With the budget available for widowed women, Dalit women and marginalised women I have supported many women to rear goats, chickens or just given financial support. As soon as I won the elections I told the ward chairperson, if there is any budget for us, I will be happy but if there is no budget for us, I will protest. By doing this, I learnt that we need to speak up about things we want. Currently, I have put aside budgets for five Dalit women’s organisations.Kaushila, a participant in the Womankind Worldwide PAVE project
From encouraging women to enter politics to supporting them to earn a living for their families, the Jo Cox Memorial Grant awarded to Womankind Worldwide has had a far-reaching impact. The grant of £995K was awarded between 2019 and 2022 to increase participation and voice for marginalised women in Nepal, including widows, women with disabilities and two particularly marginalised indigenous groups, Dalit and Janajati women.
During the project, 2,000 marginalised women were supported to take up leadership roles within their communities, to access economic opportunities to support their financial independence, and to run for political office or implement advocacy campaigns.
Among those women was Kaushila, who took part in the project in 2021. She received training to support her political ambitions and to seek opportunities to develop a business with the Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO).
I learnt from FEDO that women need to be active politically to advance in society. FEDO came to villages and taught us many things. We need to move ahead socially, we need to organise, be part of the board of schools – these are things I learnt from them and that’s how I began my political journey. Five years ago, when I won the elections, I was very happy because I had struggled a lot. I had been taught that it’s not enough to just be political, I also need to win the elections.Kaushila
Kaushila says the training she was given gave her the ambition to continue with her work and help others as well as herself. After the training and support Kaushila received from Womankind Worldwide, she was able to open a sewing shop. She says it “has really given me an easy option for my livelihood.”
Thanks to the Jo Cox Memorial Grant funding, the PAVE project has strengthened 62 women’s rights groups in five districts of Nepal. It has supported groups to register with local government, access financial opportunities and take up leadership roles within their communities. This support has led to some women joining political parties, running for political office and joining advocacy campaigns to shift gender norms within their communities. Following on from the project, 82% (1,898 women) reported an increase in support from their community to participate in and influence decision-making in community and district government structures.
The project focused on enhancing representation of marginalised women by improving the responsiveness of female-elected councillors to women’s needs and issues. The project simultaneously gave training to increase elected women’s capacity to act, and supported them to increase their influence, such as in analysing health systems so they could propose change and build their confidence to raise concerns at an Executive level.
By the end of the project, 82% of women surveyed across the communities felt they had sufficient engagement with their female-elected leaders to voice their concerns and views. 99% of female elected councillors were able to name specific changes and improvements they had contributed to that addressed their constituents’ needs.
Since the project was implemented, there has been strong coordination with local stakeholders to bring them into critical spaces, including continuing with women’s groups as collective agents for change within their local communities, as well as working with journalist advocates who continue to support awareness-raising around the rights of women and the importance of women’s representation in governance.