundry for washing, there’s a brothel above… women with no choice. A lovely bangle is made by a family sitting on the dirt floor of their very hot hut. A beautiful carpet made by women in a shed, fibres and stale air for breath. A man selling a flute no one wants. He shouts his frustrations. Indelible memories of shrines and marigolds and at Asha house; hands inked in henna.
Our lady powered walking group were delightful, interesting, supportive, funny, energetic, grateful. A gang of Didis.
Ang Dami Sherpa spoke of running from Everest to Namche Bazaar. In May 2013 she was 3 months pregnant and won the women’s marathon challenge for a second time. Incredible as this feat is, she has recently lost her husband, runs a guest house, treks 4 hours to visit us, she is a gutsy gazelle and I’m in awe.
In the last week, Nepal reported almost 30,000 new cases. The lockdown in the Kathmandu Valley has been extended to mid-June. Despite the challenges, the Asha team is remaining positive.
"In our part of Kathmandu the first initial panic of the second wave has calmed a bit. One of our staff member contracted COVID-19 but is recovering well. Many of the families we support in the community, who were showing symptoms of COVID-19, but hadn't been tested due to the cost and fear of overcrowded testing centres, have improved. However, with multiple family members sharing one room it is impossible to quarantine.
Most families are unable to work. The lockdown has been very restrictive with significant police presence on the streets and we generally only go out once or twice in 10 days to buy groceries.
Some families are experiencing a food crisis. Last week we are distributed food rations to 10 families in the community, who are unable to access government support.
It has been difficult to to provide regular counselling with lockdown restrictions. Our social workers and counsellors are doing phone call sessions but some of the women and girls are struggling without in-person sessions.
Schools have just recently started back and it's positive to see the girls continuing to study virtually.”
There are very few options for long-term, trauma-informed care for survivors of trafficking and violence in Nepal. The Nepali Police typically refer trafficking survivors to government-run, one stop emergency centres located within hospitals. These are often impersonal and lack the holistic care survivors need.
Family Based Care provides an alternative. For Mother's Day, we spoke to Bina, one of our local partner's Family Based Care housemothers. Bina provides a safe, caring home for children who have experienced significant trauma. Through her calm, consistent parenting, and the support of our partner's social workers and counsellor, children rebuild their wellbeing, confidence and hope for the future.
While some children are unable to return home, due to stigma, family instability or financial challenges, our partner works to strengthen children’s biological families to eventually transition them from Family Based Care to safe, happy lives within in their own communities.
What is your favourite time of day in your family based care home?
I like to spend time with children. I like to listen to them and I enjoy to see them play and the way they share their activities with me. My days passes well listening to them.
The greatest strength of the children in my home is they are fearless, they feel comfortable to share with people they trust, they can share their problems and difficulties.
What do you think needs to change for women and girls in Nepal?
There is a need to change the education system in Nepal. Children from many parts of the Nepal still do not have access to education. Equality between girls and boy is still a big issue in Nepal. Boys have more priority in comparison to girls.
What allows you to stay positive when you are facing challenges?
When I feel difficulty, I share with the Social worker or House Manager and I conduct a house meeting to find solutions to problems. When I am stressed and angry due to children’s behavior I use anger management techniques to manage my anger issues.
What hopes do you have for the future for women and girls?
Regardless of various difficult circumstances children have faced, they should focus and prioritise their academics and plan to complete their studies so that they could be capable enough to look after themselves and their family.
For Mother's Day,
make a donation to honour an extroadinary Mum, like Bina, in your life.
Your tax deductible donation will contribute to Family Based Care for families like Bina's - a safe, caring home for children to grow and thrive.
We’ve been feeling the fear and despair of our Nepali colleagues and friends as the COVID-19 crisis in India spreads into Nepal. Over 9,000 new cases were recorded on Thursday, compared to a daily rate of a couple of hundred a month ago. The fragile health system is already overwhelmed and oxygen is in short supply.
Kathmandu has gone into lockdown so Asha Nepal has distributed supplies and rent support for the next month for the Family Based Care homes and families in the community, who are mostly daily wage laborers and have lost their only source of income.
The ladies at Samunnat Nepal, who are near the border with India, are concerned about food shortages and the rapidly decreasing supply of oxygen. They have been doing twice weekly Zoom workshops with an American polymer clay artist. While these have been put on hold for now they were bringing much joy to the ladies!
COVID-19 disproportionately impacts women and girls.
Reduced access to protective services, higher rates of unemployment, and a greater burden of domestic duties leave women at greater risk of violence, privately and publicly.
In April 2020, data from the United Nations Population Fund predicted at least
15 million more cases of domestic violence globally this year, as a result of pandemic restrictions.
Stress on families has risen, while freedom of movement and privacy have decreased, leaving women already experiencing violence in their home particularly vulnerable.
Here in Australia, new data from the NSW Government suggests that domestic violence has risen, with a 10% increase in access to support services in March.
In Nepal, despite 1 in 4 women experiencing emotional, physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, reports of gender-based violence to the police have dropped drastically since lockdown. Disturbingly, this suggests women are struggling to access help, with loss of funding and disruption to support services.
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.
Happy International Women’s Day!
A day to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women globally. To mark the occasion we caught up with Kusum, who is part of the management team at our partner organisation, Asha Nepal to learn a bit more about herself and Asha's commitment to improving the lives of women and girls, survivors of trafficking and abuse.
What inspires you about the work you do?
After receiving my Bachelor degree I worked as a literacy teacher in an NGO, where I first met girls who had survived trafficking. This experience gave me a deep commitment to help.
These women and girls have experienced so much, return to communities where they face stigma and yet they come together and have the confidence to support others and work hard to build better lives for themselves. They are so hard working, planning ahead to make their life well again. Their will power, that inspires me.
I have now worked in the sector for 7 years.
How does gender inequality make women and girls vulnerable?
Girls are born into this world but they aren’t given preference within the family and they are always understood as only temporary. A girl can never think of herself. When she is born she has to think of her family, then her husband’s family and after that she has to look up to her son and depend upon him.
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.