Okanagan Natural Care is pleased to work within our community.
Our international charity of choice is Her International
Formerly IWEN, it's been a pleasure to support Her International since they began about a decade ago. A Kelowna based charity; Her International’s primary focus is to make a difference in the lives of young girls in Nepal. Her International is committed to helping marginalized women and girls through education and life skills opportunities. Already they have been instrumental in preventing girls as young as six from being sold into slavery, a long standing cultural practice in that country. Instead these girls are able to stay with their families and, incredibly, be provided with an education.
In many cultures around the world girls are not valued as equals to boys. It is a challenge that we must address on a global scale, for we know that education is a way out of poverty and that by supporting girls and women the whole community benefits.
Okanagan Natural Care is pleased to sponsor the Women’s Literacy Program in Nepal.
How has the Literacy Program made a difference for Srijana?
Bubbling with energy, Srijana recounted her recent run for an elected position in local government. “I didn’t win,” she explained. But that wasm't the end of her story, it was the beginning.
Thirst for Knowledge
Right after the November 2017 elections, Srijana joined Her International’s literacy course. She and the other women met every day in the evenings to study 2 hours by lamplight. The course covered basic reading, writing, math, and entrepreneurship. She told of how she soaked in each lesson and then asked for more. “While in the literacy class I realized that I needed to learn more! I begged to learn more mathematics!!”
Srijana, bursting while her hands fluttered in the air illustrating her story, said she took what she learned and applied it. At political party meetings, she was more equipped to speak up and participate in the conversation and felt confident to do so. She quickly took leading roles.
“I was made the President of the Road Committee to supervise the contractor and monitor the work being done.” Seeing that the project had been stalled because the government had only enough money to buy the supplies for new street lamps but not to install them, Srijana figured out how much money it would take to finish the project and then divided the sum by each house on the street. “I went door to door,” she explained, “I collected 500 Rupees (about $5) from each house. I used the money to get the street lamps installed. Now the street has light. It is safer. Everyone is happy.”
Even though she is not an elected official, Srijana uses her passion for the community and new-found skills to effect change - cutting down on corruption and increasing efficiency. “Now I can keep track of the government budgets. I watch how they use their money and pressure them to follow the plan and stay on track.”
Srijana’s mathematics skills and learned entrepreneurship training has also helped her build a successful vegetable business. “I grow mushrooms,” she said, “but now I also buy my neighbors vegetables and take them to sell at the district headquarters market. It is a bigger market and you can earn more there.” She runs the business together with her friend.
Eager to share what she has learned, Srijana is a teacher and mentor to others. She has taught some of what she has learned to others in her village and local Mothers’ Group who could not attend the course.
Srijana’s success and positive attitude hides her difficult past. Her parents were landless, a common problem for many ethnic Tharu people. As such, they did not have land to earn an income. They worked as sharecroppers, working another person’s land and then sharing the profits but this was not enough money to support the family. At nine years old, Srijana was sold into bonded servitude for which her parents received about $30 per year. She worked the rest of her childhood as a servant in a wealthy landowner’s home doing domestic tasks. Srijana worked until she was 18 years old than then she was married in an arranged marriage.
She gushes over how helpful the skills she learned are for community leaders. “Each class we started by introducing ourselves and speaking in front of the group. This would have helped me with my public speaking and meeting with voters,” she explained.
Srijana laughs, “I would have been able to read the pamphlets I was passing out!”
Even though she said she failed to be elected in the 2017 election, she has learned so much! When asked if she will try to run for political office again, she didn’t hesitate to say “YES!”
It was with appreciation for all that Her International has done, to sponsor the production of the book HER the Tharu Woman’s Journey to Freedom. A copy is in reception area if you care to take a look at beautiful photos taken in Nepal and see what has been achieved.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead
What can one woman do? With $33 a month for one girl’s scholarship you can change a life and a community. You can sign up at herinternational.org
Annually Okanagan Natural Care supplies the Mennonite Central Committee with children’s school bags filled with supplies for disaster relief. As a demonstration of a belief in health we also supply relief hygiene kits.
Local charities include the Gospel Mission, the SPCA , the food bank and others.