Pictured Above: A self-help group meets
Deep Thought – A bi-monthly feature in ReCharge
The Change Makers
Melissa Lipsett, CEO Baptist World Aid, explains the impact of women empowered to change their world.
It’s illegal, but 40 per cent of girls in Nepal are married before they turn 18, and seven per cent before they turn 15. The Nepalese government is hoping to eradicate child marriage by 2030, but is this even possible? Will this ever change?
I believe it will. Here’s why
I recently returned from Kapilvastu in West Nepal. It’s a region that has major development challenges and a general lack of adequate services. For example, there are no toilet facilities or running water in people’s homes. There are few opportunities for people to generate income and, sadly, high levels of gender-based violence and child marriage.
The challenges are overwhelming, but here’s the thing: communities ARE overcoming them. Baptist World Aid works with local Christian Partners who share our belief in the dignity, value and equality of all people (Gen 1:26-27).
Our Partners bring the locals together in community groups, and it’s the locals who lead the transformation of their communities. Ninety per cent of these community leaders are women. They’re known as self-help groups, and they’re courageously changing their world.
What self-help groups do
Working as a committee, with elected positions such a chairperson and treasurer, members collaborate to make the changes they want to see in their community. These women showed me how they had depolluted their pond and water source.
Some of them have started small businesses. And I heard stories of how they confronted perpetrators of domestic violence as a commanding group of 17! I saw leadership, determination and courage from the same people who were, until recently, considered less than their husbands, brothers and sons.
Emerging from poverty
Every one of these women, these “change makers”, has a story. Many were married as children and didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. Quite a few are now mothers, surrounded by little people with constant needs that are hard to meet. In the past they might have given a daughter in marriage to ensure she—and her remaining siblings—would survive.
But the gains they’ve made in emerging from poverty means they now say, ‘No more! We will not allow our daughters to suffer as we did’. And they mean it.
As I travelled through the area, it was evident that wherever poverty was effectively diminished, girls were in school.
One extraordinary facet of these self-help groups is that are made up of traditionally antagonistic social groupings, but there is no infighting. They are too busy changing the world.
I wonder if what would happen if we were too?
Melissa Lipsett is the CEO of Baptist World Aid
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