Changing a Village
In 2005 ADWAN started the Milijuli Women's Group in a small village in Baglung District. The women who joined were awkward and shy to the point of hesitating to tell ADWAN staff members their names. They lacked self-confidence and were unaccustomed to speaking with others beyond their families because their husbands did all the talking. They were unaware of their rights or the value education. In fact, Dalit girls were not sent to school and instead kept home to help with chores. This was in 2005.
When ADWAN’s staff visited the group of 42 members this year, the women confidently greeted them and enthusiastically shared the many ways that ADWAN has helped them to better not only themselves but also their communities. Significantly, once they learned the importance of educating girls they began sending all their children to school! Even more, as a result of ADWAN workshops on issues from Dalit and women’s rights, to health and hygiene, to advocacy skills, the women have taken leadership roles in improving their village’s infrastructure.
During monthly meetings group members brainstorm ideas for solutions to village problems, which often means seeking out donors or government agencies to support projects. With the women’s extensive knowledge of their rights and mandated government services for rural communities, particularly Dalits and women, they feel empowered to hold their local representatives accountable. Furthermore, many group members themselves serve on the school board, as leaders in the new Citizen Awareness Center, and on the Village Development Committee (VDC), the main governing body at the local level.
Examples of improvements that have the Milijuli Group’s imprint include building solar-powered streetlights to make the village safer and installing a toilet in every home, along with community training about the importance of cleanliness and good hygiene. But what the women point to as their greatest achievement is that every house now has its own water tap, which saves them from traveling to the communal well to bathe, wash clothes, and collect household water.
Empowering vulnerable women to become self-sufficient and to believe in their own ability in order to gain self-respect and dignity happens one individual at a time. Working in solidarity the women of the Milijuli Women’s Group transformed themselves, the lives of their children, and their village.