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A Glimpse into an ADWAN Field Visit

This past October ADWAN staff members joined by a Karuna Trust UK representative visited the Chitwan District to observe the progress and the present livelihoods of the Dalit and marginalized women in the Chitwan District project. The Karuna Trust and Friends of ADWAN (FAN) provide these women the money needed for their businesses and training programs. As described in previous newsletters, the four year objective has been laser focused on a training curriculum to build market-oriented livelihood skills and gender equality awareness. Participants are Dalit and women of other caste groups. All these women are economically disadvantaged. This strategy of inviting women from all caste backgrounds to work together in one space has been highly effective in addressing the issue of caste-based discrimination even among the marginalized caste women. Many of the participants came to the program having worked as landless daily wage laborers either working on other people’s farms or on small-scale construction sites. Each of the six groups collaborated in their selection of skill training based on the participants' accessibility to land, prior experiences, local market potential, and availability of materials as well as trainers.

Projects included ginger and turmeric farming, tailoring, pineapple farming, mushroom farming, bangle design, and off-season kitchen gardening. They started group credit unions with money generated from the sale of products. Members are already borrowing funds from the credit union on a rotation basis among their members at the rate of 6-12% interest without collateral. This initiative has protected the members from the local moneylender’s highly exploitative interest rate of 36%. The loans are for the women to pay child education fees, medical care, and growing their small businesses.

Unfortunately, the bangle designing and hand embroidery groups met with hardship due to competition from machine-based production coming from China and India. Members of these groups are now considering other options of livelihood.

COVID-19 has a dampening effect on production, however, slowly women are restarting their businesses. In spite of the challenges the confidence and courage is palpable in the women participating in this project. Some women have expressed an interest in a higher level of training to deepen their skills. From this training they will use their skills to operate sophisticated machinery and materials to compete in their market. The women need your donations so their livelihood will continue to grow!

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