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There is no force equal,
to a woman determined to rise
- W.E.B. Dubois
Samunnat Nepal is a small NGO (non-governmental organization) in Birtamod, Jhapa, in the far east of Nepal. The NGO was started in 2007 to offer support to women who are victims of (domestic) violence, live in poverty, or who are very vulnerable due to other reasons.
Some of the women working at Samunnat have a problematic history of abuse, violence, and law cases. The women receive guidance from Samunnat and help where necessary.
In Nepalese culture, it is normal for a woman after marriage to live with the family of her husband and to be entirely dependent on him. Many women in Nepal have had poor or no education, which, together with this dependence, makes them even more vulnerable to violence and poverty. Many women feel alone and isolated and do not see the possibility of changing this situation.
If a woman is abused and would try to leave her husband, she would become homeless and would have no income. She would not be able to provide education for her children if the man's family no longer supports her.
By earning an income of her own and meeting other women (in Nepal, this is also called "sisters") who have experienced the same, this can give strength back to a woman. They are given back the power and the means to take up the challenge, to stand up for their rights, and to build a better life for themselves and their children.
Human trafficking is also a big problem in eastern Nepal. Jhapa lies on the border with India. Nepalese girls and young women are regularly abducted and taken to India. They are brutally taken away from their own lives and of their family and friends. The women are then sold across the border to their "future husband" in India.
"Samunnat" means "to flourish." Through the support that Samunnat offers, Kopila, the founder of Samunnat, hopes that the women will be able to flourish again.
Many of the women who come to Samunnat for help, have heard about the organization from other women, have been referred by the police or by other government organizations.
Providing financial assistance is only a short-term solution. That is why Samunnat offers more than that:
The nature and duration of the program vary depending on the problems involved. Some women require more extended guidance due to complicated legal situations. Others come to Samunnat for counseling, income generation training, and other support until they can build a safe home for themselves and their children.
Most training sessions for women are focused on local and sustainable work, such as making clothes, doing bookkeeping, providing catering service, and selling (dairy) products. Some of the women are trained to make beautiful beads and jewelry from polymer clay, which I sell through MuniMuni.
Most women stay in contact with Samunnat after their situation has improved or even return to help as mentors, board members, or trainers. A microfinance cooperative has also been set up within Samunnat. By borrowing a small amount from the organization, women can get their business started (for example, greengrocers or dairy products).
Samunnat Nepal continues to grow in recent years, and I am very very happy to be part of this!
And those of her children. She will be able to advocate for herself within her family (if safe) and with government and community agencies. She will know where to go in her community to get support and assistance.
It is crucial to help each woman think critically and to make confident and thoughtful decisions about what is or isn’t useful in her situation.
And reproductive health. Each woman should know how to avoid or obtain treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. They should know about community resources for ongoing support.
And how this will affect a child’s capacity to deal with stress, trauma, and change in the family unit. Many children involved with Samunnat have witnessed violence towards their mothers, and, in some situations, they have been the target of violence or abuse themselves. Sometimes this has contributed to behavioral issues and physical problems.
and knows ways to help her children in difficult and stressful situations
Especially under stressful circumstances.
Different communication strategies are taught, to be able to apply in relationships.
Women will learn about financial management, cooperatives, and other community resources.
With a realistic possibility of income generation. Where possible, each woman is given skills in an area of her choice if this is sustainable and viable. Over the last years, training was provided in managing a small business, beauty parlor training, basic book-keeping and computing, bakery training, pickle making, tailoring and polymer bead, and jewelry making.
The roles of different people and the processes that relate to her situation. Samunnat wants to empower each woman to move through the process with increasing independence and an ability to seek support from appropriate agencies.
Samunnat is located in Birtamod, Jhapa, in the far East of Nepal. A few years back, when I contacted Kopila for the first time, I told her I wanted to visit Samunnat, and meet the women. She responded if I had realized where they were in Nepal. She and the other women hadn't expected me to take the microvan from Kathmandu and travel 14 windy hours over the Nepali roads to their workplace.
It's a more rural area, where almost no tourists travel to, and not much English is being spoken.
It was 200% worth it to meet all these women at Samunnat, back then, and to travel back there last year with Tara.
With the videos, the photos, and the interviews I hope to share, a little bit of what I could see, hear, feel, and sense when I was there: their vulnerability, their strength, their skills, and their hard work, their joy and their togetherness.
Namaste! My name is Sunita Bohora. I live in Birtamode. My house is at Sarnawati. It is around 15 km far from here.
I came to know about Samunnat and the making of the polymer jewelry by a group of women. I didn’t know about polymer. Only after I joined here, I came to learn how to work with this.
I feel that life now is much better than it used to be before. I got to meet friends who are similar to me. We were able to share our happiness and sorrow, and this lightens my heart.
It helped me a lot financially to be able to stand on my own feet.
I used to feel that women are not capable of doing anything. Having joined here, I have dropped those thoughts. I think that women are also capable of doing something worthwhile.