The CECI (Centre for International Studies and Cooperation) is a Canadian International Cooperation organization that was founded in 1958, with a mission to combat poverty and exclusion through sustainable development projects. Central to CECI’s work is empowering women as agents of change, and CECI staff and volunteers support women’s economic empowerment and community resilience by sharing their skills and expertise. More specifically, CECI seeks to improve the social and economic well-being of the poorest, most disadvantaged people in communities in Africa, Asia and the Americas. CECI is supporting a number of projects in Nepal, with several in cooperation with SETU Nepal.
Nepal is a landlocked country bordering China and India, with a land mass that extends 800 kilometres from east to west and 145 to 240 kilometres from north to south. Nepal has a population of approximately 29 million and is multi-ethnic, multiracial, multicultural, multi-religious, and multilingual country (Nepali is the most spoken language followed by followed by several other ethnic languages).
Nepal is a country attempting to overcome many challenges. The difficulties the country is facing today are largely due to its long and tumultuous past. Historically, Nepal remained largely closed off from the outside world until 1950, under the rule of succeeding prime ministers (hereditary) supporting extreme isolationism policies. The political landscape started to change in 1950 with a “democracy” revolt, and although Nepal was admitted into the United Nations in 1955, it was not until 1991 that the kingdom established a multiparty parliamentary system.
After years of violence and instability, Nepal was finally declared a democratic republic in 2008. Afterwards with Nepal’s political instability continuing, the country was further challenged by a devastating earthquake in 2015. The quake resulted in significant loss of life, infrastructure, and property with most of the mid hill districts including Kathmandu Valley suffering massive devastation. In 2015 Nepal adopted a new constitution to expedite post-disaster relief and reconstruction.
Nepal remains a very poor country, with most people’s livelihoods coming from agriculture. Although the country experienced significant progress towards sustainable economic development post-1950, Nepal is still considered one of the least developing countries in the world. In spite of Nepal’s political and economic modernization, the traditional patriarchal society has resulted in systemic barriers to gender equality.
SETU Nepal “Bridge” is a Non-profit organization that was initially established in 2001 to provide a variety of critical supports for vulnerable women and children. More specifically, when originally established by young Nepalese professionals.
SETU provided support to women who had been previously incarcerated. These women were and continue to be society’s most oppressed because they are completely ostracized and deprived of many opportunities – with education being the most critical need. Once released from prison and without formal education, these women are lacking the proper skills needed to achieve economic independence and are subsequently unable to properly support and provide for their children.
It was while working with this marginalized sector of the population, that SETU realized the critical and growing needs amongst women who were either infected or affected by HIV. These individuals were stigmatized and prevented from fully participating in society. SETU’s objective is to work as a “bridge” and work with marginalized people to help them re-enter into society and lead productive and meaningful lives.
As such, SETU has since broadened its focus and currently provides temporary shelter to women and children in “Aarati House” SETU Nepal’s Transit Home, Education and Training Programs for women, Education Programs for children, and Nutrition Programs for primary level students in government schools. SETU serves women identified as – vulnerable, economically impoverished, incarcerated, infected with or affected by HIV and their children, in addition to children who have been orphaned due to HIV. To date, SETU has conducted 70 training session and trained 875 women. 1,175 children are receiving education support across 28 districts.
SETU’s activities include skills training for HIV positive women, so that they can learn skills (Agriculture) and become economically empowered, independent, and capable of providing a stable future for themselves and for their children. Additionally, annual scholarships and school supplies are provided to the children of HIV positive women, in addition to on-going support throughout their schooling. SETU as well provides Education and Nutrition Programs for primary level students in government funded public schools. In 2014, SETU established “Aarati Home,”a residential centre that provides accommodations for women and children in addition to rehabilitation, emotional support and medical care. The residential centre is used as a venue to host events and bring residents and people from the community together and is currently housing children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS.
In addition to several philanthropic donors, SETU Nepal has partnered with two organizations that support international development work. In 2010, “ONGD-FNEL Scouts and Guides” a Not-for-profit organization in Luxembourg partnered in providing capacity building training for HIV positive women, so that they can learn skills and become economically empowered and independent and be capable of providing a stable future for themselves and for their children.
As mentioned, CECI provides Volunteer – Subject Matter Expert support through sustainable development porejcts that are geared to achieve tangible results associated with the mandate and objectives of target organization. SETU Nepal is working with CECI to build capacity in Fundraising and is currently developing an Entrepreneurship Program for women ages 18 – 35, aimed at providing the skills for economic independence.
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