News and campaigns | Blogs

  • Communities live with dignity after ODF declaration

    Dev Bhatta

    March 26th, 2015

    It sounds simple to people who have access to basic sanitation facilities. But a technology as simple as a pit latrine is a subject of luxury for a lot of people. It is an alarming fact that even today, more than half of Nepal’s population defecate in open. The trends are changing gradually and the people living in urban areas have fancy bathrooms in their homes, but there still are a huge number of people who do not have access to this very basic facility.

    Only six months ago, people from 197 households in Balapur in Gulariya Municipality-6, Bardiya District of Nepal defecated in open. In a community comprising of total 274 households, only 50 had biogas toilets. Kali Prasad Chaudhary, the Chair of Ward Citizen Forum, recalls the situation caused by regular floods sweeping away limited temporary toilets, lack of awareness and habit of open defecation.

    There were a number of organisations implementing different projects in this community but sanitation was given the least priority. Chaudhary shares, “When a guest would arrive in the community, it used to be an embarrassing situation if they were not used to defecating in open. Various water borne diseases were common mainly among children and elderly people. Instead of getting to know the actual reason behind people would blame God if somebody died.”

    But things have changed for better for this community. At this stage, five communities of Balapur have become Open Defecation Free (ODF) as 247 households have broken off from the traditional practice of defecating in the open after constructing toilets at their homes.

    Indira Chaudhary (34) one of the community member says, “I learned about the negative effects of open defecation, and I did not want to be the one contributing to the pollution of environment and exposing other people to risks. I find it very convenient to use a toilet instead of going to the bush. This gives me privacy to do my business with dignity.” Her five member family is very happy to have a bio-gas toilet installed at their home.

    This change became possible in the community after, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) launched SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project in August 2014 for two years in collaboration with Gulariya municipality including other INGOs with an objective to declare an Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015. The project operates with an innovative community mobilisation approaches through HCES (Household Centered Environmental Sanitation), CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) and SLTS (School Led Total Sanitation) for activating communities to progressively work towards stopping open defecation in the entire municipality.

    Indira Chaudhary  cleaning up her toilet

    Indira Chaudhary cleaning up her toilet

    According to Kali Prasad Chaudhary, “Among all these initiatives, the video documentary and street drama shows on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) were found to be effective in touching the hearts of community people.”

    Likewise, Ram Prasad Chaudhary from Gulariya Municipality opines, “In accordance with the national target on sanitation, Gulariya Municipality has committed to achieve ODF in the municipality by 2015. To make this mission a success, we have started provision of sanitation card.” He claimed that the success of ODF declaration in Balapur was due to the sanitation card.

    The understanding of Sabitra Gautam, President of W WASH CC (Ward WASH Coordination Committee) is different than that others. She claimed that bal hath and stri hath (recurring pressure from children and female respectively) played crucial role to success the mission. From her statement, it is clear that there was repeated effort of children and female to construct toilets.

    “Now, we are living with pride and dignity due to improved sanitation facilities in the community,” said Kali Prasad Chaudhary. “It is not easy for poor families from indigenous groups to spare money required to build their individual toilets when it can be done for free in the fields. Balapur people thank Gulariya Municipality, Practical Action, UN Habitat, ENPHO, W WASH CC and all involved TLOs for their tireless effort to make this happen and succeeding in declaring entire Balapur community Open Defecation Free (ODF).”

    It was not possible from a little effort to construct all the toilets (197) within a short period of time. The joint effort of community people, local institutions and district level stakeholders coming together, working towards ODF target made the mission possible and thus, the people from Balapur could have access to this basic sanitation facility. The importance of such thing a lot of times gets overlooked, but access to technologies like a simple toilet helps people to build a life pride and dignity.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Cultural barriers to the use of improved cookstoves

    Dipendra Bhattarai

    March 25th, 2015

    We get plenty of opportunities to explore Nepal working in the local development sector. This is one of the interesting aspects of our job. I have visited around 56 out of 75 districts of Nepal during the course of my professional career, but as yet not been to the upper mountainous districts.

    A woman cooking over a traditional stove in NepalA project team from Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) asked me to join a training programme going to be held at Diktel, the administrative headquarters of Khotang district which is one of the remote rural areas in eastern Nepal. I was really excited having got the opportunity to add one more district to my list and see how people perceived improved cookstoves. I was looking forward to know how important culture is in using a cookstove and what impact the price and availability of firewood have on cookstove use.

    These questions were striking in my head while travelling along the newly constructed Banepa-Bardibas highway, which is considered as an example of a well-constructed road. After almost two hours of driving, we stopped at Bhakundey Besi Valley for a tea break. Suddenly my eyes went to a LPG stove being used to cook vegetables in the hotel. Then a boy came to serve tea that wasn’t cooked in LPG stove. I figured out that their kitchen was somewhere outside and went to have a look. I was surprised to see an old lady boiling milk in a single pot, portable, rice-husk stove without a chimney. She was using firewood instead of rice husks though. When I asked her why they weren’t using LPG to boil milk, she answered that they boil milk on a low heat for a longer time to make even more delicious yogurt. She further added that a single log of firewood was enough to boil the milk for a longer time so they avoided using LPG for it. I explained her about improved cookstove (ICS) technology and showed her some pictures. She was excited and asked me if I could deliver her an ICS that I showed her. I said, “I will try,” and bidding farewell, continued my journey to Diktel.

    After a long and tiring drive we reached Diktel at around 9 pm after travelling for almost 13 hours. We all were extremely tired so we directly went for dinner and were off to bed.

    Next morning, I along with Mr. Subarna Kapali from the Centre for Rural Technology, Nepal went for a short walk around the market in Diktel. I normally walk around new places, not to reduce my belly but to explore new things. While walking, we saw two women carrying firewood so I asked them what was the price for a bhari (equivalent to around 30-35 kgs) of firewood. They replied, “800 rupees (£5).”

    “Eight hundred!” I exclaimed, shocked, this seemed too expensive.

    Then we entered into a tea shop and ordered tea. There I saw one LPG stove and also a traditional cookstove. We ordered two cups of tea. Subarna, like me, was also curious and asked the shop owner how much a bhari of firewood cost. The owner replied, “Sometime it’s NRs. 500 but most of the time it’s NRs. 600-700.” I added, if it was that costly why they were using firewood. Instead, it would be more beneficial to use LPG. He agreed on the cost effectiveness but replied that water, milk and animal feed remain hot for a longer time if cooked on a traditional cookstove therefore they don’t use LPG for this purpose.

    Before starting the training session I met a stove master, who had built hundreds of improved cookstoves. I was more interested to know about stove and cultural influence on cookstove use. The stove master shared with me that the local indigenous community worship cookstove. They don’t let anyone enter to their kitchen until and unless they finish worshiping. They only use three-stone stoves and it is placed in the middle of the home at the ground floor.  Due to this cultural practice, the stove master could not install a single ICS in that community. The ICS needs to be placed in one of the corners of the kitchen which is well ventilated and easy to release smoke out of the kitchen.

    As the training started, stove masters were asked what they thought about cookstoves. An individual was asked to give only one example. Their answers were amazing. From the responses it was figured out that a cookstove is not only for cooking food but it is a place to gather around and chat, to heat the body, share happiness and sorrow, and also to talk about private matters between husbands and wives. It was interesting to know these facts.

    This field visit helped me a lot in figuring out and understanding how people interact with cookstoves. Although the use is same their importance and preferences are different. I observed that a household owns more than one cookstove and the use depends upon various factors. Cost can be one factor but culture and some other things also play a vital role in adopting and using improved cookstoves. It was a very useful learning experience for me.

    While 2.4 billion cook over open fires around the world, improved cookstoves reduce the deaths by smoke inhalation. I am glad that the observations made during the visit will help us find a way to remove the barriers that now prevent poor people from using the ICS technology. That will be the first step towards moving away from a state of technology injustice.

    Thanks to the WEE project team for giving me this opportunity to explore Khotang and most importantly, the people living there!

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • A step towards a JUST world

    Swarnima Shrestha

    March 22nd, 2015

    A proper toilet, water supply and electricity – these are some basic necessities of our lives. What can be more inconvenient than not having a toilet around when you need it? Imagine waking up every day not knowing how you would manage to collect the water required for the day! It might be hard for us to even imagine, but it is a reality that too many people are living every day. While the technologies have advanced to the level where we have self-cleaning high-tech toilets; it is estimated that worldwide 2.6 billion have no access to sanitation and 1.3 billion to safe water. The world sure in an unjust place.

    Compost-toilet-in-NepalThe people of Shreeramnagar, a slum settlement at Butwal – 4, Rupendehi district of Nepal are a part of that 1.3 Billion. Water crisis is a part of their lives. They have to go to the neighbouring localities to collect water, which is a time consuming and tiring work. The settlement is not recognised by the government which does not support any development of infrastructures in the community so the people have nowhere to turn to seek help. But the people of the community – had had enough of this injustice and took charge to solve their own problem.

    “We didn’t know how to tackle this problem,” says Narayan Lal Ghimere, a local resident. “But now, we are able to come up with a solution after we got training from ‘Delivering Decentralisation’ project. After the training, we have formed a committee to address different kinds of problems existing in our community. With the involvement of community people, we decided that we need to construct a water tank with a huge storage capacity for the equal and uninterrupted water supply in our locality,” he further adds.

    They have formed a committee for the construction of the water tank to carry forward the work effectively and make the whole process participatory. The initiation was led by the community themselves with little support from the project. Everything from the planning stage was discussed and decided by the community.

    A member of the working committee, Sabitra Devi Panthi says, “We were able to learn a lot of things and got inspired to take the initiatives ourselves, after the training provided by the project. So, we made a collective decision to construct the water tank. We were motivated because we received 75 per cent of the construction cost from the project and the rest we collected amongst ourselves. Those who couldn’t pay the required amount, volunteered for the labour work to make up for it.”

    Now, the construction is complete, and people of this community have for the first time in their lives, access to clean water. “We did a grand inauguration of the water tank and water supply lines. It was such a proud movement for the whole community. The regular water supply has made our lives so much easier and our locality is cleaner now. It more beneficial to housewives like us, who had to spend a lot of time fetching water, now we are able to use the saved time in other productive activities,” adds Sabitra.

    She further says, “I did not know that having a water supply could change our lives so much. It has improved our health as well as economic activities. It feels like a privilege to have water supply in our own homes; construction of the water tank is such a huge achievement for us!”

    It sure is a happy moment for the people of Shreeramnagar community; but having a water supply should not be a matter of privilege and so much of hard work – it should be available and accessible to all; irrespective of their location and economic background. But of course, it is not so. Hence, when we talk about these simple basic technologies, it never is as simple as it sounds. A simple thing as a water supply can change people’s lives in too many ways. It saves time for the women who can invest it in income generating activities or in taking proper care of their children. It helps to stay cleaner and healthier. It helps to make human life dignified. It helps to fill the gap of technology injustice and make this world a bit more just place.

    So a water tank is not JUST a water tank but a step ahead towards a JUST world.


    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • “Make it Happens- translating into actions”- reflection of IWD celebration

    [The author believes late is better than never]

    International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8th March every year across the globe. In Bangladesh, particularly in development organizations, it is very old practiced event. But it was new in Practical Action, Bangladesh while we (Gender working Group Bangladesh) started taking preparation for this. But the event was able to convey some common messages to all staff (irrespective age, position and religion). At the end of the event, one of our drivers said,
    “First time an event happened in Practical Action, Bangladesh which connected us, and we felt that we also have something to do.”

    Theme of the event
    There were careful efforts to make event inclusive- to celebrate it with all colleagues (staff, drivers, and support staff including cleaners). Therefore, raising gender awareness and sensitivity were included in all messages of the event. The following elements of the event made the day special and colorful.

    Wall Magazine:
    The Wall Magazine was comprised of short story, poem, statement, short narratives and photos. Colleagues (all levels) of Practical Action, Bangladesh wrote about the day and women’s rights. The contributions were highly reflexive.
    Wall Magazine

    Inauguration of Wall Magazine by Acting CD
    Screening Video on Gender and Open discussion:
    Three short videos were screened. One was on International Women’s Day- which takes us through brief history of the day with an emphasis on Bangladesh. Second video screening was famous and well accepted Bengali liberal feminist Begum Rokeya (1880-1932). She was an literary person, educationist, social reformer and literary person as well. The video stressed on girls rights for education. During open discussion, Dr Faruk Ul Islam (Acting Country Director) appreciated the video selection as it reflects not only the consequences but also the causes of the women struggles and movement. He also specifically mentioned that the selection of video was appropriate as it takes us back to the roots of unequal society. Final video was on inauguration of minimum standard documents and gender policy.

    Sharing minimum standard documents and gender Policy
    Gender Focal Person shared the contents of the minimum standard documents. He also shared how these documents will be used in our works (developing project proposal to impact assessment). He also cited some examples how all staff and partners can contribute in towards a just society.
    GFP Bangladesh_ How to implement Minm Stnds Docs  and Gender Policy
    Singing Song on Gender Equality
    Conveying message through music has remained a strong communication tool, particularly when message deals with cultural sensitive issue. Keeping this in mind and to make the day more joyful, to communicate main theme of the day to different levels of staff, one of the songs written by Rabindranath Tagore was sung by the colleagues of the office. It was useful to communicate with colleagues who are in support services and get less chance to participate in any event like this.
    Wearing purple dress and cutting cake:
    Believing in gender equality and agreeing with the theme of the event, colleague wore purple color/touched dress. This made the event very colorful.

    Senior Management’s commitment
    For applying any policy or establishing any (good) practices in any organization requires political will or commitment of the senior management. The day took the opportunity to engage senior colleagues and to share their commitments in front of all staff. During inauguration of the wall magazine and opening speech of the day, Acting Country Director Dr. Faruk Ul Islam has mentioned that senior management will provide all required support to mainstream gender into all our policy to practice and ensures colleagues and partners take it seriously.
    Cake Cutting
    GWG Bangladesh
    The event did not mean simply an event to staff, rather it was a breakthrough. More light and efforts will be put on this issue. Thus, in brief, even it was late but it was gorgeous and successful event.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • A false sense of security? What Sendai 2015 needs to achieve

    Colin McQuistan

    March 13th, 2015

    Sendai in Japan today welcomes the international community to negotiate a successor agreement to the Hyogo Framework of Action which ten years ago created a global agreement over the governance of disaster risk reduction (DRR).

    Sendai is well placed to know the importance of preparing for disaster. Four years ago it witnessed the triple whammy of an earthquake that triggered a tsunami that led to a technological disaster.

    Hopefully the successor agreement will reinforce the growing emphasis on risk reduction and provide a wakeup call of the likelihood that a future disaster will exceed the resources of many states to adequately respond, thus requiring coordinated global action.

    A lot has changed since 2005 when many governments lacked even the basics of a suitable policy and lacked national agencies responsible for disaster risk management. Now many governments have delivered on national level implementation, but sadly delivery at the bottom of the poverty ladder where disasters hit hardest hasn’t caught up.

    However, as we learned from Hurricane Katrine, even in the developed world no person can be 100% safe from a disaster, so having adequate measures in place to respond when disaster strike will always be needed. Yet, when risk prevention is far more cost effective than spending on relief and recovery, why are we not doing more of it?

    Local people participating in bio dykes construction

    Local people participating in bio dykes construction

    The human and socioeconomic costs of natural disasters are growing at an accelerating rate. This is because natural hazards are intensifying and becoming less predictable. Worse still, as urban growth drives economic development, more people and assets are located in areas that climate change is making increasingly vulnerable. Now is the time to act in a concerted way and not to argue over the details of an agreement.

    Yet as I write, there are still arguments over the following contentious issues:

    • how much financial support wealthy nations should give vulnerable states
    • how to develop targets that measure progress
    • what role non state actors should play in rolling out the plan

    What we need from Sendai 2015

    Now is the time for governments to respond to demands from around the world for a practical framework. Sendai must deliver a new agreement. And the agreement must stop the creation of risk via development. This only transfers the problem to future generations to deal with. What we need now is an agreement, forged around a new consensus by all actors. This agreement must create a precedent for development driven by investment that prioritises long term DRR and not more of the same with an inherent false sense of security.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Small things make a big difference

    Amel Abdulla Awad

    March 12th, 2015

    Women’s economic empowerment is essential for poverty reduction and improves the quality of life for women, men and their families.  Small things can be great for making a difference and bringing happiness to a family.

    nawal with decorated basketsPractical Action’s team in Blue Nile state realized the importance and the meaning of women empowerment by implementing a project in 2014 that focuses on empowering youths, women and men to help them to learn a specialty that will enable them to become an expert in a specific field.  This will help them to generate an income and become economically independent in a sustainable way.

    Nawal Idrees Daoud, a 37 year old woman from Alkurmuck lives in Elnasr Sharg one of Aldamazine’s poor districts and was trained in handicraft skills. She has managed to bring happiness to her three daughters. Nawal, who married early, learned to make designs on decorative waste baskets.  Before the training she was challenged by to provide university fees for her two elder daughters and high secondary school final exams for her youngest daughter. nawal1 During the school holidays she trained her daughters so that they could increase their production and sold 20 baskets for 30 SDG (£3.50) and earned 600SDG (£70) in the two weeks before Eid .

    Nawal said that “she can’t express her happiness at earning her own money for the first time” she also mentioned that “simple skills can help families to overcome problems. I feel so happy and so strong and self-confident when I have my own money. I feel like I have the whole world specially when I got my own sustainable income it’s the first time I have new sandals not borrowed ones.”

    Nawal believes it is possible for women to make it happen.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Providing a place of knowledge

    Grace Mukasa

    March 9th, 2015

    I was excited to get an update from the team about the plans to officially launch the Kibera Library, which are currently underway, and which we expect will pick up momentum in the coming month. The project, since its inception in 2011, has grown into an important resource for the community within and around Kibera.

    We partnered with the community of Kibera to lobby the government of Kenya for land to construct the library. We then invited the partnership of Kenya National Library Services (KNLS) to manage the facility as a sustainability measure. All the while, our friend Dr Caroline Lightowler remained in close contact with the local community to identify viable location for construction of the library facility. She has remained our contact with our development partners – the Alistair Berkley Trust Family.

    The products and services at the centre are meant to preapare the young for the future

    The products and services at the centre prepare the young for the future

    During the early stages, the team was really challenged by people who believed that the facility would better be used for other purposes, including setting it up as a health centre. The Alistair Berkley Trust came in as a donor, and funded this unique pilot, which would challenge the notion that knowledge is a secondary need to people, especially vulnerable communities. The Trust funded the first and second phases of the library, which was opened to users in 2012. The second phase is currently being kitted with equipment.


    A resource for the community

    The library has proved to be an invaluable resource to the community which is increasing beyond access to available literature. It has provided a well-equipped centre, with the support of additional donors and well-wishers, where about 20 schools from the area can have their library lessons and interact with a variety of books and content that bring their lessons to life. It currently has a stock of 11,213 books on its shelves. In addition, it now has huge following by an adult population that has interest in livelihood based subjects – trade and life skills that can be applied day-to-day.

    The facility has also provided a place where the imaginations of young children can be stimulated in reading sessions and the love for books planted in their young minds. A group of girls from the neighbourhood schools came together, using this space as their base to regularly meet up and talk about everyday issues that affect them. And most recently, the space has given more than 280 young people an opportunity to come together, and get training in life skills that they need and a chance to graduate into the National Youth Service system.

    One thing became clear to me; the infrastructure we helped set up was a crucible filled with a lot of potential and topped up with a lot of uncertainty about the direction it would take at the point of inception. And by working closely with the staff members in the library and opening up to listen to the community’s most pertinent needs, we have been able to demonstrate the impact information access can have in improving livelihoods and providing alternatives to securing better livelihoods for people.

    Facilitating knowledge exchange, embracing openness and stimulating imaginations on how information can be converted into currency has helped adopt the library as an essential part of the community. The number of community members using the facility has grown to an average of 300 people per day. The staff there now regularly gets all manner of requests for information that might seem trivial, but which has the potential to change lives.

    The finished facility of the Kibera Library

    The finished facility of the Kibera Library

    Services now provided include the Tablet Hour program (computer programs for children on Tablets) where children can learn how to access educative software preloaded for revision by e-Limu, who collaborates with Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) curriculum development department. It also provides adult, junior and institutional lending; reference; user education; outreach to primary schools; special programs including mentorship for pupils; inter-library lending; consultancy services; advisory library services; practical training for students on attachment; HIV/AIDS information dissemination; and language programs through book clubs.

    The direction the library and particularly the knowledge node, is taking speaks to the importance of our work as knowledge brokers, and the importance of making our knowledge products as relevant as possible to the people we serve: our beneficiaries. The facility is used to organise motivational talks for the youth; it hosts a girls’ club as well as inter-school reading club competitions, talent shows, debates, and reading tents to name a few. A cultural corner in the library will help preserve collections of indigenous artefacts, knowledge and content.

    Our vision is a region where all people have the necessary knowledge, skills and opportunities to access equitable, affordable technology, both through the hardware we provide, which is an important enabler, but also through the technical knowledge & skills that help them improve their well-being. The needs may vary greatly, depending on the context, but we need to work even harder to ensure that all of our programmes take a deliberate effort in growing our knowledge activities, in order to reach as many as possible with the lessons we take with us from the field. The growing utility of Kibera Library is a testament to the impact access to knowledge, as a resource, can have to a community.

    By doing this, we will ensure that we will continue to respond to the most pertinent needs of the communities we serve. We look forward to its official launch, and to working with even more like-minded programs and organisations such as the National Youth Service, to build on this momentum and change lives.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Making it happen: practicing what we preach on gender equality

    Mary Gallagher

    March 8th, 2015

    Today is International Women’s day, themed around the call to #MakeItHappen. Tomorrow, leaders from around the world will be meeting in New York to begin the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 20 years since the first world conference on women in Beijing. So it’s fitting that Practical Action has chosen these two days to launch our own internal gender minimum standards, which will be applied to all of the work that we do.

    As an INGO with a commitment to improving material and relational wellbeing, Practical Action has to take gender seriously. If we don’t, we won’t do our job properly. We know that poverty is gendered. Women overwhelmingly and disproportionately bear the burdens of unfair economic systems and unfair access to resources.

    Women dairy farmers listening to a session on animal diseases and their treatment - part of a gender sensitive markets project

    Women dairy farmers listening to a session on animal diseases and their treatment – part of a gender sensitive markets project

    A gendered approach means recognizing the different needs and experiences of women and men. Although we clearly need a gendered approach in all that we do, this can be uncomfortable. Gender is inherently political, even on a local scale. For NGOs that work with and for poor communities, a gendered approach can feel too prescriptive, not respectful of cultural differences. But gender inequality is as damaging a social arrangement as poverty and in general we feel no embarrassment about striving and advocating to rid societies of the latter.  To use culture as an excuse for not acting on injustice would be a disservice to the people that INGOs work for. As the Nigerian feminist activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi reminds us, culture is not a fixed force, it is made and shaped by people.

    The UN’s successful #HeForShe campaign, recently launched by Emma Watson, has been a promising reminder of the importance of collective action on issues of gender justice. Some of its imperatives should be applied within the development sector. In a recent study, Emily Esplen (lead policy analyst on gender equality and women’s rights at the OECD’s Development Co-operation Directorate) found that despite the rhetoric and international agreements, grassroots women’s organizations remain staggeringly under-funded and under-represented. And so it is as important as ever that those with greater leverage act now.

    Practical Action is an organization that has always believed in working for the benefit of both men and women. For these reasons we are excited to embark on a more ambitious and confident phase of our gender work in which we will hold ourselves accountable to coherent and consistent standards. Standards that will bring us closer to achieving our vision of Technology Justice: a sustainable world free of poverty and injustice, in which technology is used to the benefit of all.

    Practical Action is always seeking opportunities to improve our work and collaborate with others. If you would like to know more about the gender minimum standards that we will apply to our work or think we could benefit from your organization’s experience in this area, please get in touch.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • How Practical Answers is Contributing to Make it Happen #IWD2015

    Binaya Parajuli

    March 7th, 2015

    Last week I got an email from one of my colleagues about our office’s plan for the women’s day celebration. After I read that email I started pondering upon this year’s women’s day theme – “Make it Happen” and a question popped up in my mind – What does that “it” in “Make it Happen” mean? I wasn’t able to find an answer to it immediately until I participated in Practical Answers’ Review and Refresher Training Workshop where I met 16 women or I should say 16 empowered women out of total 22 focal persons of Practical Answers Programme whose primary job is to collect and find answers to community people’s enquiries through interaction, knowledge materials and local experts.

    Practical Answers' Focal Persons

    Practical Answers’ Focal Persons

    I was there to see the impact that Practical Answers has left on its beneficiaries but was amazed to see that this programme has not just brought positive change in its beneficiary’s life but also of those who are working to bring that change in them. Yes, I am talking about our focal persons and to be specific, the female focal persons. I had met them one year back during a similar workshop. They were very shy back then; they were hesitant to speak in front of people and only few people knew them in their villages. They had no idea about the modern day communication tools like email and internet and they were financially and socially dependent on either their father or  their husband. And after one year I could see that their lives have changed completely; they have now become “Heroes” in their villages. They are outspoken and very smart compared to last year.

    Sarita Sapkota, Gardi Community Library and Resource Centre, Madi Chitwan

    Sarita Sapkota, Gardi Community Library and Resource Centre, Madi Chitwan

    I talked to a few of them during that workshop and the experiences they shared with me were very interesting and inspiring.

    “People used to know me as someone’s wife and daughter but now they know me as Sarita Sapkota. The happiness that you get when you are able to create your own identity in a society like ours is priceless. Practical Answers helped me create an identity that I had always dreamt of.” – These were the words of Sarita Sapkota who is working as a focal person for Practical Answers Programme at Gardi Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC) in Madi, Chitwan in Nepal. Sarita also shared that after working as a focal person she understood the value of knowledge and information.

    Saraswati Chaudhary, Janachetana CLRC, Kailali

    Saraswati Chaudhary, Janachetana CLRC, Kailali

    Saraswati Chaudhary from Janachetana CLRC in Kailali shared a similar experience. She said, “Everyone in my family used to work outside and earn but I was the only one who was limited to household chores. Hardly anyone knew me in my village but these days whenever there’s an event in my village, people invite me as a special guest. They thank me and respect me for the work that I am doing. I feel like I have achieved something in life.”

    These focal persons go door-to-door to collect enquiries, form different groups and hold interaction and training programmes. They answer people’s enquiries and thus, have become a living encyclopaedia for the community people. People say that sharing knowledge creates a lasting legacy and it seems like these focal persons have actually created a legacy in their own way.
    Across the world, women are joining hands in solidarity and support, sharing knowledge and empowering themselves to build an equal society and so are our focal persons.


    Jyoti Ale, Sauraha CLRC, Chitwan

    Jyoti Ale, Sauraha CLRC, Chitwan

    “We have changed people’s life through knowledge sharing, we have empowered people and whilst doing so, we empowered ourselves too,” says Jyoti Ale from Sauraha CLRC. She adds,“Before working as a focal person for Practical Answers, I used to feel backward and worth nothing, but now I can proudly say that I am supporting my family financially as well as contributing to bringing positive change in people’s life.”

    Practical Answers receives thousands of enquiries each year and the majority of enquirers are women. The focal persons form many Practical Answers Groups and the majority of the group members are women and that shows that women are getting empowered. They are coming out of the four walls of their kitchen and actually getting one step closer to reaching a position where men are standing right now in a country like Nepal.
    My participation in Practical Answers Review Workshop gave me an answer to the question that popped up in my mind that day. For me, that “it” in “Make It Happen” means “Empowerment”. Practical Answers answers everyone’s query in real!
    This year, on women’s day let’s make a resolution to Make Empowerment Happen to change women’s life, to bring them forward and end injustice and discrimination.
    Happy Women’s Day!!

    3 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Women’s group lifts displaced families out of poverty

    When I started working at Practical Action on a project improving women’s status in the east of Sudan it was the first time I was introduced to this type of work with organizations and was wondering how organizations could manage societies with such limited funds?  What was their role in developing and securing poor women’s livelihoods?

    The answers to my questions came during one of my visits to a displacement camp called Waw Naar, the location of one of the women’s development association branches. The camp was unplanned and was notorious for selling wine and housing criminals. The surprise came at my second visit as it had changed completely starting from changing its name from Waw Naar to Waw Nour as well as the life style which was changed to a modern life.

    Sabella Waw Nour SudanI found many women’s associations working on revolving funds, health, education and construction. I was certain that development could be achieved with limited funds such as group sharing when it becomes a registered association and Waw Nour Women’s Association is an example.

    Two remarkable women from Waw Nour

    Sabella worked as midwife. I visited her house and found a wooden bedroom and she told me her story that I will tell you in brief.  Sabella told me that she was trained in carpentry which was a very tough work and men were mocking  me because she was a woman.

    “Practical Action did me a favor as I became a carpenter and made my own room with my bare hands as well as a carpenter shop that afford job opportunities for many people. If a woman has the willpower she can do wonders.”

    Amna Waw Nour SudanAnother woman called Amna Alhaj Sapoon  was a displaced person from the Nuba mountains and was living in Waw Nour, with her five children. She was jobless with no social position before she came to Practical Action. She joined the women’s development association and trained in food processing.  The change at her life started from that point. She created her own business processing food and selling vegetables and was trained on managing her business properly. Her life style changed as she bought and built a house as well as supporting her husband and educating her children at school. She became the chairwoman of Waw Nour women’s development association. She tells us proudly that her second son came first in the Intermediate school exams and she was selected as the ideal mother. Amna’s motto is “Women are an effective tool for change”.

    No Comments » | Add your comment