Advancing gender equality through information, education, access to services and access to justice for women and girls in Dhading, Nepal.
Aura Freedom’s Female Friendly Space (FFS) project in response to last year’s earthquake in Nepal saw tremendous success. While the state of emergency in Nepal has ended, having now entered the transitional recovery phase, things are hardly back to “normal” and there continues to be exacerbation of existing patriarchal issues.
These deeply rooted ideals that view women and girls as lesser beings have resulted in ongoing violence and oppression, making them exceptionally vulnerable to such crimes as child marriage, rape, and human trafficking. This also significantly increases rates of unwanted and early pregnancies, STIs, and reproductive health complications. Despite the time that has passed, we are still dealing with families who have lost everything to the earthquake and continue to experience shortages of food and water, in addition to lacking adequate shelter, all of which increases the vulnerability of girls and women to trafficking.
After having previously witnessed such life-altering change on a daily basis, we knew our work had to continue. As a result, we have launched a powerful Outreach program targeting gender-based violence (GBV), gender disparity, and lack of access to services for women and girls, expanding our reach into new communities where GBV is rampant, and access to services and education are much needed.
Entitled Outreach, Knowledge, Change, the program provides education, access to services, and life skills in a safe space where vulnerable women and girls can go to report incidences of violence, seek services, attend educational workshops, obtain identification documents through vital registration, learn skills, and feel supported. It also serves as a roving referral agency that refers females of all ages to health, legal, and other services available to them through our collaboration with local NGOs, Police, and other government agencies. Our core project staff have all received specific training on gender, equity and equality, gender-based violence, the survivor-centered approach, and group counselling, and are all well-known within the communities.
Aura Freedom is a firm believer in the power of knowledge and education. As such, this project aims to address the issues of GBV, gender disparity, and social discrimination through a variety of daily awareness sessions and related activities. These include:
- Human and legal rights awareness
- GBV, rape, and violence against women awareness
- Harmful cultural practices, social discrimination, and gender equality awareness
- Health, hygiene, and family planning awareness (including reproductive and menstrual health)
- Adolescent mentorship program using socially and physically interactive activities
- Confidence building
- Training of GBV Watch Groups, which act as advocates for keeping their communities safe
The program’s daily activities are limited to girls and women only, as we aim to foster an environment of sisterhood. However, Aura Freedom recognizes the importance of including boys and men in the conversation on gender equality. Therefore, community-wide awareness sessions will be held once a month to also expose males to this crucial information, increasing their awareness of women’s rights and the gender disparity in their own communities. Despite the existing patriarchy, our FFS data showed a significant increase in knowledge of gender-based violence and human rights, awareness of gender disparity, and a positive shift in attitudes towards gender equality in both males and females. These results clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of including males among project participants to create positive social change.
In providing ongoing education and information dissemination in a safe space, girls and women will experience an increased awareness of their rights and the services available to them. With this knowledge, they become empowered, more likely to report incidences of violence and reclaim ownership of their lives. Furthermore, when entire communities learn of not only the prevalence of gender disparity, but its associated repercussions for both females and the communities at large, the cycle of violence and gender inequality can be broken. Education is absolutely critical for achieving this.
Aura Freedom is thrilled to have the ongoing support of Canada’s Global Affairs in our fight against gender-based violence and gender inequality in support of the world’s most vulnerable girls and women.