11.09.2012

‚Every Drop makes an ocean’ – Small-scale sponsorship for the Bhimeshwhory women cooperative in Nepal’s Sindhupalchowk District


‘Every drop makes an ocean’ – this is the motto of the Bhimeshwory women cooperative in Bhimtar Village Development Committee (VDC) of Nepal’s Sindhupalchowk District. Bhimtar is a remote VDC on the slopes of the Indrawati river. It is mainly populated by janajati (Danuwar and Majhi) and Bhimtar is a poor VDC where agriculture and some animal husbandry are the only income sources. Access to basic health care and primary education is still very limited.

 

Some years ago it was unthinkable that the women of the VDC join together to improve their living conditions and to act as managers of a cooperative – with more and more self-confidence. Traditional gender roles that confined the women to the life world of the household and social divisions between janajati and members of higher caste groups stood in the way of a joint initiative.

 

Together with its local partner ‘Friends of Sankhu’ (FOS) AWO International had therefore supported the built-up of women cooperatives in Bhimtar and neighbouring VDCs as part of the Project ‘Community Development through Social Mobilisation’. The project also included various income-generating activities and measures to improve access to health services and primary education. The main goal however, was to create powerful women cooperatives and to empower them to use their human resources and to take the development of their VDCs into their own hands. This would guarantee the sustainability of the project intervention.

 

And a lot has changed in the VDCs since the beginning of the project. Through specific interventions (e.g. the support for and marketing of vegetable cultivation, the training of local resource persons as Village Animal Health Workers or the financial and technical support for building new irrigation canals, toilets for schools and for wore bells) the income of many VDC members increased and the health, sanitation and education situation in the VDCs improved. Above all, however, the women cooperatives created now act as ‘development engines’ in their respective VDCs.

 

While, however, in the other VDCs the women cooperatives are now self-sustainable, successfully give out loans and have accumulated a substantial capital to finance small development initiatives on their own, things only moved slowly in Bhimtar – mainly due to a much lower level of education and self-confidence of the cooperative members and the backwardness of Bhimtar as compared to the other VDCs.

 

After the phasing out of the project cooperation with FOS at the end of 2011, AWO International therefore decided to provide FOS and the Bhimeshwory women cooperative with its 28 individual women groups with a small-scale sponsorship in order to strengthen the cooperative further. The main objective of the sponsorship coordinated by FOS from June to August 2012 was to improve the management of the cooperative through various trainings in accounting, financial management, reporting, communication etc. An exposure visit to the successful cooperatives in the other VDCs helped the Bhimtar cooperative to gain insight into the work of the other cooperatives. The sponsorship also provided calculators and stationary to the Bhimeshwory cooperative.

 

And with a relatively small amount of money a lot has been achieved. "Now we have to come forward and practice what we have learned" says the 26-year old Laxmi Neupane, the manager of the Bhimeshwory cooperative. "In the trainings we learned how to organise the loan process or how to apply for funds with the VDC; and the exposure visit to the other cooperatives was an eye opener – we want to do it as they have done it." But Laxmi knows that a lot has still to be done. The Bhimeshwory cooperative has to increase its capital, which now stands at a mere 11.000.000 NPRs, which are mainly loaned out. And especially the executive committee of the cooperative has to show more commitment. Above all, development initiatives have to be identified which could then be started (and financed) by the cooperative itself.

 

But the first step has been taken and the sustainability of the cooperative seems to be assured. Let’s hope that eventually many drops will make that ocean.

Capacity-building Training for members of the Bhimeshwory women cooperative

Laxmi Neupane, the cooperative manager, talks to cooperative members