A NEW FOCUS FOR FONAI
Working in partnership with The Child Development Society in Nepal.
In 2017 FONAI members participating in an Education Scholarship Program monitoring trip were invited by a friend and the treasurer of Child Development Society, Surendra Dhakal, to visit their organisation. Little did we realise how this trip would not only impact us all personally, but lead FONAI into a new area of service and program support.
Surendra shared with us the rationale which has been applied by the Child Development Society (CDS), a pioneer NGO for children’s rights, in the selection, implementation, management, monitoring and evaluation of it’s programs. He discussed four key initiatives of the many offered by CDS, developed to improve marginalised and vulnerable communities in Nepal and promote an awareness and adherence to the United Nations charter document Universal Rights of the Child.
During this trip we visited these 4 key programs.
- Formal School Sponsorship Project (FFSP) (Started 1998)
- Day Care and Day Meal program (Started 1990) (DCDM)
- Health Education Program – (Started 1991)
- Self Education and Employment Program (SEEP) (Started 2008)
Let’s talk about the SEEP program!
Surendra clearly articulated the rationale that has lead CDS to conclude that the SEEP program was the most successful of it’s programs in achieving goals of improving lives of marginalised and vulnerable families and communities and promoting the rights of children to an education. His reasons were simple!
‘To improve the life of a child, first improve the life of the mother!’
He explained that school attendance in marginalised communities remained sporadic despite FFSP sponsorship support. This was because older children were forced to stay home to look after younger siblings while parents worked.
The Day Care Day Meal program helped because parents now had somewhere safe to leave their younger children while they worked, and children were fed, and older siblings could attend school.
However, these changes were short lived, as the communities where families lived are very poor and the only source of income is seasonal, agricultural or in brick kiln factories. The itinerant nature of the work forced families to leave their homes and migrate to the factory district, removing their children both from school and the day care programs for up to 6 months. Children became labours alongside their parents and were exposed to many health risks die to workplace accidents, dust and pollution.
Determined to break this cycle, and focus on their mission, to protect the rights of the child, CDS developed the SEEP program.
The program is successful for many reasons.
- Community involvement and engagement from the start! Training staff are recruited from the local community. Formal local government partnerships and community involvement programs set up at the start of the program ensure it is supported for the duration and beyond.
- Empowerment of vulnerable and illiterate women, giving them not only weekly literacy and numeracy skills, but basic business training as well. These women had not received an education because they were girls! How remarkable it was to witness their development on our return visit in 2018! Not one woman had missed a weekly class! How they valued this opportunity and could see how important education was for their children and their daughters, was clear to see.
- A combination of self saving and CDS seed money, business and financial training gives the women skills and knowledge to choose, operate and sustain businesses that guarantee incomes so they can afford to stay in the area and send their children to school.
- Heath education – As part of the program CDS conducts education programs about hygiene, nutrition, women’s health, sanitation and child rights all of which empower women in a this primary patriarchal society. On our 2017 visit we carried Days for Gilrs Nepal menstruation kits and one of our members, Ainsley, who was trained in their use, demonstrated them to the women. Another hilarious and heart warming experience!
- Sustainability- The groups are registered with the government which means they are entitled to ongoing funding. CDS assist with linking groups to related government services.
To find out more about the SEEP program, please follow the link below.
Self Employment through Education Program
Child Development Society
Documentary in English 2015
FONAI MEMBER RESPONSE
A visit to the SEEP groups, one of which had been established for 10 years and still met weekly, a visit to the impoverished Kavre region, where poverty, child labour, enslavement and trafficking were prevalent, and CDS was seeking funding to establish groups, convinced us of the need for FONAI to expand it’s work and support CDS SEEP program.
SEEP GROUP VISIT
In the group we visited, which was still operational after 10 years, the members spoke proudly of their literacy, their businesses, the friendships they had made, the skills and knowledge they had developed, and the difference the program had made to their lives and those of their families. They told us how proud they were to be able provide an income for their families and an education for their children, some of whom were at university! We visited some of their businesses, a ‘corner store’, a craft shop and a tailoring shop amongst them, all operating for 10 years. The groups were still contributing stipends to loan to members to grow their businesses. The informal links to CDS were very strong.
KAVRE DISTRICT VISIT
The trip to Kavre exposed members to the extreme poverty, vulnerability and marginalisation in the region. This impact is felt not only in infrastructure, the terrible ‘roads’ and the impoverished schools, but in the life choices, as families have to migrate to industries where exploitation is rife, for seasonal work to survive. High iIlliteracy rates and limited itinerant employment opportunities, especially for women, perpetuate the cycle. CDS was desperate to implement the SEEP program ASAP to address these issues.
MEMBERS REPORT TO GROUP AND STAKEHOLDERS
On our return to Australia, FONAI members discussed the SEEP program with it’s members and the wider community. A decision was made to pursue funding support for the establishment of SEEP programs in the Kavre district by CDS.
Surendra had provided us with a budget of approximately $5,000 US to set up a SEEP group, provide the training over a 12 month period, and informally monitor it for a minimum of 6 months after training was completed. We realised that to support this program we would need private donors.
FONAI PROGRAM EXPANSION
In October 2017 we entered into a 3 year partnership with CDS to facilitate funding disbursement on behalf of a private donor, for the establishment of 3 new SEEP groups in Kavre district, Nepal.
PRIORITISING WOMEN AND GIRLS
In January 2018 at our annual strategic planning meeting, FONAI members voted to priortise the education of women in all of it’s programs. We decided that any new 2018/19 scholarships would be offered to young women first, as our experience with CDS and SEEP has convinced us that educating women is a powerful way of addressing economic and social inequality in Nepal.
We decided to actively pursue more funding to establish new SEEP groups in 2018/19 through grants and/or philanthropic or service clubs donations, in addition to allocating funds from FONAI’s activities where possible. This process is ongoing and a FONAI sub committee has been formed to priortise sourcing funding options more SEEP groups and the Day Care Day Meals program.
We applied for a philanthropic grant in early 2018, but unfortunately were unsuccessful. We are currently actively pursuing other grant opportunities in collaboration with CDS and our stakeholders.
Wish us luck!