Thursday 29th June 2017

English

SOS Bahini and Co-opération Humanitaire Luxembourg

SOS Bahini was founded in 2004 with the aim to take action against any form of violence, discrimination, sexual exploitation and human trafficking of underage girls and young women in Nepal.

The main objective of SOS Bahini is the prevention of discrimination, exploitation and human trafficking of girls and young women.

Discrimination and oppression of women in Nepal is caused by cultural traditions and the widespread injustice of the caste system. The fact that many fathers abandon their families if their wives fail to provide a male heir leaves women without protection, who can easily fall victim to exploitation and/or rape. The death of a parent can lead to just as catastrophic consequences as the family cohesion no longer safeguards girls and women from the dangers emanating from society. It is also worth mentioning that child marriage is still widely spread in Nepal. Young girls often do not have a choice and are married off to much older men. SOS Bahini tries to battle these injustices. Village inhabitants, members of the community and charity organizations inform volunteers of SOS Bahini about cases of children and minors who fell victim to violence and/or sexual abuse. The different cases are reviewed on the spot by a selection committee, which consists of five employees. They decide if the child/minor is in imminent or potential danger and in which way SOS Bahini can be helpful to them.

Many women and children are driven by poverty to leave their remote villages and seek refuge in the big cities, where they eventually end up living in slums under dishonourable conditions and are exposed to the threats of violence and sexual exploitation. Many of these defenceless girls/women fall victim to prostitution and human trafficking. The number of prostitutes as well as the amount of HIV/AIDS infections has soared in the last twelve years. Not to forget, statistics underline that annually thousands of girls and young women from Nepal are smuggled to India and the Middle East, where they are exploited and oppressed.

For these reasons, SOS Bahini developed a range of innovative and complementing projects, which aim to prevent these atrocities from happening and give the girls/women the opportunity to live a life in security and dignity. At this moment (January 2016), 92 beneficiaries, between the ages of five to twenty-two, live under the protection of SOS Bahini. Furthermore, hundreds of external beneficiaries are taken care of and educated by SOS Bahini.

Due to the rapid expansion of SOS Bahini, the Bahini Educare Foundation was established in 2013. The organisation of the projects and the assistance of a constantly growing number of beneficiaries are getting increasingly complex in its administration. Adding to this the fact that more and more girls graduate secondary school and want to continue their education as well as the drastic increase in the need of more educare families, SOS Bahini has decided to split up its field of activities:

SOS Bahini manages all the projects in the Eco-village, the Crossroad house, the Lighthouse and the IFAP programme. Since January 2016, the Bahini Educare Foundation focuses on the educare families with the goal to take care of six new families every year. The future belongs to this project as it allows SOS Bahini to provide a lot of help to a variety of people without the need of new infrastructures and low administrative costs.

Impact

SOS Bahini is the sole non-governmental organisation in the west of Nepal that has focused on helping girls and young women who fell victim to discrimination, exploitation, injustice and violence. Consequently, over the last twelve years, numerous innovative projects have been created and implemented in the area, all tailored to the needs of these girls and women. This leads to a synergy effect, with the result that many desperate women find adequate support at SOS Bahini.

SOS Bahini takes great care in feeding, clothing, schooling, training and medically providing for their beneficiaries as well as offering counsel in every circumstance. This has its effects on many more people in the community and not just the girls in the care of SOS Bahini. The professional education of a single mother also benefits her children and the latter’s schooling gives them the chance to escape the vicious circle of poverty. Furthermore, the distribution of condoms in the slums helps to prevent the proliferation of AIDS/HIV as well as other STDs. Additionally, programs like Legal Awareness educate women about their rights and thus prevent violence and injustice. These projects lead to the prevention of misery and unjustness as well as to the improvement of the status of women in society in the city of Pokhara itself but also in the greater area.

Equality and Participation

The managing board of SOS Bahini (solely composed of Nepalese women), the directorate and all employees (with the exception of three men, also solely women) design in cooperation with Raymond Lindinger, who spends ten months a year on-site, the concept of the SOS Bahini Eco-Village. The creation of the different projects as well as the concept of the on-site living arrangements, play and sports grounds, kitchen facilities and community areas are all designed incorporating the needs and wishes of the beneficiaries and employees.

The Eco-Village

 The Eco-Village has been conceived in the style of a small Nepalese village. All edifices have been built with natural materials such as clay and bamboo. The emphasis is lying on eco-friendliness, green technology and durability. All the infrastructures listed below have been completely furnished and equipped with the necessary installations and equipment.

The Eco-Village consists of the following edifices and facilities:

  • The housing complex consisting of eight houses as well as four bathroom facilities, which are all equipped with solar panels to provide the showers with hot water;
  • A building with a multi-purpose hall and two offices;
  • A clinic;
  • A kitchen with refectory;
  • A bamboo house that serves as training centre;
  • A building for the computing and English school;
  • A big, open Pergola;
  • An Office;
  • Stables und storage
  • A playground and sports area;
  • A freshwater well ensuring the water provision;
  • A solar plant;
  • Fields and gardens for the growing of vegetables, fruit and flowers.

The Eco-Village pursues the following goals:

  • With the exception of the Lighthouse, the Crossroads house and the IFAP programme, all facilities and projects are located in the Eco-village. The main goal is to create a safe haven, which allows the beneficiaries to cope with their traumas and overcome their past in a harmonic environment in sync with nature. The integration into our educare family programme can only take place once the beneficiaries have been mentally and physically cured. Next to a lot of care and attention, our beneficiaries are in therapeutic care even if they don’t live in the eco-village (anymore).
  • All other facilities serve training and education purposes. The Centre Jean Prum is our Women’s Skill Development Centre, where classes for up to twenty women are taking place on a regular basis. Furthermore, all girls at the age of fourteen are trained to be housewives. They acquire skills in cooking, baking, housekeeping and gardening.
  • Our one-year-long bridge-course is taking place in the Computing and English school and counts currently sixteen participants.

Playing, art crafts, karate, volleyball, badminton and swimming lessons in our very own pool make sure that fun and fitness are provided for the beneficiaries, who love taking part in these activities.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse project is situated in the main slum in Pokhara and takes care of girls, women and children in distress. The Lighthouse organises health camps, provides free of charge contraceptives and generally raises awareness to health related topics. Another task of the Lighthouse is non-formal education and alphabetisation of illiterate women. Around 70% of women in Nepal over the age of thirty are analphabets. SOS Bahini tries to tackle this problem by teaching the women how to read and write.

The Centre Jean Prum

 In this training centre women can obtain an apprenticeship and learn how to manually process natural materials into every day life objects and/or art works.    

The Cross Roads House

 The Cross Roads House was founded to take care of internal as well as external beneficiaries. All young women who have either just completed their schooling and are currently in professional training or are going to university/higher education live in this house. At the moment, the house is home to nineteen beneficiaries.

The Clinic

 The clinic is situated in the Eco-village. Internal as well as external beneficiaries receive medical treatment free of charge. The clinic organises on a regular basis its health camps as well as awareness trainings within the framework of the Safe Motherhood programme, which supports future mothers during their pregnancies. Furthermore, the clinic can transfer patients to other doctors or the local hospital if need be.

The beneficiaries of SOS Bahini and the Bahini Educare Foundation

There are three categories of beneficiaries:

  • Internal beneficiaries (~92)

To this category belong all the girls that live permanently under the care of SOS Bahini. These beneficiaries are either female (half-) orphans aged between five and twenty-two or widows and/or single mothers aged twenty-three to thirty-six. Furthermore, SOS Bahini provides a home for the poorest and most endangered women in Nepal, the landless. The latter do not own a house or dispose of an income and are thus exposed to the most violent forms of discrimination and exploitation.

 

  • External beneficiaries (600-800)

To this category belong all the beneficiaries that are taken care off by SOS Bahini outside of the Eco-village. Some of these beneficiaries are single mothers who own a house and dispose of an income, which, however, is not substantial enough to take care of their family adequately or afford education for the children. Girls as well as boys are part of this category as they are getting taken care off in the framework of the Bahini Educare Foundation and the Educare project. Beneficiaries in this category are supported according to their needs, e.g. medical care, schooling, clothing, counselling, etc.

Here an example of a typical family that receives support from SOS Bahini:

In 2011, SOS Bahini got informed that a father in a nearby village committed suicide. The man left behind his wife and daughters, whom thereafter received external aid from SOS Bahini. A year later, SOS Bahini got news that the mother took her life too. The daughters were immediately taken care off and are now internal beneficiaries.

 

  • Indirect beneficiaries (2000-3000)

To this category belong all those that benefit indirectly from the work of SOS Bahini:

  • The families of the mothers that receive professional training, all those that are protected against the proliferation of STDs because of the health awareness programmes and the girls and women safe from violence, which has been reduced through educational advertising and the Female Empowerment
  • The local municipality in Pokhara benefits from the improvement of life conditions of the community’s poorest and the growing number of educated youth with perspectives of going to university and/or getting a job thus turning into responsible and valuable members of the local community.
  • A gradual reduction of violence and discrimination against women leads to an improved quality of life in Nepal.
  • The Eco-village does not put a strain on the local environment because of its sustainable technology and environmental compatibility.

The political and social situation

Years ago, the Nepalese population opted for a democratic form of government. Nevertheless, democratic conditions, like equality of genders, respect of human rights or introduction of the welfare state, are not part of the Nepalese every day reality. However, the changing governments over the last years made efforts to guarantee equal rights to women and ethnic minorities. The official abolishment of the cast system was to underline the government’s effort to introduce equality, although in reality it is still very present in the daily life of the Nepalese community.

Education for everyone and university access for women is encouraged by the state and a growing number of women finds employment in public office and institutions. Albeit, the progress is slow because on one side public funds are insufficient and on the other corruption and favouritism are still on the agenda. The country’s poorest (60% of the population) more often than not do not have the possibility to afford adequate schooling for their children. Furthermore, a lack of possibilities for women to get professional training aggravates social inequality.

The health care delivery system is equally unfair. Preventive medical checkups are not sufficiently funded by the government and the poor cannot afford a medical treatment in one of the hospitals.

Furthermore, efforts are made to re-balance the ecosystem. Programmes encouraging the protection of biodiversity and forestation are too slow and not effective enough.

Even if only on a small scale, SOS Bahini tries to venture onto new paths and find solutions for urgent problems through its innovative and sustainable projects. The goals of SOS Bahini and the Educare Foundation are on par with those of the current government. For these reasons SOS Bahini has a good relationship with the local authorities and administrations even if the confusing bureaucracy constitutes a gruelling test.

As for religious and cultural traditions, SOS Bahini takes great care in supporting local customs. SOS Bahini is a local organisation that consists of people from the area, who embody the cultural norms of their community. For these reasons, SOS Bahini enjoys great respect in the area and beyond.

Networking

 SOS Bahini is part of a richly connected and well functioning network of organisations in Pokhara and Nepal in general. SOS Bahini is co-founder of an association of twenty-one NGOs in Pokhara with similar target groups. All of these NGOs are in constant exchange with each other, which leads to a synergy effect and allows them to optimise their work constantly. SOS Bahini also has good contacts with other NGOs in the country. Consequently, girls from all over Nepal find their way to SOS Bahini to get adequate care.

Equality and Empowerment

 The directorate of SOS Bahini consists solely of women emanating from different social classes. The team of SOS Bahini consists of women too, many of whom are former beneficiaries.

SOS Bahini is the only NGO in the west of Nepal that has centred its work around the needs of underprivileged girls women and tailored all of its projects specifically to their necessities. The management and the staff consist of 80% women and the principles of employee equality and participation are of great importance to SOS Bahini since the beginning.

All our projects are realised with the intention to give the beneficiaries a life in safety and dignity. To help people to help themselves, to develop their capacities and empowerment of women are top priority. From alphabetisation, schooling and professional training to sports, dance and crafts, everything is aimed at enabling the beneficiaries to turn into competent, confident, disciplined and strong women. The provided education and training in combination with the opportunity to get a well-paid job gives the beneficiaries the prospect of an independent life with a secured livelihood.

Our vision

We share the vision of many that may simply be dismissed as naive daydreamers:

A Nepal where women and children are not victims of violence and exploitation;

a Nepal where the dignity of the people is respected;

a Nepal where equal opportunity for everyone is normality;

a Nepal where people do not die of starvation or the cold of a long winter night;

a Nepal where no desperate mother is committing suicide with her children;

a Nepal where a teenage girl will not be forced to marry a complete stranger.

Nepal is rich in resources, especially when it comes to human resources. Nepal is a nation of hard, talented, creative and intelligent workers. Our beneficiaries are the prime example of a new, dynamic generation looking for the chances the future has to offer and realise their dreams. They are committed to going their own way responsibly, ambitiously and sincerely and this accompanied with a constant optimism and a refreshing, positive life attitude.

Nepal is experiencing great changes and rapid development. On one hand side, it holds numerous risks but on the other hand side it is also an important opportunity. We are part of those that believe in the potential Nepal has and are inspired every day by those who seize their chance with determination.

Our biggest challenge

At this moment in time, seventeen beneficiaries are in professional training and two very talented girls have the ardent desire to continue their education and go to university. Eleven more girls will finish secondary school this year and in 2017 eight more girls will graduate. This means that we want to give thirty-eight young women the opportunity to continue their education, whether in the form of an apprenticeship or a university degree. A good professional training in the jobs that provide the girls with a real opportunity to find employment and tuition fees for universities are expensive. We want to make their dreams come true and provide, together with your help, the necessary financial means that will enable these girls to make a head start on their future.