You don’t have to brave it alone in Nepal.
I love my Cheer Squad. No, not the type with pompoms; the people who believe in my dreams unconditionally, the ones who always manage to inspire me and remind me why I am on this path, the ones with whom a single conversation can send me soaring with ideas and energy.
I have always believed in the importance of having a Cheer Squad to support me and believe in me through all the challenges and opportunities life throws my way. But I never completely appreciated the power of chains of supporters, networks of women, until I started working in Nepal.
Mitrataa’s Daisy Chains project works to empower women through literacy, financial literacy, business literacy and entrepreneurial studies. The women complete a feasibility study and launch a business with some seed money. They do not pay the money back to Mitrataa – they pay it forward to the next group of women, and then they mentor them through the process, creating a chain of passionate, inspired, confident women to support each other. The women complete the nine month program and go into business in groups of 20. We initially decided to encourage them to do it in a group to ensure they could support each other, particularly as many of them live hand to mouth and a day’s lost wages due to illness or a sick child often meant no food that evening. In a shared business, they can take turns, manage the business together, work around their family responsibilities. And this they did, creating an energy which was a privilege to watch.
But there was an unexpected aspect of these new networks, or Cheer Squads, that we had not anticipated. Many of the women were victims of domestic violence. The legal system in Nepal is very slow moving and getting the police interested in pursuing a case against an abusive spouse is very challenging. Often, all a man needs is a connection with the police or the court and the case would disappear. So the women search for alternative ways to minimise the abuse. The women started visiting the homes of the battered wives in their Daisy Chains group on a rostered basis, calling in unannounced to keep the abuser on his toes, bringing over meals, staying to watch their favourite series on TV. Often with domestic violence, if you can interrupt the moment of anger in the abuser, the urge to beat passes, even if temporarily. The women also encouraged children in the neighbourhoods to knock on the door if they heard a woman screaming or a man yelling abuse in order to take the wind out of his anger. Their solutions were creative and wide-spread – and very effective.
One story has stuck with me very strongly; protecting a woman who had been brave enough to file a police case and pursue it through to a court hearing after her husband had poured kerosene over her and lit her on fire. Her husband was well connected and she knew the judge was going to let him off; but she underestimated the power of her Cheer Squad. All 19 other women in her group attended the hearing, standing at the back of the court, glaring menacingly at the judge, their arms folded across their brightly coloured saris. The judge paused, uncertain of what to do, glanced up at the women lining the rear of his courtroom, and declared the man guilty. He was sentenced to 15 years in gaol. The women turned and filed out, silent and dignified, before erupting into squeals of joy outside.
These women inspire me every day with their resilience; their Cheer Squads are often quite literally the difference between life and death. The energy of these networks builds and gives them courage to continue to fight the battles and pursue their dreams.
I am grateful that my Cheer Squad has never had to physically protect me from abuse. I also firmly believe that I would not be able to achieve even half of what I do without their cheers, their comfort in challenging times and their companionship and celebrations in times of joy.
Cherish your Cheer Squad. Celebrate the incredible gift they give you. The women of Nepal sure do.
So who is in your Cheer Squad? Contact one of them today to say thanks. It will give you both a huge blast of energy and cloak you with love for the rest of the day.
Bec Ordish – Women’s Empowerment
Bec is passionate about learning and about life. She wears many hats through which she explores her passions, including running the Mitrataa Foundation, an organisation she founded 13 years ago to provide women and girls in Nepal with the skills and knowledge to empower themselves. Her dream is to be an inspirationalist – someone who inspires others to believe in themselves and achieve their dreams, to find their gift to the world. If we build on what is working, on our gifts and passions, we can tackle any problem faced by the world. She lives in Nepal with her two daughters, Nimu and Saraswoti. Bec can be contacted at www.mitrataa.org
Life Balance = Laughter. Cuddles. Conversations.