PIN strives to ensure that the most vulnerable persons and groups are not left behind due to discrimination or exclusion. In Nepal, displacements after the 2015 earthquake led to the formation of spontaneous temporary sites where multiple families shared small spaces. Such living arrangements were especially challenging for women and girls who faced the risk of sexual abuse and the difficulty of maintaining personal hygiene. The compromised security of these settings left them more susceptible to trafficking and exploitation. To that end, PIN designed “Her Safety,” a series of thematic empowerment workshops and conditional grants addressing the collective protection needs of women and their communities. In schools, we run participatory programs for girls and boys to promote their safety, along with health and leadership skills, in order to foster a gender-sensitive environment in classrooms.
Aarambha- Leave No Girl Behind
The goal of the project is to improve the quality of married girls’ lives by equipping them with essential life skills, numeracy and literacy, to improve their and their families’ health, increase their resilience to violence and ability to negotiate important life decisions such as childbearing and spacing. The project is based on a model where empowerment is based on three pillars: access to information, skills and agency, and self-value. To holistically address social norms surrounding married adolescent girls, the project will also work with the married adolescent girls’ families, schools in their areas, community and religious leaders and local government officials.
Adolescent pregnancy itself is a risk factor for mental health disorders, as are unsupportive or polygamous relationships, poverty, violence, and holding low social status in families. Young wives in Nepal typically have low social status in their new in-laws’ families, resulting in limited interactions with friends and access to peer support, higher probability of domestic and sexual violence, and lack of control over their reproductive choices and other important life decisions. The Hello Sathi project will include a mobile health intervention focused on mental health and infant health, and a comprehensive program that addresses a range of issues related to gender norms and how they impact rural adolescents and young mothers’ health, safety, and empowerment.
The programme helps communities overcome gender stereotypes, improves relationships among adolescent girls, boys, parents, and teachers, and protects the vulnerable. The Committees continue to meet regularly after the workshops have concluded and address a range of issues in their communities such as bullying, creating child-friendly classroom environments, adequate toilets in schools, and child marriage prevention. Small grants are given to the girls at the end of the workshop for a project that they design and lead themselves.
Protection of women and children
To address these concerns, PIN focused on the protection of women and children in two camps in Bhaktapur, six camps in Sindhupalchok and thirteen camps in Gorkha with the total population of over 12,000 people. In the initial phase of the earthquake response program People in Need provided 279 women with gender-friendly hygiene kits and basic information on where to seek help in cases of gender-based violence. Our team also trained women, men, adolescent girls and boys who formed camp committees to ensure the safety of women and children.
These trained community members now have knowledge and tools to address different cases of abuse against women and children and identify risks such as trafficking or early marriage. They also were empowered to utilize cash grants to improve safety and security on sites, like lighting in toilets, construction of bathing stations, improved water facilities so women don’t have to travel far to fetch water, or streetlights in camp areas.
The problems of safety and security are not confined to camp settings. Most schools in affected areas were destroyed by the earthquake and students were not able to attend until temporary learning centers were set up. After reopening, many schools reported attendance had plummeted, raising concerns of child labor, unsafe migration, and trafficking. To address these concerns, People in Need implemented similar protection activities as in the camps in ten other villages in the Sindhupalchok district, where 130 people received trainings on protection of women and children. The trainings guide community members on how to intervene in cases of human rights violations, and teach strategies to prevent them. Additionally 28 men and 108 women participated in specific legal aid training where they learned laws and how to access justice. The cash grants in these villages were used to construct 30 gender segregated bathing stations, as most women and girls identified lack of privacy when bathing (and in their shelters) as one of the major security concerns.
In 2016 PIN also delivered education and empowerment programs for 676 rural adolescent girls through 11 schools in the earthquake affected district of Sindhupalchok and is currently working with additional 900 girls. The participants learn the basics of health and safety and practice their leaderships skills which enable them to advocate for their rights in their families and schools. Additionally, 11 mentors were trained to provide long term support for adolescents in their communities and they continue to work on issues of students dropping out of schools, early marriage immediate prevention and others. They are also collaborating with women’s groups in their villages to use PIN’s cash grants to address protection needs they identify. Moving ahead, PIN is including adolescent boys in its education and empowerment programs and will be training schools on basic protection issues that affect students.