For our Intercultural Development and Global Citizenship class yesterday we organized a focus group panel of four female community activists in Chaukati, Sindhupalchowk, Nepal.
Three of the women are the officers of the Mahila Sip Vikas Samhiti (Women’s Skills Development Committee), which holds trainings to raise awareness among women of their legal rights, provides skills development trainings for local women, intervenes in child marriages, and provides assistance to abandoned women and widows struggling in the village. The other is a young local community mobilizer for agricultural development projects in the area, who was the local organizer for the DIY Reusable Eco Menstrual Pad Training we held in Chaukati with Dharti Mata in Oct 2018, and which was supported through the Dragons Community Grant Fund.
They described the various hardships in their lives (such as not being allowed to go to school, arranged marriages against their will, young pregnancies), challenges in implementation of their projects and the gradual progress that they have made. They participated in gathering participants for the Eco Menstrual Pad project as well.
This was part of our ongoing examination of cultural and development issues in Nepal. Rather than visit “gender issues” or “environmental issues” in merely one or two classes or a sub-unit of our courses, we have tried to weave gender and environment as consistent themes throughout the entirety of our courses, a reflection of our theoretical grounding in the eco-feminist perspective.
Many of the local families “Believe in the Earth” (“Bhumi manchaa”) as the core of their religious faith, so in order to honor our Earth Mother, we planted a Rudraksha Tree and distributed two others for planting at local temples. The Rudraksha has a deep significance in Shaiva Hindu practice, as its seeds are used for making malas (prayerbeads) used in Hinduism and in Vajrayana Buddhism as well.