From June 29th to July 11th, I visited 2 COCAP member organizations in southern Nepal. One NGO is located in Bhadrapur, Jhapa, and the other one is located in Gaigat, Udaypur. The southern strip of Nepal is known as the Terai, or the flatlands. It is the hottest region and usually the area hit most severely by monsoon rains. I conducted organizational capacity-building trainings for both NGOs and interviewed staff about their work to prepare English publicity materials.
The first three days in Bhadrapur, I spoke with Gajendra Acharya about his organization with the help of an excellent translator, Keshab Kaflay, an English teacher at the local college. We spoke for several hours a day so that I could write an English brochure for his NGO. As is always the case with language barriers and differences in NGOs here versus in the US, it was difficult to get a full grasp of what his organization was about until I asked numerous questions. As is usually the case, the organization was doing a lot of important work, but did not seem to have sufficient, detailed, or clear records of all their projects. Due to a lack of adequate knowledge on my part about Nepali laws, enforcement, and local governance, it was difficult to figure out exactly at what level the NGO worked at, how small communities functioned, and what kind of change the NGO was aiming to affect. It was difficult to visualize the programs in action. Words like “women’s paralegal training” were confusing to me. I gleaned as much information as I could and am now in the process of writing the brochure.
Gajendra’s NGO, the Community Legal Research Center (CLRC), promotes women’s legal rights and gender equality. It trains village women in their legal rights and assists rural villages in forming Village Paralegal Committees. These committees serve as grassroots law enforcement organizations assisting women in legal procedures should they be victims of crimes or have other issues. They also mediate household and village disputes. If the committees are unable to handle a case, they refer it to CLRC, who then offer free professional legal aid and court representation. CLRC also conducts awareness programs about sexual discrimination issues and organizes rallies and public programs to promote gender equality. Finally, it conducts organizational capacity-building trainings for the Ward, Village, and District Paralegal Committees it helped organize on topics such as organizational management, project planning, leadership, and community mobilization.
What I found particularly interesting about the NGO was that it was founded by men and still staffed mainly by men. Gajendra kept talking about Nepal’s “Defective Social Values System” (i.e. patriarchy), which I found not only very promising, but also very endearing. They believe in raising awareness in and mobilizing women – the victims – first, but have also conducted trainings for men. They are now working with 15 Village Paralegal Committees, all staffed by women, and are trying to register a “Women’s Paralegal Association” as an official NGO, which would conduct similar work as CLRC and work at the district level. Lastly, they are preparing a proposal for UNDP requesting funds to continue their trainings and start savings and credits groups. The Village Paralegal Committees would also serve as village banks, enabling women to start small income-generating schemes. As is often the case with NGOs in developing countries, CLRC has stepped out of its area of specialization to address what they feel is urgently needed in their community.
For ten days before the trip, I prepared training materials from scratch. When Gajendra and I first met in June, he only asked me to write an English brochure for him. In an effort to do some real “capacity-building” for his NGO, I offered to conduct trainings for them as well. Then, I started to regret it. What was I talking about? I have never conducted a real training in my life, and wasn’t sure what I would even train them in! I had no materials. What did I know that would be useful to them, something that would be a feasible “training”? The Advocacy Project and some Peace Corps friends gave me excellent ideas and referred me to a number of websites. For days, I combed through all the websites, cutting, pasting, and editing. Finally, I came up with an “Organizational Strategic Planning” workshop from everything I found, incorporated some of my own ideas, and created some exercises and group activities. I made a booklet to hand out and a trainer’s manual. This workshop would train participants in how to write a strategic plan for their organization, setting up the nuts and bolts of their NGO.
As an ex-Peace Corps Volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, I had a lot of experience in proposal writing, and had already conducted a workshop on this topic for other PCVs while I was in Kyrgyzstan. I also participated in project management workshops at Georgetown, conducted by Rolf Sartorius from Social Impact. I wrote to Rolf to request a copy of the materials he used to train us. He sent me something even better – the Center for Development and Population Activities Project Design Manual. It was especially made to train local people in planning and running projects, could be used as a guideline for proposal writing, and had been successful in several countries. I condensed the 6-day training to a 1-day training, made a new booklet for my participants, and had important handouts in the training translated into Nepali. This was my second training, the “Community-Based Projects” workshop. It would train participants in how to plan and manage projects and how to write a proposal for international donors.
Posted By Kate Kuo (Nepal)
Posted Jul 26th, 2003