– Since I got involved in this project, I can speak for my rights, says Srijana Chaudhary.
She has her own business producing pressed vegetables, living in the small town of Gadhwa in the Dang district of Midwestern Nepal. Today she is in Lamahi, for the last session of a three-day long training on business management conducted by SWAN. This training is part of the POWER project, which has been ongoing for the last two years and is now coming to an end. The focus of the intervention has been the economic empowerment of different marginalized groups and the participants each represent a group formed by right holders in these communities.
Access to fertile land is a big issue in today’s Nepal. Farmers are living under poor conditions and working on other peoples’ land without getting their share of the profit. However, these groups do have the right to own parts of the land they cultivate. The issue of land rights is something which SWAN has been advocating for since it was formed in 1994. The landless communities have historically been marginalized and silenced. This is why SWAN raises awareness by putting pressure on local stakeholders, and by supporting the people without land to speak for their rights.
Srijana’s business started small, but she has expanded it bit by bit and now she even has a vehicle for transporting produce from the field to the marketplace. Srijana runs the business together with her husband and their two children, who both help out on the field when they are not in school.
Eleven years ago she became a member of one of the local Land Right Forums, which SWAN has a long-running partnership with. When she heard about the forum and about her rights as landless, she immediately thought that this was something for her. She soon became president of her group and she says that she is very proud of what they have achieved so far.
– I have a belief in my own abilities and I feel that I can speak about my ideas. I feel that I have power!
The members of the Land Right Forums are advocating for their rights as landless, and they support each other in their businesses. They also get to participate in trainings for management or specific skill development. In this way, they feel encouraged to become self-dependent, says Srijana.
In this training, the participants are learning how to manage their businesses more efficiently. The day started with a group discussion on how to increase the profit from the products that they sell, for example by selling it through a wholesaler instead of directly to the market. In this way, they get a more secure income. The idea is then that the representatives pass this knowledge on to each cooperative.
Srijana has big hopes for the future. She wants to expand her business further and eventually get her own employees. She says that she wants to be a role model for other business persons. But first, she wants access to land so that she can build a better and safer home for her family. Today she has the tools she needs to be an active part of making that happen.
By: Emma Aler, IM intern.