It’s a glorious day because for one, it is very cool out, below the sweltering 95 degrees. I am not sweating for the first time in weeks. The monsoon season brought much needed rain and also, I think I had the most juicy, ripe mango ever. Sadly, my daily mango, or sometimes three will be coming to an end. The family I am staying with only has five left! The mango (apt in Nepali) season is coming to an end, Sova, my new mother pointed out today. The fruit that I don’t think I ever have had in the U.S other than in a smoothie will be surely be missed. I will have to find another delicacy soon.
NESPEC has been quite hectic the past few days with the monthly review and planning meetings. My desire to learn Nepali has heightened even more after sitting in the discussions with only some translation. All staff members and some board members were present to check in with the activities for the past month as well as plan for next month. Each social mobilizer presented their activities in July and then feedback was provided. The issues that NESPEC have are the same that many other NGOs face. Field offices not open long enough, committees not following saving model, resources lacking, donors adapting grants and the most common problem, staff are not getting paid enough. Even on the other side of the world the same issues are struggles with organizations.
The organization is a broadly based human rights NGO, working on four campaigns; land rights and food security, education, women’s rights and health. Since the start of NESPEC in 1997, the organization has always focused on what marginalized people need in Gaighat and the surrounding areas. A human rights based approach was implemented, educating people on their rights with an overall awareness of various issues. The awareness eventually led to people who would never speak out demand the government for important issues, such as water pumps and land rights. Just recently, one committee asked for a foot water pump, which will help grow their vegetables. These simple requests are how villages will sustain their food supply, especially with an organization like NESPEC supporting them.
The largest campaign that NESEPC is working on currently is the food and land rights campaign with Action Aid Nepal. NESPEC, along with seven other organizations are forming ways to help marginalized people live better lives with sustained income. One way NESEPC is taking action is through farming groups, in which 45 have formed in different districts. The farmers talk about their problems with the land, and as a result formed a micro finance system. Loans can now be given with very small interest to those in the community that are in need. There are also REFLECT classes in which NESPEC oversees, a town hall like forum that marginalized groups can tell their stories and can feel empowered through local government advocacy. NESPEC is a powerful force in Gaighat and will continue to be with its determined activists and campaigns. Local government policy has been influenced by the campaigns. Now the district members are committed to changing the micro credit system so that it is assessable to all.
An issue in Nepal that I witness on a daily basis is the inequality of women. Many have approached me asking what America is like, how I have been able to come here and most important, how do I like Nepal. Those are the simple questions that are entertaining to answer. However, it’s when the conversation gets deeper is when it becomes very complicated. Every woman has had extreme hardship to endure in this society. Childbirth for example, can be very dangerous to the mother and they are forced to take care of the household the day after giving birth, resulting in serious medical problems years later. Domestic abuse, unequal pay and low literacy rates are other issues to name a few, all in which NESPEC is fighting against.
A monthly women’s forum has been established by NESPEC where oppressed women gather to speak about their experiences ranging from land rights, to how to get out of domestic abuse situations. The women have felt very empowered through this story telling and a survey was conducted by NESPEC with women in various communities about domestic abuse that was then passed onto the local governments. The ministry has recently passed a new law in which women who have been abused by their husbands are given compensation. In the end, women in the forum felt very empowered by making a significant social change.
It is truly astounding to see such a small organization make such a large impact in the community policy level. NGO’s such as these are needed in a country where the government is seen as corrupt to most citizens and very slow to actually listen to its people.
The next blog hopefully will be about the children’s campaigns in the field if the rain ever stops.
Posted By Morgan St. Clair
Posted Jul 28th, 2009