Women, Girls and Child Rights Program (WoGCRP)
CAED’s latest program uses youth empowerment to tackle gender inequality, patriarchal attitudes and discriminatory practices in western Nepal, with a particular focus on the girl child.
Young members of the remote communities where CAED works represent the opportunity for a better future for entire villages. This hope for the development of future generations is embodied in the objectives of the Women, Girls and Child Rights Program (WoGCRP), which aims to tackle gender inequality, patriarchal attitudes and discriminatory practices through youth empowerment, paying particular attention to the rights of the girl child. Communities develop ways of reforming certain practices as a result of the program, tackling issues such as child marriage, menstrual banishment and restrictions (also known as chhaupadi), inequality in decision-making between spouses, and uterine prolapse.
WoGCRP is founded on the capacity of young members of societies to effect sustainable social change. As relative newcomers to the group to which they belong, they have a fresh perspective on the distribution of power and social relations between the people around them. At the same time, as future leaders, they have an interest in shaping these relations for the better. WoGCRP supports driven young members of remote communities of western Nepal to effect the social change they wish to see. The program helps them to explore gender dynamics and gives them the tools and confidence to question and improve discriminatory practices within their societies.
WoGCRP comprises four major activities targeting young Nepalis—both male and female—of different age groups. This approach is the result of valuable lessons learned by CAED in over 25 years of operation. In order to effect sustainable social change, CAED has learned that it needs to engage children who are not yet considered be of marriageable age (i.e. those who have yet to enter puberty). Thus, WoGCRP’s youngest beneficiaries, who are still in primary school, participate in the Child Rising Program. CAED works with half a dozen local NGOs to educate about a hundred students from each school where it is implemented on issues of gender equality and the consequences of harmful social practices. These workshops are interactive and are aimed at engaging students and developing their ability to critically reflect on these issues. They may, for example, ask the children to reflect on why their mothers are required to distribute food to all other members of the family before they can take themselves, and how this practice could be harmful. The program sharpens children’s ability to observe social conduct around them and to reflect on their effects from a young age.
Children of secondary-school age are eligible for the Child Rising Program, which recruits about 50 students from each secondary school where it is implemented to participate in quarterly “life skills” trainings. The students are selected based on a combination of merit and equitable representation, with a certain number of places reserved for socio-economically disadvantaged students and those of lower castes. All must have a demonstrated commitment to social justice to participate. These “peer educators” receive instruction on a broad range of relevant topics, ranging from sexual and reproductive health to laws and policies seeking to prevent gender discrimination. They are equally taught skills that can be readily applied in practice, including how to make reusable sanitary pads and strategies to effectively talk about taboo subjects with family members and friends. The most driven members of the target age group are selected for the trainings because they are most likely to discuss issues related to gender equality with their peers and relatives, thereby effecting wider social change within their communities. The Child Rising Program and the Girls Empowerment Program are both implemented in five schools, meaning that, for example, a total number of 250 peer educators are engaged every year.
In addition, WoGCRP implements a community-level program to prevent the perpetuation of gender-based discrimination among current and future generations. It engages young couples seeking to improve their livelihoods and quality of life to serve as role-models within the community to achieve this aim. These “model couples” receive practical trainings on methods to improve their livelihoods (including agricultural techniques), as well as on how to ensure an equitable division of labour and power within their relationship. They are encouraged to abandon practices such as the banishment of women from the family home during menstruation (known as chhaupadi) and beginning pregnancies at frequent and short intervals. This results in positive change for the model couples’ livelihoods and standing within the community, as incomes are stabilised and their overall productivity improves. In this way, these husbands and wives—who undergo the trainings together—serve as models for social change for other members of their communities and for their children.
Finally, WoGCRP undertakes a number of advocacy measures to push for the formulation and implementation of effective policies to tackle discriminatory practices and gender inequality. Within the federal structure of Nepal, these activities and efforts to sensitise officials are taken at the local, district, provincial and national levels, and involve trainings, workshops, briefings, the organisation of coalitions and engagement with the media.
Principles Underpinning WoGCRP Activities
Province 6 – Karnali