A turbulent year for Nepal

Earthquakes, political disorder and scarcity of resources – it is indeed in times like these that it is important to stick to a program like WAWCAS – A program that strengthens locally and can take action, even if there is great deal of upheaval in the country.

by Nina Schriver, International Program Director, WAWCAS International

Between the previous newsletter and the present one you are reading right now, I have visited Nepal again. I was very anxious to return after all the earthquakes. Many places are very different and destroyed. The reconstruction is underway with the materials that can be obtained at the moment. The fear of more earthquakes and damage obviously takes up a lot mentally for the Nepalese people, and it hurts to see the collapsed houses and homes that were just lying there like a pile of stones.

Billede 1 :1a

But Nepal is in the middle of another crisis, which, according to the Nepalese, is even worse than the earthquakes. It is a political crisis, which amongst others started because the Madhesiern people of Nepal felt that they were treated unfairly in relation to a new proposal for the Constitution. They are rebelling and are supposedly supported by India. It is a profound and complex conflict, which, over the past three months, has meant that India’s boarders are blocked. This blockade then means that food, gasoline, gas and medicine cannot be transferred to Nepal from there.

Thus, because of the blockade, it is difficult to get proper food, and because there is a shortage of gas, the food cannot be cooked.
The hospitals cannot perform operations and other treatments, as there is not enough medicine. In the end it means that lives are lost, and it makes life very difficult too. The public transportation is reduced to nothing. And the buses that do run are completely overcrowded. Cars are a rare sight and WAWCAS team, easily spend a whole day just getting to e.g. the bank with money, since transportation is so poor.

I myself got around on a rented mountain bike, and I actually enjoyed that. In cheerful moments these times are called “The Indian fitness program”, as many people lose weight because they are now biking to get to their jobs.

For the WAWCAS women, especially those situated in Kathmandu, the whole situation also means that it is difficult to obtain goods to sell and the raw materials needed to produce the saleable products etc. Prices increase a lot and the supply is very tight, and it makes the women very frustrated to lose all the income. Therefore, our trainers help the women with finding places where they can purchase products.

Billede 2:2a

In Lamjung, the women’s businesses are less affected as most of them are operating within farming.

Training and start-up of new women in the program continues, but it requires continuous adjustments and new priorities. But everything has one goal: to stick to the plans and find new opportunities every time a plan is made more difficult by the present circumstances. It is indeed in times like these that it is important to stick to a program like WAWCAS – A program that strengthens locally and can take action, even if there is great deal of upheaval in the country. The women and their families continue to live their lives anyway, and WAWCAS can help them to live a better life – in spite of all that has happened. It inspires all of us in WAWCAS to stick to the program and to continue to include many more new women in it.

Lis Beck, co-founder/partner of Becksondergaard and co-developer of WAWCAS handicraft, joined me on this visit to Nepal. We wish to boost the quality and design of the products made by WAWCAS’ women e.g. the weaving of scarves, bags and blankets, so that they become more attractive for tourists to buy, and some of the products might be able to be exported. Lis’ involvement is yet another activity that should help WAWCAS to become more specialized – this time within handicraft.

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Along with Sangeeta and Sirish we visited a lot of places that are particularly good at making handicraft and places that sell handicraft to learn from their setup. We also met with WAWCAS women who are already making handicraft to discuss the idea that they could be getting new designs and new ways of selling their products. All the women – and all of us in WAWCAS – are very keen to get started with the cooperation with Lis, as it is always very inspiring for us to get specialist experience and knowledge into play in WAWCAS.

After our return to Denmark, we have developed concrete ideas for the new products we suggest our women should focuses on optimizing and developing first. In 2016 the first part of this further development of WAWCAS handicraft is set to begin.

Read more inside this newsletter, where Lis writes about the impressions she got from the visit and her thoughts on getting involved with WAWCAS as a businesswoman and designer.

In Denmark, WAWCAS has received help from the small design firm, Vulkan, to facilitate and analyze material from a workshop. The goal was to get input on how to develop a description of WAWCAS and the plans for further development for the coming 4 years that may be found interesting for decision makers in large companies, private foundations or individuals with the means to get involved financially and with knowledge. The participants were representatives from the target group, WAWCAS funding group and WAWCAS communications group.

Thanks to Vulkan, who led the participants through a great process. It provided a good basis for moving forward with this work of securing financing of WAWCAS’ future. Further, Vulkan’s contribution is a nice example of how a company can support WAWCAS in other ways than economically. Peter Laursen, co-owner of Vulkan writes more about this collaboration in the present newsletter.

WAWCAS has also got new sponsors. Søren Schriver is telling more about sponsors and funding later in this newsletter.

Mr. Mario Fontana from Switzerland, who has supported WAWCAS through the last eighteen months, visited Nepal back in November. It was three intense and very inspiring days for the Nepalese team, and Mario Fontana’s approach to the whole visit, where he took the time to go visit and talk to the women and the trainers, was very much appreciated. Sirish Shrestha writes about the visit later on in the newsletter.

With great help from Dorrit Holten Pind, Sangeeta and I have completed WAWCAS Game Catalogue. It contains 36 games, which all have a learning perspective and is used to support the women in their training in the program.

The description of the WAWCAS Certification Program has been finalized. It describes what the newly appointed trainers must be taught and be able to perform with increasing degree of autonomy before they can be certified Local Program Leaders, which is what WAWCAS trainers are called. This is important in relation to the professionalization of WAWCAS and the quality optimization of the training.

A big thanks to Dorrit for contributing with many wise ideas, sharp additions and improvements – Yet another way of helping to secure WAWCAS’ further development.

Right now, you are reading the 4th newsletter from 2015. It is only possible to get these newsletters released, in both Danish and English, because a lot of volunteers are helping with proofreading, translating, lay outing and publication. Thank you all for all your effort.

This newsletter gives a good idea of how many people actually contribute, and who contribute in different ways in Nepal and in Denmark, to making the WAWCAS program run, to maintain it and to develop it. After all, WAWCAS now counts a large team of employees in Nepal, volunteers in Denmark, and a very serious Board of Directors guiding WAWCAS forward and several sponsors – A big thanks to all of you who contribute your time, knowledge, money and commitment to WAWCAS.

A new year has just begun. I truly hope that 2016 will be a year where Nepal will find greater peace and stability.

In the coming year, approximately 600 new women will be joining the WAWCAS program and start their own business and meanwhile the further development of the specialization of WAWCAS will receive great priority.

On behalf of WAWCAS International’s Board and the team in Nepal, I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2016.

Billede 6:6a WAWCAS team i Lamjung