Gender | Blogs

  • A better life for women and girls


    B26, Sudan, | August 8th, 2017

    Poverty, marginalisation, traditions and customs together with gender blind plans and policies contribute to gender inequality in Sudan.

    Women and girls are traditionally responsible of all domestic work in Sudanese houses.  Moreover, they are burdened by water and wood daily fetching journeys which consume between three to eight hours per day in the dry regions of Darfur, Kordofan and East Sudan. Housewives spend much time and effort on unpaid activities (water and wood fetching) and are exposed to sometimes fatal hazards associated with sexual violence, abortion incidences and severe injuries.

    Water pump SudanAdolescent girls often drop out of school to help their families with domestic work and to look after their younger siblings in the absence of mothers. Young women lack the knowledge and skills required to engage in formal employment and are trapped in the poverty cycle without any income generating sources.

    These dependant girls are usually married under-age which increases morbidity and mortality rates among mothers and newborns. Registered early marriage between girls 15-19 years reached 26% in the rural areas of Sudan. Shockingly, child marriage for girls under 15 reaches 10% in the same areas.

    Practical Action Sudan puts women at the heart of its work. In our three year strategic business plan 2017-2020, we intend to prioritise women needs and transform their lives in a positive way that will impact the whole community.

    Women associations and institutions are identified as key actors in our programme. They represent our main implementing partners and supporting researchers in the field of clean fuels. Rural women are involved in our projects at community level and participate in the development process through participating in activities such as membership of water committees in WASH projects. They also manage women farms in agricultural-resilience projects and grow nutritious food for their children and to increase families’ incomes.

    WDAN, SudanThrough increasing women participation; we open the door for thousands of women to be socially empowered. Our participatory approaches and actions ensure that women needs and priorities are well-represented and they are equally involved in the projects.

    “I and village’s women walk to fetch water in the early morning and return back by the sunset! our kids stay without food for long time.” Haleema, 43 years old, from Mogabil Village, North Darfur

    Building the capacity of rural women and girls is one of the most important strategies of tackling poverty among women and their families. Training programs support women to become effective income generators, and empower them to create their own market opportunities and improve their livelihoods.

    community meeting sudanMany life changing experiences on the ground tell inspiring stories about Sudanese women who have moved from poverty, dependency and ignorance into productivity, independence and participation in decision-making as a socio-economical impact of our development interventions in rural areas. I believe that the approaches we adopt are very effective, as women’s empowerment is not a decision to be taken or a service to be delivered; it is a process of improving the environment of women and equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills to find their way and embrace opportunities with dignity.

    “The training program delivered by Practical Action staff has empowered us and upgraded our capacity to expand our network and reach greater number of rural women.” Hanan Zayed, Head of Kassala Women Development Associations Network

    Our team in Sudan will continue the steps we have planned toward empowering women and changing their lives. We believe that the track toward gender transformation is long and tough; however continuous hard work and advocacy efforts will ensure we achieve our ambition and help millions of Sudanese women to achieve the good life they deserve.

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  • Flood Early Warning Systems from a Gender Lens


    July 13th, 2017

    BIO: Prior to her master studies at the University of Edinburgh’s International Development, İpek Aybay has worked at a voluntary business organization of leading entrepreneurs and executives of the business community in Turkey as an expert at the Information Society and Innovation Department where she has made research on technology, innovation and development. Currently, she works at UNHCR head office in Ankara, Turkey as a Senior Protection Assistant. 

    We are mentioning technology as a tool for changing our lives so often that it has become a ‘cliché’. This mentioned “change” however, seems to be very relative depending on which part you live in the world. As an example, for someone living in a country not exposed to natural hazards, technology is in most cases a tool to facilitate daily life, using GPS system to find address or to check traffic jam. On the other hand, in countries like Bangladesh and Nepal where natural hazards happen frequently, technology could save lives. In this sense, Early Warning Systems (EWS) for floods are an example for proving the crucial role of technology in disaster risk reduction.

    When we look at the role of technology in development and resilience, we can easily realise that this subject is almost always paradoxical. While some advocate it strongly, others criticise it harshly. For this reason, when I had to choose my dissertation subject at the International Development Department of the University of Edinburgh, disaster risk reduction seemed a very convenient area of study. Practical Action’s EWS projects in Nepal and Bangladesh immediately drew my attention and I decided to study these programmes from a gender lens. Why I selected Nepal and Bangladesh? And why this perspective was needed?

    A woman using one of Practical Action’s tube wells in Bangladesh

    Nepal and Bangladesh were two key countries for proving the significance of EWS, as both countries are part of a continent where 95% of the people who are affected by floods have lived in the last decade according to CRED and UNISDR.  Despite many differences in the ways in which these countries are affected by floods, EWS in both countries have a great potential to save lives and reduce the impact of natural hazards. For this reason, Practical Action has developed various projects concerning EWS in close collaboration with the governments of Nepal and Bangladesh. My main objective was to reveal the gender gap in these projects in order to better assess impacts of disaster resilience activities.

    As the efficiency of flood EWS depends on the ways in which people perceive and process risk information[1], without understanding the risk perception of communities and the factors affecting their decisions, it is not possible to expect EWS to operate efficiently. A variety of factors ranging from gender and socio-economic status to cultural values can affect the ways in which EWS operate among which gender can be specified as an essential factor.

    Scholars suggest that women are affected disproportionately by floods and are often referred to as the ‘most vulnerable’ by different institutions that are involved in flood response. For instance, UNIFEM (2010) reports that during the 2010 floods in Pakistan, despite flood EWS in place, there were women who refused to leave their houses for reasons such as “disbelief of flood warning; concerns of theft or occupation of, or losing claim to property; reluctance to move to camps due to cultural norms, and hesitation about taking women and girls out of protected environment of homes exposing them to strangers”. Furthermore, as evidenced by various scholars, floods also increase “women’s domestic burden” as in most households women depend on their houses for sustaining their livelihoods. In contrast, although it is known that a gender-inclusive EWS is essential for reducing loss of lives, the gender factor is often neglected when designing related projects. For this reason, it is very important to consider flood EWS in a gender framework, rather than define it as a technical process independent from the gender and power relations in place.

    Mother and daughter at flood-proof community, Bangladesh

    I conducted semi-structured interviews with government officials, Practical Action employees from different country offices, local NGOs and international organisations. During my work based placement with Practical Action, I found out very interesting differences in gender aspect of EWS projects among country offices as well as between advisory and project implementation levels. One of the most prominent findings was that different people had different interpretations of the terms “gender-sensitive” and “gender-disaggregated”. This has led to variations in the responses to the questions around gender in both of my focus countries, Nepal and Bangladesh. In the Nepali context, I was able to speak to a government official and it was puzzling to see that INGOs and in particular Practical Action was referred as more involved with the gender aspect of flood EWS at the community level. Therefore, understanding gender interpretations within organisations is essential as their actions directly affect communities and their responses to disasters. On the other hand, it was not surprising to find out that donors were also key players about the gender inclusiveness level of the projects as there were clear differences when a gender goal was set by a donor organisation and when it was not.

    Unfortunately, there was a considerable evidence to suggest that in both Nepal and Bangladesh, gender dynamics of EWS are often neglected or seen as an external factor by the key organisations as well as governments. In relation to this, further research is needed to explore the ways in which EWS programmes could move beyond the current approach based on needs in order to adopt a gender approach. Indeed, it is essential for an NGO to have the same understanding of gender-sensitive programme making among its staff members. If the views in this regard are different or opposed in an institution, procedural documents cannot deliver their aims in the field. Instead, it could exacerbate the already existing gender power relations as gender roles amplify the liability on the already overburdened women during the time of the disasters.

    Community visit to early warning tower

    My experience with Practical Action enriched my knowledge in many ways. Being a part of the organisation at all times made it easier to contact key staff as well as government officials. Further, as I was affiliated with the University of Edinburgh, I believe this allowed me to study and analyse the institution relatively more objectively. In conclusion, I believe the practice programme has been beneficial both for me and for the organisation, especially with regards to the communication within the organisation around gender issues. It is possible to see that, when people become aware of each other’s varying interpretations of the same issue, it could help them to rethink of their actions, re-evaluate their approach and eventually reinvent their influence on the communities. According to me, this was the most important positive outcome.

    [1] Twigg, J. “The Human Factor in Early Warnings: Risk Perception and Appropriate Communications” (2003).

     

    Curious to find out more? Have a look at Practical Action’s publications: 

    Flood Early Warning System in Practice: Experiences of Nepal

    Delivering Early Warning Systems for the Poorest: From flood-vulnerable to flood-resilient communities

     

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  • Knowledge transforming livelihood


    July 10th, 2017

    “My family needs were escalating every day and I used to wonder, what I need to do to fulfill my family needs,” says 35-year old Kamala Pandey, a resident of Kawasoti-15, Godar, Nawalparasi.

    Kamala Pandey by her cow shade Photo (c) Practical Action/Ananta Prasad

    Kamala Pandey, a mother of three, struggled a lot to meet her family’s basic needs while juggling personal struggles like debt, and other challenges. Her husband who used to support her by running small rice mill was unable to generate enough income to meet growing demands of family. She was frustrated as she didn’t have any opportunity to shape her life and make a right choice to change her livelihood.

    She also thought of migrating to urban areas hoping it will bring new opportunities. However, it was also not that much easy as it requires huge amount of money to migrate to a city and seek opportunities. Financial worries are not new to Kamala, who grew up in penury but she was much worried about her children’s future. She says, “I was not worried about my situation, I was used to living in poverty but I do feel guilty, thinking that whether or not we can raise our children in a better way than how we were raised.”

    She never gave up but continued to work hard and sought knowledge and information on various livelihood options. In the year 2014, she came in contact with a social mobiliser of Shivashakti Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC), Godar, Nawalparasi through her neighbours. Shivashakti CLRC used to run Practical Answers services to provide livelihood related technical solutions to rural marginal community.

    Kamala got training on commercial vegetable farming and off-season vegetable farming. This training was a boon to change her livelihood. She started vegetable farming in 4 kattha (1 kattha equals to 0.03 hectare) of her land and was able to earn NPR 30,000 (100 NPR equals to 1USD) by selling tomatoes and cauliflowers in 4 months’ time. She used to cultivate rice in 7 katthas of her land which used to submerge during the monsoon season. She participated in an expert interaction conducted by the CLRC and learned about suitable variety selection, seed treatment and modern rice cultivation practice. In the same year, her rice production increased by 120 kg per kattha.

    Gradually, her earning increased. She realised that if she had a cow then she would use the straw and other vegetable left-overs to feed the cow and in return get milk and manure. She consulted with the social mobiliser and got information on different improved cow breeds. She bought two Jersey cows. Now she sells 20 litres milk daily and earns NRS 1000 every day. Her monthly average income has soared to NPR 40,000.
    She says, “It seemed a dream few years ago but now it is a reality, like the popular adage bright day comes after dark day, is really true for me.” She adds, “Now I am optimist about the future. My children go to English medium boarding schools.”

    At present, she is the vice chairperson of Phoolbari Women Farmer Group. The group has been registered at the local government body (Local government prioritises registered farmers’ groups while providing services, subsidies and grants). Her husband supports her in making every decision. While she is away for training and other activities, her mother-in-law, though very old, supports her by looking after her children and cooking food for them. She says, “Now things have changed and without my family support we would not have been at this stage.”

    She concludes, “Knowledge really impacts us but it depends upon how we act accordingly.”

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  • Direct seeded rice – A promising resource efficient technology


    June 29th, 2017

    Arjun Bhattarai, a 51-year-old farmer living in Koshi Haraicha of Morang district, grows rice as a major crop in his land. Out of his three children, a daughter and a son are blind by birth. So, with the help of his only wife and some casual workers, he used to grow rice and vegetables in his own 8 kattha (1 Kattha = 333.33 sq. meter) and leased 10 kattha land. They were able to hardly meet their annual household needs. Moreover, technical issues like lack of knowledge concerning cultivation techniques, suitable seed variety, pest and diseases, irrigation facility and unavailability of labour in the time of need have made them more vulnerable.

    Arjun sowing rice seeds using a drum seeder. (c) Practical Action/Prabin Gurung

    He joined a Pilot Programme for Climate Resilient Agriculture (PPCR) -Rice training and demonstration plot activity in April 2014 with the hope of getting technical support to improve his farming practice and productivity while reducing the cost of cultivation.He showed keen interest in developing a demonstration plot in his own land. However, he was quiet hesitant to try the new technology of Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) in his land. He was afraid that whether or not the new technology would give the same production as the traditional transplanting technology.

    What is DSR?

    Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) is a resource efficient technology that can overcome constraints and limitations of traditional cultivation technology. Various constraints of traditional cultivation technology like higher water and labour demand, extra expenses during raising nursery, uprooting and transplanting, uncertain supply of irrigation water and increased frequency of drought has necessitated alternative techniques like DSR that not only reduces the cost of production but also assure its sustainability.

    DSR is not common in Nepal because of lack of technical knowhow, marginal and scattered land, low land holding capacity of Nepalese farmers and poor irrigation facilities. There are some basic requirements for successful direct seeding like, big plot of well leveled land, more than 0.25 ha (1 ha = 10000sq. meter), large enough to use a machine; and good irrigation facility so that the land can be irrigated and the water can be drained easily.

    Before the project intervention, he had also practiced SRI (System of Rice Intensification) with the help of District Agricultural Development Office (DADO) Morang, with a good productivity. However, as it required lot of skill and labourers, he was unable to continue the technology. In this regards he found DSR as a suitable option to conventional transplanting and modern SRI technology. He says, “Though I was confused on the performance of DSR, I found that this technology can reduce labour cost significantly and perform better in poor irrigation facility too.”

    Direct seeded rice seedlings 20 days after seeding

    Usually in DSR, first 20 days after seeding is the most important period and critical for successful establishment. If irrigation water is not under control then DSR plants cannot develop as per the expectation. During this initial phase of establishment of seedlings, irrigation should be done just to saturate the field. If irrigation water is above the saturation threshold, i.e., standing water in field then it affects emergence and early development of seedlings, and the seedlings can even die.

    More yield with less input

    Arjun used to produce 4 mann ( 1 mann =  40 kgs) per kattha but this time he was able to produce 5 mann rice per kattha, also his cost of production was reduced by 25% as he used only two labourers during his entire cropping period.  In DSR, the labour required for nursery raising, uprooting and transplanting of seedlings are saved to the extent of about 40% and up to 50% water is saved as nursery raising, puddling, seepage and percolation are eliminated. The fertiliser use efficiency is increased and early maturity (15-20 days) helps in timely sowing of succeeding crops. Likewise, up to 50% energy is saved because of elimination of field preparation for nursery raising, puddling and reduced water application for irrigation. Even the methane emission is reduced and the soil structure is not disturbed as in puddled transplanted system. And the elimination of transplanting means less drudgery to farm women labourers. Also the cost of cultivation is reduced due to the reduced labour and energy costs.

    Direct seeded rice 40 days after seeding

    Challenges in DSR cultivation

    However, while cultivating DSR, farmers in Nepal face challenges like land topography, irrigation and drainage facility, and availability of inputs like herbicides and lack of technical know-how.

    Weed is a major problem in DSR, and it can be only managed through proper time management, controlling and weed-free irrigation system. Most of the irrigation water in Nepal comes through irrigation canals that are fully contaminated with weed seeds and also this irrigation water is uncontrollable, periodic and not sufficient for good production.

    In this regards, we have identified possible consideration and modification that have to be applied while practising DSR method of rice production in Nepalese context. Based on our experiences, we have developed following intervention to achieve significant results, thereby reducing weed infestation.

    1. Use of Glyphosate: Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that kills all grasses and weed. It should be sprayed before land preparation. However, use of glyphosate should be limited only to those plots which have higher weed infestation and are lying fallow for a long period.

    2. Suitable land selection and Controlled irrigation: Usually DSR can be cultivated in all types of soil and land. However, due to difficulty in irrigation water management, upland lands are more suitable than flood-prone lowland.

    3. Use of post emergence herbicide (15-20days after seeding): Post emergence herbicides like 2-4 D and Nominee gold (Bispyribec) are being used to control weeds. Usually these herbicides are used alone or in combination to bring weed concentration below economic threshold.

    4. Irrigation Water Management: Care should be taken for first 20 days after seeding. After 15 days, seedling phase enters to tillering phase and irrigation management is not a big problem after that. As we select upland land for DSR, we do not have much flooding problem. For the first 15-20 days, irrigation is done just to saturate soil from irrigation canals or deep borings. After 20 days, irrigation and other management aspects are same as traditional/transplanting technology.

    Having learnt about the technical know-how of cultivating DSR, Arjun is happy to continue it over the traditional method. He says, “I was in a dilemma whether or not to try this technology, but now I am confident that I can adopt this technology without any difficulty and even my neighbours are planning to follow this technology.”

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  • Inclusive toilet – an example of inclusive public sanitation business


    June 20th, 2017

    Public Toilet at Gulariya Municipality

    During one of my field trips to Gulariya, in the mid-western Nepal, a gender friendly public toilet caught my attention. Peeping through the vehicle’s window, I decided to visit the site after completing my meeting with Gulariya Municipality Office and following up on the new activities of the Safa Swastha Gulariya project.

    The public toilet has not only male and female sections but also a separate section for third genders. A bright new paint applied to the facility and a shop with colourful display of snacks adjacent to the toilet was completely new from what I had seen during its early construction phase.

    Gender inclusive toilet run by a woman

    Nilam at her shop adjacent to public toilet

    As I entered the toilet premises, I saw a woman in charge of the shop. The public toilet facility operator, Nilam Chaudhary hails from Khaire Chandanpur. She recalls, “About 5-6 months ago, my husband came back home from work and said he had signed an agreement with Gulariya Municipality to operate the public toilet with a shop and I needed to operate the both.” Being a housewife, she was afraid at the beginning but now she is getting familiar to running the facility.

    She operates the facility from 8:30 in morning to 6:30 in the evening. She also takes care of her two-and-half-year-old son and household chores. She thinks it would have been easier to manage the time had there been a room to stay. She could operate the facility for more time as well. However, she doesn’t find any difference between the male, female and third gender toilet designs.

    Designed for self-sustainability

    Practical Action implemented Safa Swastha Gulariya project in Gulariya Municipality of Bardiya District from August 2014 to July 2016. The project, funded by DFID under UK Aid match fund, was implemented through Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO), a national NGO. One of the major activities of the project was to declare ‘Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015’. For the improvement of the public sanitation aspect, the project constructed the public toilet in the bazaar near the police office and district hospital area. This public toilet, unique in its inclusive nature, has separate facilities for both male and female as well as a separate cubicle for third gender.

    The facility earns income through the user charge, parking charge for vehicles and sale of goods from the shop. The income from the toilet and shop is kept separately but the expenditures are not kept separately. Nilam told the facility operates almost at breakeven and sometimes the income is not enough to pay the monthly lease fee to the municipality. Comparatively, most of the toilet users are males followed by third gender and then by women. The male toilet users mostly are the pedestrians, travelers and public transport drivers.

    Social aspects of managing a public toilet

    Different sections of public toilet

    The social aspect of engagement of women in public sanitation business is not so negative. When someone asks her about job, Nilam tells them she operates both the shop and public toilet in the same building. She also has never got negative feedback from others that she is in the business of operating a public toilet.

    One of the most common answers she gets from users when asked about user fee is, “Why she charges user fee for a service provided by the government.

    The business aspect of operating a shop in public toilet comes into use when a person pays for user fee and asks for candies, bubble gum, etc., in lieu of small change.

    The predefined traditional perspective of sanitation service, especially public toilets being managed by the so-called lower castes, the untouchables placed lowest at the social hierarchy can be changed. The successful engagement of women from different social and economic strata can create a changed outlook of public sanitation business. This also helps being inclusive, not only in terms of service to different genders, but also engaging middle class families to support their livelihoods.

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  • Universal energy access: what’s gender got to do with it?


    April 20th, 2017
    Written in partnership with Mariama Kamara, Founder and Director, Smiling Through Light

    The energy sector is traditionally male-dominated with men’s access to better education, skills training, and finance enabling them to develop businesses and access markets that women have often been excluded from as a result of gendered social norms and women’s unpaid care work. In the energy world, the role of women has often been limited to that of consumers; particularly in relation to the household sphere and cooking practices. The benefits of clean cooking fuels and technologies on women and girls is championed on global platforms; and women are being increasingly recognised as important to energy access planning processes. What benefits arise, though, when we embrace and empower women as agents of change who are actively striving for, and driving us towards, Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7)?

    CSW61: Women as Agents of Change

    Last month, at the UN’s 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), Practical Action hosted a parallel session exploring just that: Women as Agents of Change in Sustainable Energy Access Value Chains. The session, which heard from  Practical Action’s Sudan and East Africa offices, Smiling through Light, Energy Research Institute Sudan, and Solar Sister, demonstrated that investing in women’s potential as entrepreneurs, technicians, policy-makers and thought-leaders is vital for achieving gender-transformative outcomes and more effective energy access approaches.

    Image of the panellists and organising team of Practical Action's event at the 61st Commission on the Status of Women, on women as change agents in sustainable energy access value chains.

    CSW panel members from left to right: Mariama Kamara (Smiling Through Light), Dr Sawsan Sanhory (Energy Research Institute Sudan), Neha Misra (Solar Sister), Muna Eltahir (Practical Action Sudan), Charlotte Taylor (Practical Action), Samah Omer (Practical Action Sudan), Lydia Muchiri (Practical Action East Africa).

    Gender Equality + Sustainable Energy Access = Opportunity for All

    Across the panellists’ different experiences, from the grassroots initiative of Smiling Through Light to the global campaign of Solar Sister, a clear message could be heard: at the intersection of gender equality and sustainable energy access lies vast potential – for women’s economic empowerment, certainly, and also for sustainable development and improved wellbeing for their communities and beyond.

    A briquettes entrepreneur from the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya (WEEK) project

    A briquettes entrepreneur from the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya (WEEK) project

    The keynote speech, delivered by Lydia Muchiri, Senior Gender and Energy Advisor for Practical Action East Africa, explored the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya project (WEEK). Delivered in partnership with Energia, this project empowers women as providers of energy across three value chains – improved cookstoves, solar products, and biomass briquettes – in the roles of producers, suppliers and ‘brand activators’. WEEK project activities support women to build their social capital, develop fundamental business skills, and improve their confidence as entrepreneurs; these women now drive behaviour change, convincing others to adopt clean energy options. Five WEEK project entrepreneurs appeared at the recent SEforAll Forum to share their experiences, demonstrating a growing appetite to hear rural women’s grassroots knowledge on global stages.

    Smiling Through Light: be the change that you want to see

    Smiling Through Light’s Founder and Director Mariama Kamara highlighted the centrality of women’s knowledge, empowerment and collective action to building environmentally sustainable pathways to sustainable energy access; emphasising in particular the diverse roles women play across the energy value chain from production and transportation, to distribution and end use. At the age of nine Mariama left Sierra Leone during the civil war; after later learning that energy use in Sierra Leone was still mostly limited to kerosene for lighting, with no access to clean energy services, she started Smiling Through Light in 2014. By doing so, Mariama became the change she wanted to see. Smiling Through Light now advocates for women, as primary consumers and users of clean energy products, to be integrated into the process of designing appropriate solutions and engaged throughout the value chain to improve their livelihoods.

    The path to SDG7

    There remain many clear opportunities to advance women’s positions across the energy access value chain, including:

    Policy – Advocate for policy that goes beyond perceiving women as victims of energy poverty or mere consumers, but as potential drivers of the sector. Embrace and lobby for the critical role of smaller, distributed energy solutions in addressing rural energy poverty, and women’s unique contribution to this sector.

    Finance – Recognise that women’s access to finance is often constrained by social, political and economic constraints; i.e. collateral requirements based on land or asset ownership. Dedicate specific financing, credit facilities, grants and concessional loans to women’s sustainable energy activities.

    Skills – Address the significant skills and local workforce development gaps in energy access in a way that empowers more skilled women to participate across the value chain, and educates others on the value of their contributions.

    Evidence – Continue to build evidence to help inform policy on why women in clean energy value chains are uniquely positioned to make a lasting impact; bringing local women entrepreneurs and decision-makers’ voices and experiences to the fore.

    An entrepreneur from the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya (WEEK) project makes money and heat from waste, selling to customers at market

    An entrepreneur from the WEEK project makes money and heat from waste, selling to customers at market

    As energy access advocates and champions of gender equality we must continue to find opportunities, like at CSW61, to demonstrate the positive impacts that women’s economic empowerment in energy access initiatives has for themselves and their families, as well as their extended communities and international development practice more broadly. We need to continue challenging damaging gendered social norms which disempower women as change-makers; and simultaneously strengthen policy coordination, knowledge sharing, financial inclusion, programmatic partnerships and research to advance women’s participation in sustainable energy development for all.

     

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  • Success Story of a Water Initiative


    April 19th, 2017

    Haladete-East is a village located 40 km North from the city of Kassala, Eastern Sudan. It is a home of over 4800 people, from which 2850 are women. This is a story of an amazing water initiative that benefited not only one family but the entire village of Haladete-East!

    Access to water has always been a serious problem in Haladete-East. Because there was no water nearby, people had to walk every day nearly three hours, through deserted roads, to collect water. Their only source of water was a remote hand-pump that was unreliable. The walks to collect water were tough and because of the heavy weight, only limited amount of water could be brought back to the village. Because of this, water could only be used to absolute necessities such as cooking and drinking.

    To solve the problem, Practical Action launched a project called Aqua for East. The project, funded by DFID, aimed to improve the water security for the benefit of the whole community. To do this, Practical Action needed to build a water tank that would be big enough to provide water for 4800 people!

    The first step in the project was to identify a location with a steady underground water supply (through hydrological studies and water catchment surveys). This ensured that the water supply would not run dry – even during the driest times. Once the right location was selected, Practical Action build the water tank, including two different distribution stations. One station was for women and the other for men. Each station included six water taps.

    What makes this project so special, is the substantial community engagement. With the help of Practical Action, people living in the village established a Water Committee that looked after the management of the water distribution, including financial management and preparations should a damage occur.

    Because of the Aqua for East initiative, the life of the people living in Haladete-East is now easier, healthier, more dignified and joyful. To summarise:

    1. People do not need to walk long distances to collect water anymore. They now have an easy access to clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. In addition, small scale farming and animal farming have benefited from the secured water supply.

    2. The initiative has had a tremendous impact on improved hygiene. Villagers are now able to wash their hands and shower more often, to do laundry and clean their homes. Furthermore, the food is less contaminated and diet more healthier due to in-house cultivated vegetables.

    3. More girls are going to school instead of collecting water. In addition, they have more time to socialise and participate in income generating activities.

    Nafish O’shak, one of the villagers, said: Before, the community health promoters used to give us strong hygiene advice, but without water we could not do what we were advised to do. Now we have sufficient water and we are very hygienic. Our clothes, food and houses are extremely clean.

    Is that a revolutionary impact or what?

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  • Gender Transformative Change Is Our Priority


    March 31st, 2017

    The gender is at the center in our new Strategic Business Plan (SBP) 2017 to 2020. In terms of gender, the main shift in the strategic period is gender mainstreaming to gender transformation.

    The gender transformation process dedicates to rigorous gender analysis on capacity enhancement, institutional strengthen, research and development of gender responsive policies through meaningful participation of women and men. The transformative change process goes beyond identifying and exploring the symptoms of gender equality, socially constructed norms, attitudes, and relations of power that underline the cause of limitation of men and women.

    In context of Nepal, women are confined to the domestic spheres mostly in rural areas due to socially embedded and culturally accepted gender roles and responsibilities. So, this process examines the questions and seeks to change the rigid gender norms that causes power imbalances by encouraging critical awareness. The change process of gender transformation mainly focuses to unfold the causes and consequences of existing gender values and addresses them accordingly. This change process further encourages the society to promote the position of women by challenging the unequal distribution of resources and allocation regarding the power relationships. There are four different pillars for gender transformative change, they are:

    Pic. 1

    The first and foremost area that needs to be focused is capacity of women’s leadership. It helps to respond to the need and requirement of an organisation’s future strategy. The development of new policies and strengthening of existing policies from gender perspectives support women in leadership and decision making positions. Such policies support including the socially excluded, economically poor, and vulnerable in terms of disaster risk reduction and those deprived of access to information and resources. It further encourages partnering with like-minded government, non-government organisations and civil societies, additionally, the research on GESI helps to provide evidence for the areas of concentration to bring the gender transformation change in an organisation.

    In context of Practical Action, Nepal office, there are two areas that need to focus. They are;

    1. Capacity strengthening and women’s leadership
    • Focus on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) through project activities
    • Capacity building on Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) of staff and partners
    • Initiate the Gender Audit through our existing projects
    1. Inclusive policies and partnerships
    • Focus to implement of existing policies and development of new policies/ guidelines if required
    • Partnership with like minded organizations to contribute on GESI areas in the implementation level

    This comprehensive understanding of empowerment requires, not only the increase of women’s individual agency, but also changes to transform the structural barriers in order to shift social and cultural norms. This can be measured by examining three broad  domains of transformative changes on empowerment, they are:

    Agencies: Individual and institutional knowledge, skills and abilities

    Relations: Complex and multi-dimensional and pervasive relationships to analyse through diversified tools and techniques

    Structures: Power relationships governing collective, individual and institutional practices

    Pic. 2

    These dimensions help re-frame the discourse of empower to focus on women’s individual agency to collect responsibilities and actions.

    Overall, the gender transformative change impacts on institutional and individual level through gender inclusive policies keeping the women in front line positions in development interventions. This leads to rights of women along with gender related expectations. Eventually, it provides insights for gender transformative actions at organisation and programme implementation levels. Gender is so central to our new strategy. So, considering our organizational priorities, gender tansformative change is one of them.

     

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  • Margaret Kariuku — A self-established businesswoman


    March 10th, 2017

    Margaret Kariuku is a Kenyan woman who has not had the easiest path to success. As a mother of four, she has struggled to find a stable income to provide for herself and her children.

    “Three times, I have had to start again. Three times, I have had to rebuild my livelihood. It all begun in 2005, when I stopped working as a secretary in Nakuru town. I thought that I would get my life sorted, but as fate would have it, this would not be.MargaretKariuki2 (002)

    After she finished working as a secretary, she moved to her father’s farm, hoping to re-establish herself as a farmer. At first, her maize crops yielded well. However, as the days passed, her crops went down. By the third year, there was nothing left to harvest, and Margaret needed to decide what to do next.

    “I picked up the pieces and decided to set up a milk collection centre. I bought milk from the farmers and sold it to the residents. I also decided to buy a motorcycle. When it was not used to collect milk, it would be a taxi. That way, I had two income streams.”

    In the beginning, Margaret’s new business did well. Two income streams guaranteed a stable income. Sadly, after couple months, she realised that her employees were embezzling money from her. She needed to close the business. “I almost got disoriented when I lost my second business. But I collected myself again and set up once more.”

    This time, she decided to establish a business on her own. She opened a grocery store which provided just enough income to keep her going. One day, she overheard her neighbour talking about a new source of energy called briquetting. This sparked her interest. She participated in a conference, organised by Practical Action Eastern Africa and SCODE (Sustainable Community Development Services), where she saw a demo of the production process. After the conference, her neighbour suggested a visit to the briquetting production site in the neighbourhood.

    Although reluctant at first, she accompanied her neighbour to the site – pretending to be an entrepreneur. At the site, she quickly learned, that she could earn better income as a briquettinbriquettesg entrepreneur than owner of a grocery store. Meanwhile, the costs and availability of the raw materials made it easy to enter the market. She went back home feeling energised and thoughtful.

    “My hope was that even if my grocery store was not performing well, I had briquettes. I knew that if I’d start producing them, I would be able to make a better income. So I started to produce them manually. I thought to myself, this is really hard! However, Practical Action and SCODE helped me. They rented me a machine to aide production. I had found my salvation.”

    Margaret launched her briquettes business in 2015 and has increased her sales ever since. She has also participated in Practical Action’s training programmes, aimed to enhance women’s energy enterprise opportunities in Kenya. In 2017, she won the Energia Women Entrepreneurship Award – A prize that recognizes individuals that have done outstanding work in the sector.

    In the future, Margaret wants to further expand her business and create jobs in the community. “Many young people are jobless, and many women are frustrated because they have no way of getting income. So I can use the prize money to give them a chance, to teach them, and to give them skills so that they can benefit the way I have.”

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Margaret!

    Want to help women like Margaret this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.

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  • Kamala Joshi — A woman who broke the cycle of discrimination


    March 9th, 2017

    Mother’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year. Not because of all the festivities or pastries (which I don’t mind!), but because it reminds me of all the amazing women I have met, but I haven’t had a chance to tell you about yet.

    Meet Kamala Joshi, a Nepalese single-mother who, like many other women in rural communities, got married in her early twenties. She had a baby soon after wedlock, sadly, kamalaher husband left her shortly after the baby was born. Kamala struggled to provide for herself and her child, and had to move out of her home. She found a temporary refuge from a women’s shelter (‘maiti’) but knew that she could not stay there for long. A fear to end up homeless was strong.

    In Nepal, especially in rural areas, women’s fate is still linked to that of their husbands. A broken marriage leaves a social stigma that most of the women will have to carry for the rest of their lives – no matter what the reasons led to the separation. Women with unlucky marriages, often face discrimination and social exclusion without much hope for the future.

    Kamala, however, refused to accept this and wanted to fight for a better life for herself and her daughter. She started working in agriculture and with some time, determination and a bit of luck, she was selected to participate in a training programme in agriculture with Practical Action’s partner, District Agriculture Development Office (DADO). From this, she gained the right tools and knowledge to establish herself as a self-sufficient small-scale farmer.

    In 2014, couple years after Kamala had started as a small-scale farmer, she had another training opportunity through Practical Action’s Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security project. This time, she learnt skills and knowledge to support other local farmers. Since then, she has demonstrated and facilitated workshops in her community to share her knowledge of small scale farming for the benefit of all.

    kamala2Kamala Joshi managed to break the cycle. Since she started to work in agriculture, she has no longer struggled to provide for her family and even managed to send her daughter to a boarding school. She is now one of the most respected women in the community, despite the social stigma of her marital status. Her story is an inspiring reminder that right knowledge, opportunities and determination have the power to break the social dynamics that cause discrimination against women.

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Kamala!

    Want to help women like Kamala this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.

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