(By Bikash Koirala, Education Officer PHASE Nepal)
From 26th of May to 7th of June, Sumi and Bikash – education officers at PHASE Nepal – travelled to Kolti in Bajura (far West Nepal) to initiate the girls’ empowerment programme. This programme is funded by EcoHimal Austria. During the visit, Sumi and Bikash were supported by local staff Dilip Kumar, Kopila and Dharmaraj to conduct the interviews, workshops and trainings.
The objectives of the visit were:
- To conduct interviews and select local girls as facilitators for the training
- To conduct a four day ToT (Training of Trainers) for the facilitators
- To organize the formal opening of the EcoHimal Girls’ Empowerment Project
- To facilitate girls’ groups’ formations in the schools for 2 week-long girls’ empowerment workshop and following field activities
- To supervise the workshop facilitation of the new facilitators and provide them constructive feedback for upcoming sessions.
The following activities were conducted during the visit of Sumi and Bikash:
1. Call for the Vacancy, Interviews and Selection of the Girls Facilitators
PHASE Education team coordinated with the field staff to call for a vacancy to recruit the local girls’ facilitators. The criteria set for the vacancy was that the applicant has to be a fresh high school graduate from the local high school. These criteria was set to create a same age peer group in their early 20s or late teens so that there would be good chance of peer to peer interaction with the other school girls who take part in the workshop. A panel of four PHASE staff including Education Officers Sumi and Bikash conducted the interviews to select 20 highly esteemed applicants from the total of 23 applicants. District education office representative and resource person Mr. Prem Raj Regmi was invited to take part in the interview but he was busy in his official work and gave permission to the PHASE staff to conduct the interview.
2. Training of Trainers
A four day long training of trainers was conducted by the PHASE Education and Health team to enhance the confidence of the selected facilitators as well as to equip them with training skills, leadership skills, in-depth knowledge about menstrual hygiene and associated taboos and ways to cope with those issues. Topics included: public speaking and effective communication, feedback skills, facilitation skills, managing menstrual hygiene and coping with associated social taboos, early age marriage and its consequence, human trafficking and its different forms, stress resilience, anti bullying, creating the girls’ effect by forming girls’ groups and work to solve certain problems, having an aim in live and work towards this.
The training ended in a cordial environment. There was a remarkable change in the facilitators during and after the training. In the beginning the girls were shy and were not able to speak confidently although they were willing to learn. On the fourth day they were leading the presentations and the discussion by themselves. The health component of the training was led by staff nurse Kopila Silwal and Health Assistant Rajendra Saud. The participants were allowed to ask their queries to the health workers in the hot seat session that followed their session.
3. The Formal Commencement at the School
After completion of the ToT, PHASE organized a formal opening programme in Jana Prakash Higher Secondary School. The principals from the local schools, parents of the school girls, leaders of the political parties, representatives of other local NGOs as well as the members of the school management committees of local schools were invited at the event. The guests spoke about the importance of girls related issues in the village and also expressed the complete support from their side.
After the formal event, adolescent school girls who were willing to participate in the empowerment programme were divided into five different groups of 15-20 girls. All groups were provided with four trained facilitators. These facilitators sat with their respective groups and talked with the school girls about the programme.
Further progress of the project…
After Sumi and Bikash returned back to Kathmandu, the ToT trained facilitators conducted two weeks of daily workshops and next two weeks of several project workshops in the villages. 75 school girls from Jana Prakash Higher Secondary School took part in the programme. The daily workshops were conducted after the school without disturbing their classes. The facilitators conducted the workshops based on a specific list of topics and related activities. The girls were also provided free meals and stationery gifts during the whole programme. The programme was supervised by Education Supervisor Dilip Kumar Acharya. The group of girls in the school that attended the programme have formed a girls’ committee.
After the completion of the daily workshops, the participant-girls of the village went to their village and did survey, interviewed the community members and found out more about different girls issues and discussed about possible solutions. They also organized an awareness programme and showed a cultural programme and street drama to depict the prevalent issues of the girls in the community and providing positive pressure to bring positive changes. A huge boost in the confidence level of the school girls has been seen after the programme.
This is what one the girls’ facilitators feel about the programme:
“I heard there was a vacancy for facilitators in PHASE but was very reluctant to apply. I was very afraid that I would not be able to talk in front of the interviewers. During the interview, I was very shy. I just told that I want to learn and work hard. Finally I got selected. During the four day long training, I learned how to speak confidently about what I think. I also learned many skills which are not only important for this work but for my life too.”(Sushila Mahatara, 19 years old, girls’ facilitator)
After returning to Kathmandu, the education team shared the following: “We found that even the high school graduate girls were not able to speak confidently about their rights and about their problems because of the social taboos and gender stereotypes present in the society. The situation is even worse for the girls who are from more remote locations and are not able to complete their high school. We found that this kind of programmes is very important for communities like this.”