WACN engaged a team of independent evaluators to review its operations. The evaluators, Vijaya Shrestha and Krishna Lal Poudel, were highly complimentary of our operations, although they pointed out significant challenges that lie before us. Their report states, “A striking feature of WACN is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that the stated aims of the WACN program including poverty alleviation, social and economic empowerment of women, increased opportunities for income generation and increased income at household level; increased gender awareness; better family relations; solidarity among women folks; women advocacy against social ills; growing participation at village level; development activities; sustainability of the co-operatives etc are generally being met.” They also concluded that our co-operatives have experienced success in empowering women, and called WACN “a ‘market leader’ in Nepal women’s co-operatives.”
There are many challenges that lie before us, both at the institutional and program level. An independent evaluation of WACN was helpful in identifying the exact nature of many of these challenges.
WACN is now recognized nationally and internationally as a cost-effective and sustainable organization that works at the grassroots level to assist women in becoming socio-economically secure. What makes WACN’s work sustainable is that, after receiving training in cooperative education, finance, and agriculture, the participants become the local resource persons, who, in turn, dissipate their knowledge and skills to other community members. Laxmi Timilsina, a village woman from Kavre, for example, became a Junior Technical Assistant after participating in WACN’s program. Now she conducts training for fellow villagers on agricultural practices. Similarly, Bamiya Chaudhari became certified in biogas plant installations after attending WACN’s training. Now she travels throughout Nepal to install the devices, serving as a model to other villagers. Examples abound of women such as Laxmi and Bamiya becoming successful entrepreneurs after coming into contact with WACN. Leaders in their community, they instruct women on the importance of engaging in income-generating schemes. Rates of poverty and violence against women are drastically reduced in communities where WACN implements its community based development projects. The employment opportunities generated by the program also prevent parents from selling their children to recruiters in desperation for cash. Indeed, WACN would like to extend this campaign against girl trafficking to other areas of Nepal.
The development of a training and resource center will further establish WACN as a leader in the field of savings and credit cooperatives for women. WACN will continue to expand its cooperative network as appropriate, but will place a greater emphasis on strengthening existing cooperatives and grassroots women’s organizations promoted by WACN. We hope that our training courses will encourage other organizations to apply our grassroots model in their area, further realizing WACN’s vision.
Post civil war, the country requires a lot of work in planning and implementing projects that will survive in the new Nepali economy. There is a growing need for programs such as ours that bring communities together to help them develop institutions that will sustain poverty alleviation in the long run. In this context, we find it imperative to continue introducing community based activities and cooperatives into new vdcs and districts as well as helping existing women’s groups institutionalizing their operations for greater impact. Only through local development do we see the potential for peace in this country.