published in Women / Girls on April 24, 2018

Giving women a voice

As a child, Bimala was the only female student at her primary school in Nepal. When she attended lower secondary school, she was one of only six girls out of the 70 students in her class.

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After being forced to leave school and marry at a young age, Bimala has gone back to study, and has now passed Grade 10!

Then, at the end of year 8, Bimala was forced into marriage. Bimala was no longer allowed to attend school and was confined to household duties.

After she moved with her husband and four young children to India, he left her – with no income, no family and no citizenship.

Tragically, Bimala’s story is not uncommon.

All over the world, girls and women face more barriers to a better life than boys and men, including limited access to money, education, and social and economic opportunities.

If we are to be successful in supporting people to develop their way out of poverty, it’s vital we find ways to tear down the unfair barriers that girls and women face.

That’s why Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS) strives to integrate gender perspectives into all aspects of their work, and undertake a transformation of attitudes and practices.

At a very basic level it means being careful to design specific ways to empower women.

Women’s Groups are a proven way to do this.

These groups promote the meaningful social, political and economic participation of women. They promote women’s leadership, increase financial literacy among women, and work to increase spending on household and family priorities.

Without these groups, women are often excluded from financial services and decision-making.

Bimala is a great example of what can happen when women are given tailored empowerment opportunities.

After attending a women’s empowerment course, Bimala was supported by local partner Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Nepal to lead a Human Rights Group that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. Bimala says:

“At one meeting for money allocation I was wanting some services for women but the person writing on the chart was ignoring me, so I grabbed the marker and wrote the numbers myself!

“I have gone back to study … I am happy and proud that I never gave up! 

“I want to raise the voice of the needy people so that the government is aware of their needs and they can do the right thing to meet them.

“I am thankful for LWF for unifying women in my community and giving them their voice.”

ALWS is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).