Hamri Bahini The Green Angels Social Enterprise Empowering Women Through Action Based Advocacy
- 2,790 Registered Didi-Bahinis
- 645 Employed Didi-Bahinis
- 100 Trained Didi-Bahinis
Hamri Bahini: The Green Angels Social Enterprise is a Women Empowerment Movement powered by Social Enterprise. This program has been active for over three years now and is making use of the energy and skills of Nepali youth by reaching out to unemployed young women across the country and their potential employers through a user-friendly, training based employment creation and placements. Their primary motif has been directed towards taking issues in the society that mainly focus on women and providing women with the necessary skills needed along the way of making sustainable economic benefits. And in doing so they have managed to define themselves as pioneers in the field. To understand their endeavors and their efforts towards securing the lives of women, we talked with Ms. Bivishika Bhandari , the project leader at Hamri Bahini.
PHOTO: HIMALAYAN CLIMATE INITIATIVE
TNM: TELL US HOW HAMRI BAHINI STARTED OUT AND HOW IT HAS EVOLVED THROUGH THE YEARS.
BB: When Hamri Bahini first started it didn’t start out as an enterprise that focused mainly on advocacy and action like it does today . Back then we were rescuing victims of trafficking and abuse. We did our best to provide the necessary trainings and workshops but it was important to keep an eye on the bigger picture. That brought into light the question of whether or not what we were doing was enough for these women.
And with that question in mind, we started planning on doing things that would help these women in generating income for themselves. Looking at these things, we thought that women’s empowerment event would be a way to start. Secondly, Hamri Bahini is a project created by an NGO called Himalayan Climate Initiative. It was important to find a sustainable lifestyle and create jobs that catered to the individual, social, and environmental aspect; green jobs that focused on sustainable development.
We looked at the problems in the environment that we could work on by creating jobs and one of our first campaigns was called “No Thanks, I Carry my own Bag”. Considering the improper disposal of non- degradable products and its effects on the environment, we instigated the campaign where we trained and employed women to produce bags made of jute. And this aided in the government’s decision to ban plastic bags.
There were several leading celebrities promoting the cause, in the forefront was Bhat Bhateni ,and it was very successful. The bags were of significance not just in terms of environmental sustenance but its representation of how women considered to be less able were displaying their ability to make a living.
With Hamro Bahini, it is our intent to help deprived women take charge of their own lives.
PHOTO: LILLO MENDOLA
TNM: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROJECTS OR CAMPAIGNS YOU ARE DOING FOR THE WOMEN AT HAMRI BAHINI?
BB: Some women were from already existing NGO’s where they were looking for jobs as well. These women started the enterprise as their own and now they have moved out but we help them with their marketing and promotions. Now, Hamri Bahini is a movement in which we have a vision that all women should get their rightful place in society and the community and for them to be able to do that they need economic stability in their lives and preferably through their own means. So, we either help them by creating or mediating job opportunities for them.
Everything that we do is self-sustaining. In the job mediating service we have job placement programs for women. The women register for this service with us and we place them in jobs that are compatible with their individual skills.
In this three years we have created jobs for more than 2800 women. Everything in our enterprise is done by our acticists. Acticacy is a new term that we coined that means action-based advocacy. Here at Hamri Bahini we believe that the end result of all our advocacy must have a positive result by making things happen. “I believe, I act. I inspire” is the motto of Hamri Bahini for that cause.
There is still so must discrimination and injustice in our society where we need to raise our voice. It could be as simple as buying a product that has been made locally by these women or by changing our everyday mentality about the roles of both men and women.
PHOTO: HIMALAYAN CLIMATE INITIATIVE
TNM: HOW HAVE YOU TACKLED OBSTACLES?
There were challenges that came about in the onset of our enterprise, and we persevered throughout the difficulties. Our operations are now governed with the help of three pillars that consist of the social, economic, and environmental aspects. Properly incorporating these aspects into women empowerment posed its own challenges.
Then there was the question of running this enterprise sustainably. Women’s empowerment is an ever-evolving concept and addressing new problems with the changing dynamics of the society has always been a positive challenge for us. But to do so, we have to stay updated with the things happening around us on this field. And our biggest challenge was that we had a lot of women registered with us for job creation. To create jobs for all those women is improbable as well so to tackle that we came up with the idea of job placement where we gave jobs that were already created in the market.
Also, over the years, we are facing issues with some personal matters of the women as well. Because we create a safe environment here at Hamri Bahini for the women registered we also have cases of domestic abuse that are being voiced by women in their families. At first it was difficult for us to take the leap and also help them with this issues but now we also provide counselling and therapy for those women on how to tackle this problem at home. And if the case is getting out of hand and we cannot do it by ourselves we also have professional lawyers who will take it further.
PHOTO: LILLO MENDOLA
TNM: WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR SUSTAINABILITY FOR THE ENTERPRISE AND ARE THERE ANY OTHER PROJECTS YOU ARE WORKING ON FOR THE FUTURE?
BB: For the future our sustainability plan is to turn our projects into long- term income generating jobs in various sectors. To bring that plan into fruition we will be conducting training sessions as and when needed. For example we train women on ‘green’ housekeeping methods by providing knowledge of environment friendly work habits like waste management, rainwater usage and reusing products.
We also have workshops on professional etiquettes to give them a sense of respect in the work they do. Likewise, there is a project called Kagati Project, where we go to villages where there is frequent occurrences of child marriage and polygamy. There we plan on training women on creating safe gardening and pesticide free farming and we will also create a market place for them to sell their produce. By doing that we hope to decrease the tradition of child marriage and polygamy and eventually put a stop to that by making more women economically sound so that they can have a rightful place in the society which they deserve.
We also plan on doing fund raising events over the years. We have an annual event called the Vagina Monologues which we did just a few weeks back where women from various sectors come together in a safe place to raise their concerns and talk about freedom and justice.
TNM: TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOUR PROCESS OF HOW YOU WORK?
BB: We have three categories in which we work and we call it the ACE Model. The ACE Model comprises of Acticacy, Capacity building and Enterprise. Acticacy is the first step, which is to raise our voices in our beliefs by advocating. We go out to the streets in peaceful protests and in capacity building we turn the protests into positive changes through job creation and job placement. We mainly work through referrals from both sides: the employee and the employers. We work to provide benefits for both the parties and also follow up on the work they are doing. After that, for the income generation for the women who are capable or are learning new skills, we set up an enterprise to showcase their talents and skills and help with the promotion, marketing and the sales aspect.