A school that makes people change their own lives

Good Governance Schools in the far west Nepal are helping illiterate and women from deprived communities to understand the governance structure. The understanding empowers the women to claim their constitution given rights and services from the authorities.

by Ishwar Rauniyar

The slopes of Doti district in the far west Nepal are green. The wheat saplings are slowly getting higher along with the chilly weather. There are only a few vehicular movements in the village.

The village is dominated by loud music played through loudspeakers. The music indicates the wedding season.

Social mobiliser Basanta looks very happy. Recently, he was the groom at one of the weddings. Whomever he meets on his way, they congratulate him.

“There is a saying that if you are social mobiliser, then not just the people, even the dogs know you,” he laughs.

After walking for almost half an hour, we reach a small house with one single room. This is a so-called Good Governance School. In here around thirty women are learning about the duties and responsibilities of ward offices.

Social mobiliser Basanta tells about the governance system to the participants.

Basanta enters the room and joins the facilitation along with Satya Kumari Joshi, a facilitator of the Good Governance School.

They discuss the responsibilities of ward offices, and why vital registration is important.

Today is the sixth class of first session. “How many members are there in the ward committee?,” the facilitator asks
“Five,“ everyone says collectively.
“ Three men and two women,“ adds a lady sitting in a corner.

Satya Kumari Joshi, a facilitator of the GG School tells that it has been somewhat difficult to convince women to join the GG School. However, after attending one session, they have been excited to join the classes.
“They even are asking that this should continue regularly,” he adds.

“I was hesitant even to say my name, until I joined this Good Governance School,” says Tara Devi of KI Singh Rural Municipality, adding:
“But now I can stand and tell about what I have learned in the session.”

Women benefit from the education knowing they can get money when they have children those belong to socially excluded communities.

Indra Paligi of KI Singh Rural Municipality goes on, telling how she last month went to the ward office and asked them about the procedures to get nutrition allowances for her children.

“I didn’t even know about the allowances, until I joined this school,” she says.

“Now I get Rs. 800 - 400 each for my two children every month. And I am able to buy them nutritious food and milk.”

Agency through knowledge

“If citizens understand and are aware of the governance system, it provides them the agency to hold the government accountable and ensure that their rights are given with due diligence,” says Malati Maskey, Programme Manager – Active Citizenship at DCA.

“With the change in the government system, from a central to the federal, it is important to empower local communities. This is only possible from the formal and informal education system,” she says.

Good Governance School is the informal education system for adult literacy programme.

Ram Bahadur Saud, Ward 3 Chairman of Chaurpati Rural Municipality in Achham district, interacts with women those being taught about the duties and responsibilities of ward offices.

Local communities are provided informal and formal classes for half an hour, two days a week, where they are informed about the various aspects of the governance system. In the class, people are informed about the constitution, their rights and functions.

“My son now studies Junior Technical Assistant at Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training - a technical school. I didn’t know anything about this course, but when I heard about the course from my facilitators at the Good Governance School, my son applied and got it,” Harina Devi Khadayat said with a non-stop smile and laugh. “This has helped me very much.”

Harina Devi Khadayat is happy to enroll her son as Junior Technical Assistant at Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training - a technical school. She knew about this course from her facilitators at the Good Governance School.

The participants are now able to go to the ward offices seeking information about the budget planning, and they ask the ward committee to ensure their presence so that their demands are heard. They have formed a women’s group in every Good Governance School.

Women make themselves heard

Ward Chairmen are also very much receptive and welcoming the activities.

“This is something that we need to do, but in the lack of budget and other priorities we haven’t been able to reach to the communities,” says ward chairman Harka Bahadur Bista, Ward 7 KI Singh Rural Municipality, Doti district, praising the initiative and the PARIWARTAN project. It also helps them achieve success.

“We could only see men coming for vital registration or any other work, but women are also coming to ward office seeking services. This is a huge change,” says Ram Bahadur Saud, Ward 3 Chairman of Chaurpati Rural Municipality in Achham district.

He adds that earlier women were only kept in the committees or invited in programs just for the sake of their presence, however, they are now claiming their rights and raising their voices.

“This actually is making a difference and we as a people’s representatives are finding it easier to deal with their demands,” says Saud. “Through this school they have also learned about the process of ward development planning and to find the relevant person to talk to.”

The Good Governance School programme is one of the component of PARIWARTAN project funded by the European Union, implemented in poverty struck communities by DCA with local partners: Equality Development Center (EDC) in Doti, Malika Development Organisation (MDO) in Achham and the technical partner, Inlogos.