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Against All Odds: 16 Inspiring Heroes from Nepal

Renu Chhetri's picture
As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is marked worldwide, we present to you stories of 16 inspiring heroes from Nepal. They are crusaders and pioneers, leaders and visionaries who share one common trait – a remarkable journey in their path towards equality and empowerment. They belong to diverse backgrounds, cultures, castes and groups. Yet all of them have stood against odds and managed to make a difference in many lives.

Each of the personalities is carefully chosen as a representative character with experiences that motivate and resonate with us. These Nepali heroes deserve to be read about, known and lauded for their efforts.
 



16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls.

The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

The World Bank Group believes that no country, community, or economy can achieve its potential or meet the challenges of the 21st century without equal participation of women and men, girls and boys.

So
here we bring to you stories of 16 heroes that have contributed more than their share in empowering themselves, their communities and nation.

Game-changing technology empowers India’s women farmers

Paramveer Singh's picture
 World Bank
Since it started a decade ago, JEEVIKA, a World Bank program that supports Bihar’s rural communities, has mobilized more than nine million women into self-help and producers groups. Joining forces has helped lower costs and boost agricultural production. Credit: World Bank

It’s a dusty September morning, and Kiran Devi is finishing her chores at lightning speed.

 “Wouldn’t it be nice to keep 5,000 women waiting, especially when it’s a celebration,” she says with a touch of gushing pride and makes her way to the annual general meeting of the women-owned Aaranyak Agri producer company.

Located in Purnea district in Bihar—one of India’s poorest states—the company is made up of small local women small farmers and producers and lies in the most fertile corn regions in eastern India.

But until recently, small farmers did not fully reap the benefits of this productive land.

Local traders and intermediaries dominated the unregulated market. Archaic and unfair trading practices like manual weighing, unscientific quality testing, and irregular payments made it difficult for small farmers to get the best value for their produce.

 “The trader would come, put some grains under his teeth and pronounce the quality and pricing. For every quintal of maize [corn], 5-10 kilos additional grains were taken, sometimes through faulty scales and sometimes simply by brazenly asking for it,” says Lal Devi, one member of the company. “We had the choice between getting less or getting nothing.”
 

Kanchan Rani Devi bringing her corn to Sameli
Kanchan Rani Devi bringing her corn to Sameli. Credit: World Bank

Such practices stirred local women farmers into action, and they formed the Aaranyak Agri Producer Company Limited (AAPC) to access markets directly and improve their bargaining power.  

The company established a farmer-centric model and received funding and technical assistance through JEEViKA (livelihoods in Hindi), a World Bank program that supports the Government of Bihar and has achieved life-changing results for Bihar’s rural communities.

Since it started a decade ago, JEEVIKA has mobilized more than nine million women into self-help and producers groups. Joining forces helped lower costs and boost production. Together, the groups saved $120 million and leveraged more than $800 million in bank loans.

Further, digital technologies have been introduced as an innovative way to improve the production, marketing, and sale of small-farmers’ produce.

For example, women farmers receive regular periodic updates on their mobile phones to learn best practices to grow corn as well as weather information to inform farming decisions.

During harvest season, farmers receive daily pricing information from major nearby markets to help them stay abreast of the latest variations in prices.

Brazil’s small farmers offer lessons to India

Priti Kumar's picture
Angela, on the far left and dressed in red, is a small-holder farmer and entrepreneur in Brazil. She started a banana business that expanded to packed lunches for truckers, college students, and travelers. Credit Priti Kumar/World Bank

“Once, it was a rodeo day here and my son asked for money to go. But I didn’t have the money and told him to sell our farm’s bananas on the road instead. So, he took 50 bunches of bananas and sold them all in a few hours. Soon I started a banana business. The sales enabled me to expand my business to packed lunches for truckers. Over time, with the help of my family, the road administration, and my own investments, I started receiving invitations to make meals for college students and travelers.”

Angela, small-holder farmer and entrepreneur, São Paolo, Brazil.

 
Angela told us her story one afternoon as we ate the delicious lunch she had prepared for us at her rather humble roadside eatery in rural São Paulo, Brazil.

Her story was not only touching but also summed up the importance of entrepreneurial foresight and the power that collaboration holds in opening new doors for poor farming communities.
 
India and Brazil have much in common. Both have smallholder farmers - called family farmers in Brazil - (although these farmers make up a much smaller proportion of Brazil’s overall farming community and have a different landholding structure).

Yet Brazil, like many other Latin American countries, has been able to promote commercial agriculture and raise farmers’ incomes by creating collectives, comprised mainly of family farmers.
 
Even though family farmers represent a small slice of Brazil’s cooperatives, the impact of their collectives is considerable.

Often referred to as the “breadbasket of the world”, half of Brazil’s food comes from its 1,500 plus agricultural co-operatives, which employ more than 360,000 people.

The productivity of Brazil’s agriculture is evident.

With only 15% of Brazil’s population living in rural areas, more than 20% of its GDP comes from the agriculture sector.

 In India, on the other hand, 66% of the people live in rural areas while just 15% of GDP comes from agriculture.
 
Brazil’s success in making agriculture more market-oriented and raising farmer incomes holds many lessons for India.

For many years now, India has recorded a surplus in most critical agricultural commodities. 

Yet, farmers’ incomes continue to be subdued.

To help farmers earn more from the land and move onto a higher trajectory of growth, India has gradually shifted its policy focus to linking farmers to markets, as well as enabling them to diversify their production and add value to their produce.
 
So how do Brazil’s farmer collectives work?

Making higher education accessible to Afghan women

Muzhgan Aslami's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Afghan students attending their class in Kabul University
Students attending class at Kabul Medical University. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

As a women’s rights activist who has dedicated the past six years of her life to empowering women, ensuring that women can access education is crucial to me.
 
This is what motivates me in my work with the Higher Education Development Program (HEDP) at the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), the principal body responsible for providing and regulating higher education in Afghanistan.  
 
When I joined the MoHE as a Gender Specialist in 2016, I mainly focused on making sure female students did not face the same challenges I personally encountered as a student at Kabul University.

Some of the issues my friends and I remember was traveling long distances to the university, the lack of facilities for female students on campus, and the few opportunities to go abroad for postgraduate studies. Factors which, together, led to low female enrollment rates.

Today, with support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), many of the challenges I witnessed have been resolved with the initiation of the second National Higher Education Strategic Plan, 2015–2019, under the HEDP.

افزایش دسترسی زنان به تحصیلات عالی

Muzhgan Aslami's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
Afghan students attending their class in Kabul University
حضور محصلین پوهنتون طبی کابل در صنف درسی. عکس: شرکت مشورتی رومی/ بانک جهانی

برای من منحیث یک فعال حقوق زن، که شش سال اخیر عمر خود را صرف توانمند سازی زنان کرده ام، خیلی مهم است، تا از دسترسی دختران و زنان به تحصیلات عالی مطمین شوم.
 
کار با پروژه انکشاف تحصیلات عالی  در چوکات وزارت تحصیلات عالی افغانستان که مسؤلیت اساسی تأمین و تنظیم تحصیلات عالی در کشور را به عهده دارد، برایم انگیزه میدهد.
 
زمانی که در سال ۲۰۱۶ کار را به حیث متخصص جندر با وزارت تحصیلات عالی شروع کردم، عمدتاً  تلاش کردم، تا محصلین اناث با مشکلاتی که خودم در پوهنتون کابل در دوران محصلی روبرو بودم، مواجه نشوند.
 
پیمودن راه طولانی تا پوهنتون، عدم موجودیت تسهیلات و امکانات رهایشی برای محصلین اناث در محوطۀ پوهنتون، و فرصت های محدودی برای تحصیلات فوق لیسانس در خارج از کشور برخی از مشکلاتی بودند که من و دوستانم از آن زمان به یاد داریم. اینها  از جمله عواملی بودند که همه با هم سبب  حضور کمرنگ محصلین اناث در نهاد های تحصیلات عالی می شدند.
 
 اکنون، با تطبیق دومین پلان ملی ستراتیژیک تحصیلات عالی برای سال های ۲۰۱۵ – ۲۰۱۹ تحت پروژه انکشاف تحصیلات عالی به حمایت مالی صندوق بازسازی افغانستان، اکثر چالش های که من شاهد آن بودم از میان برداشته شده اند.

لوړو زده کړو ته د نجونو د لاسرسي زیاتېدل

Muzhgan Aslami's picture
Also available in: English | دری
Afghan students attending their class in Kabul University
د کابل په طبی پوهنتون کې په يوې درسې خونه  کې د محصلیونو حضور. انځور: رومی شرکت/ نړیوال بانک

د ښځو د حقونو د یوې فعالې په حیث چې د خپل عمر وروستي شپږ کلونه یې د مېرمنو د ځواکمنېدو په لاره کې تېر کړي دي، زما له پاره دا خورا مهمه ده چې لوړو زده کړو ته د افغان مېرمنو په لاسرسۍ ډاډه شم.
 
دا هغه څه دي چې د افغانستان د لوړو زده کړو وزرات په چوکاټ کې چې په افغانستان کې د لوړو زده کړو د تأمین او تنظیم اساسي دنده ور په غاړه ده، د لوړ زده کړو د پراختیا پروژې  سره په کار کولو کې ما ته انګېزه راکوي .
 
کله چې ما په ۲۰۱۶کال کې د جنډر د متخصصې په توګه د لوړو زده کړو له وزارت سره کار پیل کړ، عمدتاً هڅه مې دا وه چې ښځینه محصلین  له هغو ستونزو سره مخ نه شي چې زه پخپله په کابل پوهنتون کې د زده کړې په وخت کې ورسره مخ وم.
 
تر پوهنتون پورې د اوږدې لارې مزل، په پوهنتون کې د محصلو نجونو له پاره د اوسېدو د امکاناتو نه شتون، او په بهر کې د فوق لیسانس زده کړو د فرصتونو محدودیت، ځینې هغه ستونزې دي چې زما او زما د ملګرو په یاد دي. دا ټول هغه لاملونه وو، چې په پوهنتونونو کې د نجونو د کمرنګه حضور سبب شوي وو.
 
اوس چې د افغانستان د بیا رغونې صندوق په مالي مرسته، د ۲۰۱۵ – ۲۰۱۹ کلونو په اوږدو کې د لوړو زده کړو د پراختیا پروژې په چوکاټ کې، د لوړو زده کړو دوهم ملي ستراتیژیک پلان تطبیق شوی دی، اکثره هغه ننګونې، چې ما لیدلې وې، له منځه تللې دي. 

Too often, Dhaka remains inaccessible for people with disabilities

Shigeyuki Sakaki's picture
 World Bank 
Tajkia Mariam Jahan, a wheelchair user from Dhaka, Bangladesh was confined to her home for seven years due to the road environment. The city roads are unwelcoming not only for people in a wheelchair like her but also for persons with all types of disabilities. Credit: World Bank 

An ever-growing urban population with overflowing and at times chaotic vehicular traffic can make life difficult even for the most well-abled pedestrian.

The challenges become higher for a person with a disability.

How can I go out of my home?’ asks Tajkia Mariam Jahan, a wheelchair user from Dhaka, who was confined to her home for seven years due to the road environment.

The city roads are unwelcoming not only for people in a wheelchair like her but also for persons with all types of disabilities.

Hawa Aktar, a woman with hearing impairment, needs clear, visible signs and signals on road crossings and from vehicles. And Bashir Uddin Molla, a student with visual impairment, needs sounds and guidance when she is walking.

None of these facilities are available to people with disabilities living in Dhaka.

Investing in people of South Asia for prosperity and quality of life

Hartwig Schafer's picture
A little girl in Balochistan, Pakistan, who now receives a quality education thanks to World Bank support. 
A little girl in Balochistan, Pakistan, who now receives a quality education thanks to World Bank support. Credit: World Bank 

Human capital – the potential of individuals – is going to be the most important long-term investment any country can make for its people’s future prosperity and quality of life.

Just look around the world: Technology is reshaping every industry and setting new demands for skills in every profession. The frontier for skills is moving faster than ever before.

To meet that challenge and be able to compete in the global economy, countries need to prepare their workforces now for the tremendous challenges and opportunities driven by technological change.  

To that end, the World Bank will launch next week its highly anticipated Human Capital Index to measure countries’ contribution of health and education to the productivity of the next generation of their workers.

The Index will be released on October 11 at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in Bali as part of the Human Capital Project, a global effort led by the Bank to accelerate investments in people for greater equity and economic growth.

No doubt, any country ranking gets high visibility and, sometimes, meets controversy. But I hope it triggers a dialogue about policies to promote investments in people.

To be clear, the important purpose of the Human Capital Index is to measure the distance of each country to the highest standard of complete education and full health—or the “frontier”.

The index, irrespective of whether it is high or low, is not an indication of a country’s current policies or initiatives, but rather reflects where it has emerged over years and decades.

Put simply, the index measures what the productivity of a generation is, compared to what it could be, if they had benefitted from complete education and good health.

The index ranges from 0 to 1 and takes the highest value of 1 only if a child born today can expect to achieve full health (defined as no stunting and survival up to at least age 60) and complete her education potential (defined as 14 years of high-quality school by age 18).

What it’s like being a female student in Afghanistan today

Nathalie Lahire's picture
Also available in: دری | پښتو
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul. Photo Credit: World Bank

Afghanistan offers diverse opportunities and challenges for girls depending on where they live and the attitudes toward girls’ education in their community.
 
Further to that, rural or urban infrastructure, the commitment levels of teachers, and the nature or extent of corruption in the community can affect how a female student will perform in school.
 
In general, the past many years of conflict and political unrest in Afghanistan have damaged the country’s education system; eroding the quality of staffing and curriculum.
 
The education sector has been at the forefront of political conflicts and caught in between competing interest groups.
 
As a result, the unfavorable political economy has blocked policy reforms and their implementation, taking a toll on the quality of education services.
 
This has led to weakened governance.
 
Still, enrollment in school districts in Afghanistan is at surprising levels.

در حال حاضر شرایط تعلیمی برای یک متعلم دختر در افغانستان چگونه است

Nathalie Lahire's picture
Also available in: English | پښتو
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul
ناتلی لیر در جمعِ از متعلمین دختر حین بازدید از لیسه عالی نسوان ابوالقاسم فردوسی در شهر کابل.
عکس: ناتلی لیر/ بانک جهانی

اموزش دختران در مکاتب افغانستان همزمان با فرصت ها و چالش های متعدد  همراه بوده که این امر رابطه مستقیم به محل سکونت آنان و یا دیدگاه باشندگان محلاتِ شان نسبت به آموزش دختران دارد.
 
همچنان چگونگی وضعیت زیرینا ها، تسهیلات آموزشی در دهات و یا  شهر ها، تعهد معلمین، و بلاخره موجودیت و دامنۀ فساد در جامعه را میتوان از دلایل دیگر بر شمرد که بالای میزان حضور و یادگیری متعلمین دختر تاثیر داشته باشند.

در کل گفته میتوانیم که تداوم چندین سال جنگ و بی ثباتی سیاسی در افغانستان آسیب های زیادی را به بدنۀ نظام آموزشی و تحصیلی این کشور وارد ساخته است.

سکتور معارف همواره در خط مقدم تنش های سیاسی و درگیری های نظامی میان گروه های درگیر جنگ در افغانستان قرار داشته است.

در نتیجه، اوضاع سیاسی و اقتصادی نامطلوب مانع تطبیق اصلاحات در پالیسی ها و انفاذ قوانین گردیده و کیفیت خدمات آموزشی را مختل میسازد.

در عین زمان این وضعیت منتج به ناتوانی در حکومتداری گردیده است.

با اینحال، میزان ثبت نام در مکاتب افغانستان چشمگیر و درخور توجه است.

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