The slopes of Doti district in the far west Nepal are green. The wheat saplings are slowly getting higher along with the chill weather to see a happening dusty road. There are only a few vehicular movements in the village.
The village is dominated by a ‘loud music’ being played through ‘loud speakers’ indicating ‘wedding season’.
Social mobiliser Basanta looks very happy. He is a new groom, got married recently. Whoever he meets on the way, they congratulate him.
“There is a saying that if you are social mobiliser, then not just the people a dog must know you,” he laughs.
After walking almost half an hour, we reached to a small house, with a single room where around thirty women are learning about the duties and responsibilities of ward offices.
Basanta enters inside the room and joins the facilitation along with Satya Kumari Joshi, a facilitator of the GG School.
They discuss about the responsibilities of ward offices, and why vital registration is important.
Today is the sixth class of first session. The facilitator asks a question, “How many members are there in the ward committee?” Everyone says collectively, Five – three men and two women adds a lady sitting on the right corner.
Satya Kumari Joshi, a facilitator of the GG School shared that it was difficult to convince women to come in the GG School, but after attending one session, they were excited to join the classes. “They even are asking that this should continue regularly.”
“I was hesitant even to say my name until I joined this Good Governance School,” says Tara Devi of KI Singh Rural Municipality. “But now I can stand and tell about what I have learned in the session.”
Indra Paligi of KI Singh Rural Municipality added that last month she went to the ward office and asked them about the procedures to get her children’s nutrition allowances.
“I didn’t even know about the allowances until I joined this school,” she says.
“Now, I get Rs. 800 – 400 each for my two children every month. And I am able to buy them nutritious food and milk.”
Things have changed in this poverty stricken communities after they started coming to the European Union funded GG School programme implemented by DCA with local partners Equality Development Center (EDC) in Doti, Malika Development Organisation (MDO) in Achham and the technical partner, Inlogos.
“If citizens understand and are aware of the governance system, it provides them the agency to hold the government accountable and ensure their rights are given with due diligence,” says Malati Maskey, Programme Manager – Active Citizenship at DCA. “With the change in the government system, from a central to the federal, it is important to empower local communities. This is only possible from the formal and informal education system.”
GG School is the informal education system for adult literacy programme, Maskey added.
Local communities are provided informal and formal classes for half and hour, two days a week ,where they are informed about the various aspects of the governance system. In the class, people are informed about the constitution, their rights and functions.
“My son now studies Junior Technical Assistant (JTA) at Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) – a technical school. I didn’t know anything about this course, but when I heard about the course from my facilitators (GG School Facilitator), my son applied and got it,” Harina Devi Khadayat said with a non stop smile and laugh. “This has helped me very much.”
The participants shared that they are now able to go to the ward offices seeking information about the budget planning and ask the ward committee to ensure their presence so that their demands are heard. They have formed a women’s group in every GG School.
Ward Chairmen are also very much receptive and welcoming the activities.
“This is something that we need to do, but in the lack of budget and other priorities we haven’t been able to reach to the communities,” says ward chairman Harka Bahadur Bista, Ward 7 KI Singh Rural Municipality, Doti district, praising the ‘initiative taken by the PARIWARTAN project’.
He added that the project is helping them to achieve the success.
Ram Bahadur Saud, Ward 3 Chairman of Chaurpati Rural Municipality in Achham district, says, “We could only see men coming for vital registration or any other work, but women are also coming to ward office seeking services. This is a huge change.”
He added that earlier women were only kept in the committees or invited in programmes just for the sake of their presence, however, they are now claiming their rights and raising their voices.
“This actually is making a difference and we as a people’s representatives are finding easier to deal with their demands,” says Saud. “Through this school they have also learned about the process of ward development planning and the relevant person to talk.”