Reflection of learning: Chepang Women Groups Act Against COVID-19

Bipin Kumar Shrestha, Progam Officer, ECCA

On 44th day of lockdown, I was watching corona virus related news in the morning as usual. Television, radio, Facebook and every social media had COVID-19 on its headlines. The number of infected and death was rapidly increasing day by day. This news was distressing. On top of it, I was equally sad for not being able to go to my work station in Chitwan.

Within one week of lockdown in Nepal (which started on March 24), ECCA team had already made several plans for organizing COVID-19 prevention themed awareness programs in the Chepang community, ward no. 13, Rapti Municipality, Chitwan, Nepal. Continuous rainfall, storms, landslides, transportation and communication issues, shortage of food and above all, the probable infection and lockdown itself have been the major challenges for organizing the activities. I kept thinking about these issues when Field Assistant Resham Chepang called and informed me that women groups are conducting clean up and door-to-door visit awareness programs in the community by focusing  on importance of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), waste segregation, safe drinking water as well as hand washing techniques during the current health crisis.

Although there was some difficulty in the initial stage to bring the focus of Chepang community on health and sanitation behavioral change, they are now showing relatively more attention on hygiene and sanitation.

In the same context, I started thinking on how Ms. Rina Chepang, secretary of one of the women groups in Gundi, had shared the changes brought by the project on the understanding among the local women and community with the establishment of the group. Group members, who previously believed that the group was formed only for saving credit purpose, have now started to understand that their group can also contribute towards social changes when they are united and work together. And hence, the women groups are now more committed to take actions to protect their families and village against COVID-19. “It would be great if we are provided with relevant pamphlets, posters and other information materials for better effectiveness”, said one of the women group members.

Resham Chepang, ECCA field staff, is himself a member of the Chepang community. He heartily thanked ECCA and the supporting agencies for bringing changes in the Chepang schools, communities, villages and individuals when I was taking the update by mobile phone. He shared that he would provide the program photos soon after reaching Bhandara (located in the south plain area, where there is internet connection) and he did. Since then, I have been consulting with my seniors and fellow field staffs for further improvement in conducting COVID-19 related awareness program.

Finally, I salute Chepang women groups for their selfless action against COVID-19 during this global health crisis. They are the great hope of Chepang community!

Demonstrating self made awarness materials

Self made awareness materials

Group photo of women group member and field staff

Women group members and Resham with self made placard

Teaching handwashing steps

Teaching hand washing steps

Women group discussion on WASH board

Learning from WASH board

Women group member on door to door program

Going for door-to-door visit

Youths see the beauty!

Ashmita Rai, ECCA

Travelling East-West Nepal is my personal quest like any other Nepalese. Adding on this, when your job makes you travel extensively, it’s like living a dream! September 21, 2016, marks the date of the first journey of mine to our project districts – Dhankuta, Morang, and Jhapa, a pursuit of a decade or so to travel to far-eastern Nepal. While writing this in 2020, my counting on the times I went back to these three districts continue to blur, while memories are still sharp and abundant that I’m just memorizing Dhankuta briefly for now.

Dhankuta, an adjoining of mysteriously beautiful hills, rivers, and waterfalls, made me realize why the British Prince Charles stopped by here to enjoy best views. This place is always offering my team an escape from the 40 plus degrees summer heat of Morang and Jhapa. In the villages of quiet hills, bright-eyed and curious villagers happily invite all to enjoy their ambience. It’s more over like, if you are a friend, you are a family!

Rural villages there can be characterized by endless qualities; in the meantime they also must confront several hitches and hiccups. Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, lack of infrastructures, superstition, and many more major problems are there. Hence, considering education in every sense as one of the fundamental factors for sustainable development, with the support of Taksvärkki ry, ECCA has been supporting local youths and school stakeholders of four government schools of Dhankuta for making them child and environmentally friendly schools since 2016!

Creating safe environment and coaching youths to help them see the strength and opportunity in themselves has been the prominent role of ECCA till date. Various programs were conducted on sharing examples of similarly disadvantaged communities that have brought about changes and the roles that youths played in that change. To realize this dream, students are taking an opportunity to transcend beyond books and connect to the grassroots people through community outreach programs. This is making them to understand each other through meaningful encounters and interactions for positive change. They are creating a connection between students, educators, and parents with regular gatherings, awareness, and skills development programs. The previously invisible children to society’s eyes are now taking advantage of their rights. In the villages with little to no road access and the threat of landslides and floods appearing during hour(s) journey to school, it’s tough to attend school through inclement weather but what the students are doing is surely praise worthy.

With a 74 percent literacy rate, the people of Dhankuta are hungry for accessible education. But the threatening fact is, after finishing the 10th grade, students leave their village for higher education towards district headquarter, nearby cities, and even Kathmandu. This loophole causes serious problems for many other lives which dictate quitting education and early marriage of young girls (especially) and boys as every family can’t afford education out of village. But still, I have felt that youths there fight a battle for their lives every day in search of possibilities, as their fundamental rights are not fulfilled yet. Like someone said, “The courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud!”.

School, flood way and landslide!

School, flood way and landslide!

Happy faces!

Happy faces!

Interaction with school stakeholders.

Interaction with school stakeholders

Orientation on Menstrual Hygiene Management.

Orientation on Menstrual Hygiene Management

Dreams of Change

Bipin Kumar Shrestha, Program Officer, ECCA

My first visit to the northern midhills of Chitwan district gave me a proof that the reality about Chepang community and chepangs was far different from my expectations. Chitwan, a place famous for its flat lands, mesmerizing mustard fields, National Park, honey centre, taas (a food variety) and Tharu culture is a rarity in Chepang community. One would feel quite shocked to learn that this community which is part of Municipality and lying only about 16 kilometers from the East-West National Highway, still lacks electricity and communication infrastructures. Nepal government has announced to provide free education till secondary level, but children of this region are not privileged to study even above class 5 (as there is no school above class 5).

On September 23, 2011, Chitwan became the first district to be declared Open Defecation Free zone in Nepal. However, around 96% of households in this community located in ward 13 of Rapti Municipality, Chitwan still lacked toilets as of January 2019. Earlier, different government and non-government organizations had implemented many awareness and support activities. Despite such activities, community participation was still a prime need. Therefore, ECCA focused on community participation from the beginning of the project, which was initiated in October 2018.  As of March 2020, ECCA’s trainings on toilet construction, materials and technical support and awareness programs in schools and women groups has resulted in the construction and use of toilets in around 70% households.

Simana Chepang, ECCA’s current counselor, has her own experience during this change. During one afternoon at the beginning of the project, when I reached Simana’s village Syamrang, she was coming home crying with a wobbling foot. I asked her what happened, to which she replied, “I went around the village to carry stones for repairing my house. As you well know, the road here is quite narrow and slippery as it can be. As I was doing the job, I suddenly slipped on stool and almost fell off the road and died. Had I died, my dreams would have slipped off the cliff (road) along with me”. I listened to her in awe as she elaborated the incident.

Based on first aid knowledge I had learnt few years ago, I applied Betadine ointment and bandaged her foot. During the process, we further conversed about the need of toilet. Simana expressed the difficulty in going far from home with mother and female friends early in the morning for defecation, difficulty in running to the forests during the day and the difficulty especially during menstruation period.

Now that toilet construction is going on in her village, Simana is happy and has thanked ECCA for fulfilling her dream of practically making her village an open defecation free zone. Seeing her happiness ignited an optimistic feeling in me. I feel myself to be lucky to have the opportunity to solve local challenges through local community involvement and thereby turn into reality the dreams of young generation of Chepangs . I thank all the helping hands (BMZ and action medeor) for supporting these dreams.

Inside latrine

Inside of toilet (after completion)

Latrine owner

Proud owner

Program officer providing information regarding latrine

Technical training (toilet with 2 pits)

Simana Chepang and Nitin Maharjan facilitating WASH session

Simana is also helping in creating awareness

Technical Training on Latrine11

Technical training: marking of toilet layout

Walking to visit project site

Difficult village trail

 

Awareness and Prevention for Securing a Better Future

Sujan Rajbahak, ECCA

Currently, the world is facing COVID-19 pandemic crisis like no other. People are dying. Medical professionals are on the front line. The country is locked down and police are doing their best to keep everyone in their homes. Those in essential services, food distribution, delivery, and public utilities work overtime to support the effort of Nepal Government. Efforts are being made to spread awareness about COVID-19, so as to prevent loss of life.

ECCA is creating awareness about COVID-19 in its project area – wards 5, 6, 7 & 8 of Bheri Minicipality, Jajarkot district, Province 6. The village lies in a hilly area in Mid-Western region of Nepal.

The awareness activities are being carried by maintaining social distance. The ECCA field staffs and social workers from the respective ward are spreading information about the preventive measures through the speakers without gathering people. Also, pamphlets are pasted in many public places and distributed. Proper hand washing steps are also taught. Further, people returning from other countries are identified, separately placed and kept under observation.

It is hoped that such effort saves the loss of many lives and that behavior changes towards healthy habits can be seen in the people in the future.

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HAND HYGIENE, OUR FUTURE!

Ashmita Rai

The Covid-19 outbreak has left many people more alone than they’ve been in a long time, or ever. Some are responding by involving in cozy domesticity; steaming momos, reading books, sketching, writing and what not? Besides all the coziness, the satisfaction provided by social media is an extravaganza! And why not? Influence goes both ways – isolation drives social media use and vice versa. And I couldn’t be any further!

While doing some official works, I steal enough time to scroll the screen of my phone flooded with information related to preventing the pandemic spreading even more. Among all the information, hand washing and sanitation related things grab my attention with WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) being one of my working sectors. Just to mention a few, famous national-international portals, FM radios, celebrities and their kids, tiktok dance challenge, they all are doing their part for teaching a proper hand washing technique. To level up, we can also go through the videos of animals washing their paws!

I feel so connected with all of these that eventually I start looking back to my working sites – the villages very far away from Kathmandu – and the people over there. Those would be hard places to get rid of the coronavirus once it hits there. I wish I could work with them to assess their exposure more during this emergency. But somewhere in my heart, I feel that like always, they are doing their best in their individual level for personal hygiene as they have come a long way till date.

Being a part of numerous Children Camps, WASH Trainings/Orientations and Interaction Programs organized by ECCA from early days, the child club and women group members committed themselves wholeheartedly in their personal improvement since then. As a result, these days they themselves are a good practitioner of all seven steps of hand washing. It’s so admirable to go back on how they helped others practice good hand washing habits in their school, home and community. I believe those big hoarding boards with WASH messages placed by ECCA in the communities are alarming the community people to wash their hands more frequently. I hope the chlorine solution (branded as WATASOL) made by the child clubs are working out as a good disinfectant in their home and community.

While counting on every lockdown day, I look forward to seeing the students return back to normal school days soon and continuing dancing on hand washing song in their assembly! May the challenges posed by this time of fear and uncertainty in our lives and futures of our families, communities, countries, and the wider world go away soon.

A student facilitating hand washing steps to the school stakeholdersA student facilitating the steps HAND WASHINGHoarding BoardIMG_20170815_083327

Building Equity for All!

Ashmita Rai

Working in different remote outpost locations, my journey this time scheduled for the remotest of the remote part of Nepal for the need assessments of the locals.  Inhabited by the majority of indigenous Chepang tribe, the four villages (Chauding, Kanda, Sarling, Symrang) of Chitwan District I visited are the major ambitious project sites of ECCA.

As December was getting chiller every day & night, me along with my colleagues were emptying our rucksacks and adding up the layers of clothes on our body! Lying on mat with sleeping bag was not helping our tired cold body for a warm nap.

While we were adjusting with the bone-chilling winter, a seven months old baby covered with just a thin blanket seemed sleeping well next to us without proper bedding. Most of the locals, including children and old aged people, were still on their severely ripped summer wear, bare foot with winter cracks all over the body. And there was a person like me, regretting for not bringing gloves!

While sharing my scariest field work memory, I had previously shared my experience of barely escaping two major road accidents while making the journey to remote villages in Dolakha district. This time, I have a different experience!

While traveling from one village to another, the narrow foot paths we made through were extremely dangerous. I crawled my baby steps with weight and balance calculation, taking the help of tree branches and grasses. At one point of time, I could neither move forward nor turn back. A miss of balance and I could fall down the steep hill. But our team cooperation worked well and paid out with the locals sharing the difficulties faced in their livelihood, especially during sickness and accidental medical needs. Their indigenous knowledge about herbal medicine is the only way working out there!

Schools are running classes up to grade 3 and there is no option in the village to continue the classes forward from grade 3. Students are compelled to repeat grade 3 for 2-3 years continuously in thirst of education; after which, they quit school, do household work, get married, or leave village in search of work.

All the students from ECD to grade 3 assemble inside the same class room and learn the same subject matter. We can hardly see the students with their own book, copy, and pencil. There are so many students who even don’t know how to write their name despite of being in grade 3.

So many children face malnutrition. The flattened rice offered as day meal by the local government at school is the first meal of the day for majority of the students. Despite of all these things, it cracked out my heart when I saw them singing national anthem so proudly with their little hands on their chest.

Barely 1% of total households have toilets. Waking up in the dark for open defecation in nearby forest is the first ritual of every individual before starting the day. During our stay in one village, a young girl slipped on stool and hurt her cheek so badly. I wonder how hard it will be for the new moms, menstruating and pregnant women, and elderly people. Each household comprises of teenage mothers and foreign employee.

Neglecting the irony of these villages being constituted inside the municipality, each village is luminous in the dark (without electricity supply) with beautiful human hearts! No complains to any one, just give and take of happiness. I remember a quote by John Lennon, “When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘ HAPPY’.” Yeah, they seemed happy! But I also do remember another quote I heard, “those who have never embraced the feeling of being happy, they can never realize that they are living in sadness”.

But it’s really a time for defending dignity & challenging marginalization. A great initiative of ECCA ….. doing what’s crucial …. not just doing what is easy!

Polish_20191230_222402424Polish_20191230_222956847Polish_20191230_222723617

Dolakha, where my journey of miles started!

Ashmita Rai

18th April, 2016! The day I made my way towards Dolakha, the first work station of my professional life. For me, it was another trial moving from a dependent teenager towards an independent adult. Since my first visit, I became so conjoined with Dolakha that I have, right now, lost the counting on how many times I traveled back and forth. In short, Dolakha has been my home away from home!

Being the worst hit district in the 2015 earthquake, I, along with my colleagues, constantly worked in earthquake affected regions (Mirge, Gairimudi, Namdu, Jhule, Bhirkot). Carrying on the goal, ECCA started working in Japhe village (Ward no. 3, Tamakoshi Rural Municipality) since January 2019.

With 1450 households, the population is approximately 7,000 and majority of the population in the village depends on agriculture, livestock, labour work for their livelihood and most of the youth migrate to urban town or Arab countries for employment opportunities and higher studies. The number of marginalized and under-represented communities is also quite enormous.

Japhe has six government schools spread from the base of a mighty hill to its uppermost. One can reach to the base (Dunde Bazar) through 1.5 hours of vehicle ride from district headquarter Charikot and from there the bumpy road starts uphill! I recall two scariest memories of mine. Once our vehicle slid down at an inclined hill after brake failure, the driver somehow managed to make it stop before we fell down from the edge. In the second incident, despite of carefulness, the vehicle slid down the steep hill as the road was narrow & slippery. I immediately jumped out of the vehicle & the driver crawled out slowly from the opposite door. It was like a nightmare for me. The roads in Japhe can be beyond expectation based on the weather and never-ending road construction work. Apart from this challenge, the beautiful landscape and the hospitality of people here never ceased to amaze us.

To improve health and sanitation behavior of schools and communities, collaboration with child club, school stakeholders, women group, and other community people is going on in a very impressive way. Among the many ways that the village has changed over a year, the most important are the behavioral change regarding personal hygiene, menstrual hygiene management, child club empowerment and regularity of students in school. A concrete result of all the software & hardware programs will soon be imprinted! Way forward for the year 2020!

For now, I want to express my gratitude to Dolakha for being so resilient!

IMG20191015171306IMG20191015175645

Experiences of Paul

From the Antenna Foundation as a Business Development, Paul Duperrex was in ECCA from July to October 2018. He was closing the Safe Water Program and helped to develop new projects between Antenna and ECCA.

“It was my first time in Nepal, and luckily for me, starting to work with ECCA was really easy and nice. All the colleagues from ECCA gives me a warm welcome and I was immediately integrated to the team.”

Paul was happy to discover the well organization in ECCA. “Everybody has a role to play and the people know what to do. Also I was surprised by the structure of the project in itself.”

The leitmotiv of ECCA is really relevant to understand how they work:

“If you are planning for a year, plant rice,

If you are planning for 10 years, plant tree,

If you are planning for 100 years, educate your children.”

In his first weeks in Nepal, Paul had the opportunity to travel with the ECCA’s team to the district of Dolakha. “It was a wonderful start to know the culture and be familiar with it. Also I had the opportunity to know better the team and it was helpful for my work afterwards.”

In this trip, Paul visited the schools in the area and interviewed the principals.

Afterwards, back in Kathmandu, Paul continued his visit in the schools in the district of Lalitpur in the south of the capital.

All these visits allowed him to complete reports for SDC and to report the progress done to Antenna.

Also, a need of garden has been identified in the schools. All the principals of the schools wanted to develop or create a garden in their School. Fortunately, Antenna had a new department in Agro-Ecology. Thus, ECCA and Antenna are working to create a project on garden in schools.

Other than this, Paul worked with ECCA to improve the communication through their website and provided ways to do fundraising.

Finally, ECCA and Paul worked on a way to present the impact of the school program based on the surveys done in the schools. In few words, ECCA will soon have a presentation available to everyone that shows the progress of the school program and the impact of the program on the behavior of the population.

Concerning the communication, Paul organized a photo shooting in some schools, during door-to-door program, and in the lab of ECCA.

The purpose was to provide good and quality pictures to ECCA and to Antenna for their communication. “Apart from the job, it was a nice activity to do. We always had a lot of fun with the students, and Manisha from ECCA is a nice girl, so I was very happy to do it !”.

The Nepal visit was a life changing experience for Paul. “It opens your eyes on the rest of the world. Also, Nepalese are extremely friendly and generous. Everybody tells me that once you have been in Nepal, you will come back. I think I will make no exception on this.

Therefore, I want to say to ECCA: See you soon!”

Paul in dolakhaPaul in labPaul interacting with nature club

 

GLOBE Learning Expedition to Lake City Pokhara, Nepal

DSC07836

GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Learning Expedition was conducted from October 2 to 8, 2018 at various places of Nepal. GLOBE Asia Pacific Regional Coordination Office and Indian Environmental Society conducted the program in association with ECCA, which has been working to implement GLOBE program in Nepal. Coordination was done by Mr. Yogendra Chitrakar, GLOBE Country Coordinator for Nepal cum  Executive Director of ECCA and Dr. Desh Bandhu, Coordinator of GLOBE Asia Pacific Regional Coordination Office and Indian Environmental Society.

The program started from virtual welcome speech of The GLOBE Implementation Office (GIO) Executive Director Dr. Tony Murphy. The main objective of the program was to create a platform for exchanging learning and experience related to the GLOBE program along with cultural exchange. The expedition welcomed 44 participants from 5 countries (7 from Oman, 15 from Taiwan, 8 from Thailand, 6 from Nepal and 8 from India). Students, Teachers, and GLOBE teachers received an opportunity to conduct GLOBE protocols together in Pokhara, the City of Lakes.

Major Activities of the expedition included hydrological protocol, Mosquito Habitat protocol , as well as soil study by participants at Phewa Lake and also the cloud cover observation in World Peace (White Gumba), and they also visited Davis falls. The team of ECCA and Indian Environment Society facilitated the protocols learning.

Prof. Dr. Hameed Sulaiman Lebbai, GLOBE Science Working Group member gave the presentation on why GLOBE program data is important and how the data can be utilized. He talked about the different protocols of GLOBE, its use, measurement, and importance in human life.

“I really liked the hospitality of Nepal along with sharing of our GLOBE related knowledge”, said  PINBANGON SUPANTAWEE, a student from Thailand.

“It`s my first time to participate in this GLOBE program. From here I learnt many more things about GLOBE Protocols and now I feel like I have many years experiences about how to observe globe protocols. So I am really thankful towards GLOBE and Nepal,” said MARIAM HANAN a student from Oman.

“When I do GLOBE protocols in Taiwan, I was quite confused but when I did same protocols in Nepal, I have more confidence. I really enjoyed the company of you all”said CHAN, YU-CHEN, a student from Taiwan.

“I really enjoyed the company of Nepal and other countries as well. I learnt different ways to observe different protocols of GLOBE program and I was also able to know the benefits of GLOBE protocols towards environment and our general life.  I learnt how to observe mosquito habitat mapper – it was new for us, but now I am clear about this protocol” said SURYATEJA VANAMA a student from India.

This expedition encouraged us to do GLOBE program regularly in our school. We get chance to learn many ideas from different countries and how they are working. We  will also teach this to our friends and juniors. We are really thankful to you all for giving us the chance to participate here,” said BIPLAB and PRASHANT, students from Nepal.

On October 7, 2018, the team visited ICIMOD Biodiversity Knowledge Park to gain an idea on  organic farming, standard Biodiversity of Nepal, different environmental technologies and use of scientific advancements for analyzing and conserving Hindu Kush Himalayan Region (HKH Region). Next visit was to Crescent Academy School, where the students welcomed the team by Nepali culture and interaction was held about the scenario of GLOBE program in the respective countries. Thereafter, the team visited Swayambhu stupa, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu.

The program was ended at Grand Hotel with the certificate distribution, personal experience sharing and  gift exchanging.

observing transparency at fewa lake-mmeasurement of hydrological protocal-mData Entry of Cloud Protocal-m

students are involving to observing the data entry in mosquito habitat-mIdentification of Larva-m

31st ECCA Day Celebration

Happy ECCA Day.

Today, July 21, 2018, ECCA celebrated the completion of 31 years.

Congratulations to All.IMG_20180721_161647IMG_20180721_164244IMG_20180721_142333IMG_20180721_154107IMG_20180721_15471637100488_1384482964987631_7256072244131004416_n37132278_1384483684987559_1607163301735694336_n

ECCA family is thankful towards Government of Nepal, local government bodies, communities, schools, all international and national agencies, resource persons, volunteers, counselors, staffs and all the well wishers for the support it has been receiving.

Congratulations to Mr. Sujan Rajbahak for becoming “Counselor of the Year 2018” and other nine “Top Counselor of the Year 2018”.