16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence: Role Models of Economic Empowerment

The 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that runs from the 23rd of November to 10th of December. This campaign was initiated by activists at the Women Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and has continued being organized by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. The chosen theme for this year’s campaign is “Orange the world: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!” 

Sexual abuse and violence is deep rooted in our societies and has been normalized through stigmatization of survivors and forcing of silence. In a society where women do not have the decision-making power within their families, sufficient knowledge, and access to economic opportunities and status; women are taken to be more subservient, exposed to exploitation, and vulnerable to abuse and violence of various kinds.  Today, efforts are being made globally to sensitize women on not condoning violence and to embrace women empowerment. To empower is to raise the economic and social status of women which makes them less likely to get exploited in the society. Here is the story of Mina’s (name changed) struggle with domestic violence and her escape from it through her economic empowerment and how she continues to be a role model for women in her society with the help of Swisscontact implemented Sahaj project.  Sahaj is a project implemented by Swisscontact in Nepal which aims to facilitate increased engagement of smallholder farmers, especially women led-production units and people from disadvantaged backgrounds, in commercial agriculture. Mina is an entrepreneur and social activist from Ilam, Nepal. When Mina was still married, she was a social worker who interacted with a lot of women suffering from domestic violence. Mina said that she saw a lot of women who forgave violence directed towards them because they were economically dependent on their perpetrators. Mina herself was going through a similar experience, so she wanted to earn her own income as a farmer. This did not sit well with her husband and his family, eventually, leading to disputes. Mina pushed on and started her farming business with a loan. The violence from her husband  continued and Mina, who was already economically empowered, filed for divorce and separated from her husband. Her experience encouraged her to start a new life as a woman who could make a positive impact on other women with similar experiences. She now runs a ginger processing company which mainly sells ginger products such as ginger powder and candy. She also provides training to women who are interested in starting their own pickle and ginger company.  In April 2019, Sahaj had partnered with Laxmi Laghubitta Bitiya Sanstha Ltd. to provide knowledge on cultivation practice and crop protection solution on ginger and cardamom farming along with financial literacy training to the women farmers of Ilam and Panchthar. Mina was one of the 24 lead farmers and trainers of ginger and cardamom that were provided Training for Trainers (ToT), conducted by Laxmi Laghubitta. After receiving ToT, she actively offered training to other women farmers regarding production techniques, crop management, and post-harvest. She encourages them to put these practices to use to effectively manage their agricultural businesses. Mina has dedicated a part of her life to activism and takes mentoring of other women as her motivation towards her work and life. She serves as a role model for her trainees who are taught to take things into their own hands and make a mark independently.