Her Farm, Growing Hope in the Himalayas for Homeless Women
Domestic abuse in Nepal is rampant. In a survey conducted by one organization, as many as 70% of the survey participants face domestic abuse on a daily basis. These women have nowhere to go. However, they are skilled farmers, they can support themselves and feed their children if they have a little land. Our farm cooperative will provide them with shelter and place to grow food. That's the essential needs, without which they will stay trapped in abuse.
What is The Issue?
Domestic abuse in Nepal is rampant. In a survey conducted by one organization, as many as 70% of the survey participants face domestic abuse on a daily basis. The leading cause of death among women of childbearing age is suicide. 17% of all deaths in this age group are from suicide and that is a growing number, up significantly from just a few years ago (source DFID) Widows are tossed out of their homes and branded as witches. Widows are denied employment and there are no government support programs that offer any sort of aid to them. Families shun victims of the sex trade, a rapidly growing issue in Nepal. It’s estimated that nearly 10,000 Nepalese girls each year are sold to the sex trade in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. (US Department of State) Female workers who left Nepal for employment in the Gulf region are not welcomed back by society and unable to work in Nepal. More than 1,000 people each day leave Nepal for the promise of employment in the Gulf region. Frequently underpaid and sexually abuse by their employers, their families refuse to let them come home and so they are alone, and with no means of support. Often they turn to the sex industry in Nepal for work in order to survive. They work massage parlors and “cabin bars” as they have no other options. These women have nowhere to go. However, they are skilled farmers, they can support themselves and feed their children if they have a little land. Our farm cooperative will provide them with shelter and place to grow food. That's the essential needs, without which they will stay trapped in abuse.
We've purchased two plots of land in the village of Mankhu in the Dhading district and have two families, total of six children living and farming on the land now. As soon as we can raise the funds we have an urgent need to construct more housing to provide a place to live for the women and children who are waiting for this opportunity.
What is Our Solution?
Using land that Mountain Fund owns we will construct housing for up to 30 women and children. We have two plots of land in the village of Mankhu and an option to purchase one additional plot that also has an existing house on it. It's very attractive to purchase that plot and pratical as well since we need additional housing for women right now. The total cost of the additional land is $5,000US. We need to build one more house for women as well some farm outbuildings like a cow shed, in order to be fully functional and able to create a self-sustaining farm.
We will introduce micro-credit at the farm so that women who wish to raise chickens, goats, or cows have access to the capital to buy them with repayment deferred until the livestock or products from the livestock (eggs, milk) can be sold.
Volunteers are needed in the community to teach in the local school as well as work on the farm alongside the women. We'll be adding housing for those volunteers which will also provide some jobs for women and a source of income to the farm that can be used to provide assistance with health care bills, as a hedge against potential crop failure and a way for the farm to purchase additional food stocks, if required.
What is The Long-term Impact?
The current scope is large enough for 30 women and their children. That's what the land we have can support. After the first year of operation the farm will sustain itself. The women will be able to grow a wide variety of crops to form a complete food package necessary to feed themselves and their children.
We plan to introduce the use of micro-credit to enable women who wish to raise chickens, goats or cows a way to purchase the livestock and repay the loans as they go to market.
There's no reason not to take this to scale and establish hundreds of women's cooperative farms where women and their children can work, grow their own food and live independently. There's enough welfare in Nepal, we aren't into welfare. This is a hand up, not a hand out. It's not marginal handicraft work that really isn't dependable either. The women of Nepal are resourceful farmers.
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For girls in particular, the cost of a school uniform and stationary supplies is a barrier to attending school. At Her Farm we have children who do not have the money to obtain these simple things. While they may attend school without a uniform, culturally it's frowned upon to do so and children of poverty are stigmatized for coming to school without a proper uniform and supplies.
Visitors are always welcome at Her Farm. The Mountain Fund hosts over 100 volunteers in Nepal each year and has all the support staff and facilities to host visitors at Her Farm as well. We have volunteer housing at the farm and can pick you up at the Kathmandu airport. The you will spend the night at our volunteer house in Kathmandu before transfering to the farm. English speaking staff will be with all the time and while the housing is simple at the farm, it is comfortable. Our staff will provide all the support you need to live and work along side others at Her Farm. In addition to working the farm itself, local children want help with homework and youth in the village are keen for English lessons.
What To Bring
Materials to help teach English are useful. School supplies, which you can obtain cheaply in Kathmandu are much appreciated. Good cheer and a willingness to embrace a new culture is the best thing to pack.
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