My family members and my husband used to say that I was an ugly, peasant woman. They told me that I cannot do anything.
Married at a young age, Dhriti’s* life has been marked by tragedy and struggle. Of the four children she gave birth to, three died in their infancies. Although this was not an uncommon event in Kanakasundari Rural Municipality, in Nepal’s remote western district of Jumla, Dhriti experienced stigma, shaming and abuse from family and community – seen as responsible for the loss of her children.
Finally, abandoned by her husband, Dhriti was left to cope alone with her grief, the stigma associated with losing her children, and the struggle of raising her young son alone.
INF Nepal formed a Self Help Group among Dhriti’s community to provide training and support for agriculture, animal-rearing and business development focused on the poorest and most marginalised people. These groups also create safe spaces for women to discuss their difficulties and work together to combat discrimination and abuse.
Dhriti’s experience in the group was transformative. She was asked to facilitate the newly-formed group and received leadership training and training on human rights, gender issues, as well as laws and processes around municipal plans and budgets.
She also received seed funding to establish a grocery store in her village from which she sells her own farm produce and vegetables.
Being involved in Self Help Groups, I felt courage and confidence.I realised that I can do something for myself and for my community and so I started to do it.
Dhriti and others in her community face many challenges due to the remoteness of the village, including lack of hospital services, safe pathways to reach agricultural plots and ensuring irrigation for the apple and walnut farms. The Self Help Group provides the platform for the community to discuss and plan for their own solutions.
Women cannot do it alone. Men and women can help by jointly discussing in Self Help Group meetings and making appropriate action plans. We go together to the ward office, local government and other organisations in order to find the resources and help we need to overcome our community’s difficulties.
And her days of personal struggle? They are not over. But after years of absence, Dhriti’s husband returned to her. Her son has completed his school education.
When my husband returned back home and we were reconciled, and my son passed the Secondary Education Exam, they were the happiest days of my life!
*Name changed to protect her privacy