Women Empowerment ProgramFact-Sheet
Introduction: VIN offers four major projects within the Women Empowerment Program: Education, Rights and Life Skills, Microcredit Cooperative Support, Income Generation & Marketing, and Women’s Trafficking Prevention. Nepali women are born into a patriarchal society. In all cases women’s rights are subordinate to those of men. Married early, with little or no education, no land rights or independent income, women are a voiceless section of society, dependent on men for their welfare and bearing the continued weight of cultural and social discrimination and violence against them. If a woman does not feel safe within a society then she cannot be empowered within it. The threat of violence towards women is a pervasive and unmanaged threat in Nepali society. Women face domestic violence, often unreported, or violence through organized trafficking of young girls sold for sex across Asia. If a woman does not feel safe within a society then she cannot be empowered within it.
Women’s empowerment is central to the empowerment and prosperity of a community. While the Nepali Government, the United Nations (UN) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have made some impact in relation to women’s needs, there are still significant problems that need to be overcome.
Health– According to the United Nations, Nepalese women remain at the lower end of the scale of the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Gender Inequality Index (GII) in South Asia. The general immunisation, health, and nutrition situation of women in Nepal remains very poor, particularly in rural areas. Statistics show that one out of every 24 Nepali women will die during pregnancy or child birth, making reproductive health care a major focus of intervention.
Major issues in women’s health:
- Shorter life expectancy.
- Elevated infant and child mortality rates and neglect of girls’ health.
- High maternal mortality rate.
- High male to female sex ratio. Women die earlier and more often. Families prefer male offspring.
- Lack of access to adequate health services, especially reproductive health care and contraceptive devices.
- Many stigmas and social pressures on women’s bodies, including virginity, menstruation, and giving birth.
Education– Overwhelming gender gaps in literacy, enrollment and attainment offer a clear picture of gender disparity in the educational sector. Social, economic, and cultural factors exacerbate the situation and illustrate the need for a holistic response. As few Nepali women enter skilled work and leadership in the private and public sectors, it remains difficult for women to find role models, champions and new opportunities.
Major issues in women’s education:
- Low absolute levels of female education (literacy rates and educational attainment)
- Poor enrollment rates due to lack of household resources; lack of sense of importance since girls will marry; girls’ workload at home; high school fees; lack of female teachers or adequate facilities
Economy– According to the United Nations, Nepal is the second poorest nation in Asia by per-capita GDP. While 40 percent of women are economically active, their role as manual labourers and mentors is discounted. Limited access to education and productive assets such as property and credit confines many to menial jobs in the agricultural sector. Working women are often self-employed, but cannot rise above subsistence farming without credit or training in modern farming practices.
Major issues in women and economy:
- Women as unpaid family workers in subsistence agriculture.
- Low level of technology and primitive farming practices.
- Long work hours; carrying the double burden of work in the family and farm; their contribution to income generation and economic wellbeing of the family is not recognized.
- Poor access to credit and marketing networks.
- Poor self-confidence.
- Social and cultural barriers such as exclusive responsibility for household work, restrictions on mobility etc.
Objectives: VIN’s Women Empowerment Program seeks to improve the quality of life of women living in the underprivileged, rural communities where we run our projects by providing them with economic tools, a basic education, improved health and a life without violence. To achieve this objective we run Education, Rights and Life Skills, Microcredit Cooperative Support, Income Generation & Marketing, and Women’s Trafficking Prevention projects under our women empowerment program. VIN believes that through the empowerment of women and children, the entire community can be transformed.
Since 2007 VIN has worked with the Jitpurphedi community, providing education and training to women aged 14 to 45, focusing where there is acute poverty, dependence on subsistence farming, poor health and sanitation and evidence of gender discrimination. VIN will also initiate these programs in our new focus community, Okhaldhunga.
VIN invites international volunteers to work with our staff and local volunteers to support the Women’s Empowerment Program. Help within the community to teach and promote women’s rights, initiate discussions on health issues, lead activities promoting life skills, or support the Women’s Trafficking Prevention project.