“The world will change when our girls and our women are educated.” -Maggie Doyne
The Kopila Valley Women’s Center serves the most at-risk and vulnerable women in our community with life-changing vocational and empowerment training. We believe that investing in women and girls creates healthier families, more prosperous communities, and more peaceful nations.
Many women in Surkhet still struggle with unsafe living environments, lack of access to education, and little economic opportunity. When we talk to Women’s Center trainees, we hear stories of abuse, deprivation, and loss: 94% have experienced domestic or gender-based violence; 97% report little to no knowledge of their legal rights prior to joining our program; 32% have had no access to schooling; 51% were married before the age of 18*.
Behind each of these numbers is a vulnerable, yet powerful woman. She may have been kept isolated in her husband’s home, but now she seeks independence. She may have been married at a young age and unable to go to school, but now she pursues an opportunity to learn. She may have endured an abusive childhood, but now she demands a better future. She is a fighter who has the will and courage needed to improve her life. Through a combination of vocational training, empowerment education, and comprehensive counseling, the Women’s Center aims to provide each of our trainees with the tools necessary to do just that.
Thanks to our supporters, like Dining For Women, the Women’s Center opened its doors in 2013. Over the years, the vocational program has evolved to address women’s technical interests and the changing markets in Surkhet and has included instruction in sewing and tailoring, traditional weaving, and a cosmetology course on women’s care and personal services. As of December 2018, the Center has provided over 130 women with certification in a vocational skill. Through this training, our graduates can leave harsh physical labor work to seek dignified careers, find higher paying jobs, and pursue new economic opportunities. Purchase your own goods and support the Women's Center programming here.
In addition to vocational training, the Women’s Center offers critical personal and professional education to all our trainees. Through our comprehensive empowerment course, trainees build self-confidence and self-advocacy skills, learn about health and wellness, are educated on women's rights and Nepali law, and practice basic math, writing, and business skills. Additionally, each trainee has round the clock access to counseling services, which provides mediation, legal support, and general stress and trauma care and management.
Our community empowerment workshops aim to further increase the impact and reach of our curriculum. By December 2018, over 200 women from the surrounding area attended one of our day-long workshops, including self-empowerment, family planning and reproductive health, women’s rights, and entrepreneurship sessions. Providing this information to women and girls is crucial to supporting the rise of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Surkhet.
The goal of the Women’s Center is to enable more women to find independence and take control of their livelihoods. This vision becomes reality when we see our graduates start their own weaving or sewing businesses, or bring the professional development skills they have learned to other fields, like starting a vegetable business in the market or increasing business on the family farm. Of recent graduates, 75% reported an increase in monthly or yearly income and there was a 25% increase in employment after graduation**.
In 2018, several graduates from the Center’s sewing and weaving programs came together to form their own Cooperative. These women are currently producing hand woven and expertly tailored products, including shawls, blankets, home goods, bags, clothing, and more. Learn more about their business and support their success here.
Photos by Molly Haley
Beyond job skills and empowerment training, the Women’s Center offers something uniquely special - a safe space to learn, to create, to grow, and to heal. Within our walls, friendships blossom and women of all ages and backgrounds come together to support and uplift each other.
The magic of the Center lies within the brilliance of the women: past graduates who are leading the way, current trainees working hard each and every day, and future members who are determined to make a change. Our graduates are inspiring the next generation by showing them that education is the best way to break down social and economic barriers. They are working to ensure their own girls are educated, which reduces the risk of exploitation, encourages delayed marriage and childbirth, and ultimately leads to a more skilled and productive labor force in the community.
The Center provides the tools, but it is the strength, determination, and hope of these amazing women that drive progress and change within our community. That is the core premise – and promise – of the Kopila Valley Women’s Center.
*Statistics based on weaving classes 1-4.
** Statistics based on weaving classes 1-3.