Nepal-Empowering Dalit Women through Skills and Voice

Rampari Devi Ram and Rajipari Devi Ram from Bastipur VDC of Sirhaha district did not believe until two years ago that they would be walking out of their closets to work in the fields and contribute in the livelihood of their families.

“I never thought I would ever get to remove the veil off my face and work in fields to contribute in my family,” shared Rampari Devi Ram, one of those who took the off-season vegetable farming training under the British Council Nepal project – Ensuring Rights through Skills and Voice (ERSVP)

Many other marginalized women from Siraha district enjoin together that ERSVP project has helped them empower both as an individual as well as a community. Initiated and implement jointly by the British Council Nepal, Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization (NNDSWO) and Association for Dalit Women Advancement of Nepal (ADWAN). The project has been working for empowerment of Dalit women of Siraha and Gorkha districts of Nepal by providing them skills training and awareness on their rights to live a dignified life in their community.

The participants of training share that after receiving training on off-season vegetable farming, their lifestyles have changed for better. With little investment, they are now enjoying the earnings from their vegetable supplies. “We used to work in other’s farms before. Now we have leased a land of our own and we have started selling our own goods to the market,” the participants shared.

They further added that the training has given them skills on several dimensions of farming, on marketing their goods and supplies and most importantly has given them the voice to speak for their rights in community where women are still asked to remain behind the curtain.

Rajidevi Ram, one of the participants of the training said, “We never thought we would get to go to social meetings in the community. We never thought that people would hear us too. Ever since we started working in the fields, things are gradually changing. We now raise our voice against inequalities. This has somewhere brought down the notion of untouchability in Basitipur village.”

Other than off-season vegetable farming, the project provided muda (bamboo chair) making training. Sunita Devi Paswan recently sold 20 bamboo chairs at 250 rupees (2.33 USD) each. According to Sunita, she makes 150 rupees of profit in every muda she sells.

Sunita said, “Fifteen days of training and life changed ever since then!” and added, “After I started making these mudas, I shared the knowledge with my husband and today we both make them together. We are ourselves trying to make different other items like shoe-racks and book-shelves. Our economic situation has grown too.”

All these women who participated in the training shared the same opinion – they feel empowered, they are capable of voicing against any social injustice against them, they feel independent and economically sustainable. They all wish to educate their daughters in good schools and hope that for their daughters, socio-cultural restrictions behind the veil, will be once upon a time story to hear.

About the project 

The British Council, in partnership with two national NGOs, is implementing European Union supported grant project. - Ensuring Rights through Skills and Voice (ERSV). The project is being implemented from January 2015 to June 2017 in two districts of Nepal. Its specific objectives of the projects are:  to increase the participation of Dalit women (some disabled) in economic activities, and  to build capacity of  Community groups, including Dalit CSOs and CBOs to actively promote the economic, social and political rights of Dalit Women in the two districts the project is being implemented in.