FROM SHATTERED LIVES TO DIGNIFIED LIVING – HOW JOINT LAND OWNERSHIP HELPED WOMEN OF NEPAL REBUILD THEIR LIVES

MY LAND, MY RIGHT : Son Maya and Konu Kumari 

Even earthquakes couldn’t shake the path to empowerment. The power bestowed on the women of Nepal through Joint Land Ownership programme not only empowered women but it also helped them rebuild their lives from rubble as well.

When massive earthquake hit major parts of Nepal in the year 2015, the world gaped in shock as what remained of Nepal was death and devastation. Standing at the brink of total destruction, it is the will-power of the Nepalese people and the active support from the government as well as local and international NGOs that helped rebuild lives and living. Communities from all over the world lent their helping hand, of which ILC members too were some of the strong supporters. Bit by bit, the Nepalese people regained their footing and helped themselves to self-sufficiency. But what stood out was the massive role that women played in helping their families become financially and socially strong once again. And all thanks to the Joint Land Ownership system that helped the women in the process. The stories of Konu Kumari Karki and Som Maya Bhandari are examples of how Joint Land Ownership has provided successful case studies for the world over to follow.

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” JOINT LAND OWNERSHIP IS THE ANSWER TO GENDER DISCRIMINATION” : Konu Kumari Karki proudly displays her Joint Land Ownership document.

Konu Kumari Karki and her family of five are one of the typical examples of rural families of Nepal. Like the rest of Nepal, her family was also affected by the massive earthquake. In Konu’s words, “Our ward was worst hit by quake. Death toll was highest in our area. Few days were spent in despair and empty stomach. Tarpaulin was shelter for 3 houses during that period. As relief from agencies and government arrived we upgraded to transitional shelter of our own”

Farmers of Helambu rural municipality ward 7; Ichok had horrendous sufferings from quake. For many like Konu, the transitional shelter was for living. But their production was still rotting in open air. Rodents and reptiles added to the challenge. After two and half years in transitional shelter, the government announced grant of Rs. 3lakhs. That would be for a two-room house. However for Konu’s family two rooms were not enough. But for bigger house they did not have savings.  So, while their neighbors started construction from government grant, Konu’s family decided to choose the alternative and go for HELVETAS as they had their own technicians and mobilizers. This decision proved to be a life changing one for Konu, as she not only got a house but her rightful ownership as well.

Currently, Konu Kumari Karki and her family have a  3 room disaster resilient  house. She says,”Agencies not only constructed my house but established my ownership in land as well. After 16 yrs  of marriage  I am  legally owner  of my  house. I  have  no  words  to  express  my  gratitude.  We worked  together to  run  our  family. But  Ownership was of husband alone.  Constant  fear of him selling  land  predominantly  occupied  my   mind.  Thanks  to  CSRC  and  HELVETAS,  this  fear  is  now gone.”

Konu Kumari Karki

“JOINT LAND OWNERSHIP HAS BOOSTED MY CONFIDENCE : Konu Kumari Karki”

Lastly, Konu Kumari Karki adds”We all want to stop gender discrimination but the question was how. Joint land ownership (JLO) is the answer .In the beginning; all were skeptical on what would happen of  a  woman’s  name  being  added  in ownership. But I have felt the change now, my  decisions are  also respected.  My confidence is  also boosted.  Orientation on JLO is  being made in  area regularly. I also participate and suggest all to go in for Joint Land Ownership for creating stronger stance for women in the society.”

And not Komu alone……

Like Komu, Joint Land Ownership has been a life changing experience for Som Maya Bhandari  as well. Som Maya Bhandari belongs to Helambu Rural Municipality, Ward No 2, Kiul. She is a stereo typical example of women being a mere object of patriarchal society. She and her family of 5 were amply affected by the quake. As a result of the quake, her mother in law had deceased and they had lost their property in the disaster.To add to her woes, her husband was an alcoholic. Hence all the family’s responsibility came on the shoulders of Som Maya. Quake had affected their income as well.Trouble was increasing in alarming rate. Regular altercations at home resulted in her children skipping school on regular basis. She was harassed as well. Som Maya adds, “If it wasn’t for my children I would long left the house, but for my children’s better future I endured all the traumas for this long”.

Family problems piled up in an uncontrollable manner. Livestock rearing was an only option for livelihood. She had cognizance of it not being enough. Whatever little income she would get as a process would be captured by her husband.Domestic violence became a regular norm.Some turned towards violence as well.

In the meanwhile government announced 3 lakh grants for housing reconstruction. Dilemma on this grant being enough or not for housing reconstruction always encompassed Som Maya. Beneficiary card issued by government was in husband’s name. In this period Helvetas announced support for reconstruction of houses. Fortunately their ward was selected for support. Luck was on their side this time as their family was chosen for support. Emotional strain regarding reconstruction was uplifted. For all her troubles in all these years, Som Maya experienced relief for the first time as not only house, she got hold of her precious ownership rights as well. For a change, she could be in control of her land and hence the financial status of the family as well.

Som Maya Bhandari

“TODAY I DON’T HAVE TO HIDE THE OWNERSHIP DOCUMENTS IN THE FEAR THAT MY HUSBAND WOULD SELL THE LAND OR HOUSE . I AM AN EQUAL OWNER OF IT: Som Maya Bhandari”

Now, Som Maya Bhandari has a disaster resilient house.Earlier they had 4 ropani (1 hectare=0.05 rop) of land. Her husband sold it without her knowledge. The money was also misused without her concern. Currently her house is constructed in only 0.2 hectare of remaining ancestral property. Anxiety always surrounded her that her husband would sell this land as well. She shares” There were many sleepless nights, fear always surrounded me. A constant grip of reality regarding my children will be landless is what made me acquire joint land ownership. Every day, out of fear, I use to hide the ownership documents in place he couldn’t find.”

Som Maya adds “Discussion regarding Joint land ownership started in community. I felt this joint land ownership is for women like me. I joined the campaign and submitted all my credentials. Receiving signature of my husband was whole new mountain to climb. After persuasion and many rounds of discussion he agreed. Today I have ownership of my house. I don’t have to hide the ownership documents in constant fear. My husband’s rehabilitation is redemption for him. But I can sleep in nights without worrying about my children’s future – thanks to JLO initiative.”

CSRC, a member of ILC and a vital part of the Commitment Based Initiative on Women’s Land Rights of ILC , has been a part of the life-changing policy of Joint Land ownership in Nepal. Not only were they part of the initiation process but have been regularly building sensitization and awareness around the process and system as well. Their door to door coverage and campaign have ensured that women like Komu Kumari Karki or Som Maya Pradhan can become faces of the global process of empowerment of women. They are also examples to prove that land ownership is a strong tool to bring about social changes which is gender inclusive.

Contributed  and Written by: Sristi Shrestha – CSRC, NEPAL

Edited by: Srichandra Venkataramanan- Swadhina, India

Enhancing Grass-root Leadership through Capacity Building: Strengthening Women’s Land Rights in Nepal

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A Two day Leadership Training entitled “Women’s Land Rights and Gender Justice Leadership Training” was organized by Community Self Reliance Center with the assistance of International Land Coalition (ILC-Asia) on September 17th & 18th 2017 at Kathmandu. The aim of the training was to develop leadership skills in women and men from various districts of the country along with various polices related to land rights. It is hoped that the training program would contribute in raising awareness on women’s land rights and increase the participant’s expertise to analyze and deal with the issues. The training was a two day program which consisted of various leadership training presentations and exercises, presentations on policies and land reform rights, development of strategies. Participants were from various areas of Nepal and some of them are even leading the land reforms activities, assisting people in their village, raising awareness at the village level.

The objectives were:

  • To develop farmers (women and men) skills to tap into existing opportunities to voice for their rights (leadership/management behavior and practices).
  • To increase knowledge on various policies related to land rights.

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                                   LEADERSHIP TRAINING – DAY 1

All the participants were welcomed by Kalpana Karki, Campaign Manager at Community Self Reliance Center (CSRC). The session started with a song “we shall overcome” and lighting the candles. The session had a purpose as lighting the candle meant understanding the leadership within oneself and spreading the knowledge within the community.

It was then followed by introduction session which was followed by ice breaking session named Champions, where the total numbers of participants were 16 and they were paired into two and they neededto introduce their partners.

After the break, there was a video session, “Tough Talk with Shristi K.C” after which the participants discussed on the positive aspect of the video. As the training progressed, there was a session which involved identifying leader within the participant themselveswhich was termed self-assessment test.This was followed byMs. Karki giving a briefing on various roles of women on land rights and the importance of dual citizenship.

This was followed by a presentation by Lyam Darji on “How to lead a team and what the basic features a leader needed”.

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LEADERSHIP TRAINING- DAY 2

The second day of the program started with the reflection of previous day’s activities which was followed by three presentations on “Social movement and leaders” facilitated by Jagat Basnet, “Advocacy and factors important for advocacy as a leader” was facilitated by Jagat Deuja  and “Land rights of women – Khas land policy of Bangladesh” facilitated by Subash Kattel. The session also included various exercises where the participants were divided into two groups.

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There was break before the presentation on ILC toolkit, where brief introduction were provided on each tools prepared by International Land Coalition – Asia (ILC-Asia). The session was followed by exercises on developing strategy: participants were divided into four groups based on their districts. Participants were tasked to come up with: 1) their experience as a leader 2) strategies needed to develop their community.

The session was followed by post-test assessment to understand their level of knowledge after the training. The workshop ended with some concluding remarks by Kalpana Karki and vote of thanks by the participants.

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Outcome of the Training:

  • Brought out a clear idea on woemn’s land rights laws, policies and implementation practices in different areas and situations through Women’s land Rights Toolkit.
  • Developed clear strategies for the trainees to take active part in implementation of women’s land rights, especially in implementation of Joint Land Ownership Strategy.
  • Developed a timeline and activity module for implementation of activities related to promotion of women’s land ownership.

 

Reported by: Kalpana Karki /Rojvin Pradhan

A more detailed report is available here: NEPAL LEADERSHIP TRAINING REPORT