This is the story of a process-in-progress; of a unique cohesion worth sharing -with the hope and commitment that Nepal will witness the positive impact of this partnership one day.
Dr. Bishnu Bahadur Bhandary
At the NRA, it was agreed that the earthquake of April 2015 was tragic and devastating but we also tapped into our resilience to treat it as an opportunity to take the learning and experiences from the past as we began physical and social reconstruction towards our strategic vision of “building back better” and closing the historical gaps in terms of gender inequality and social exclusion.
So, right from the inception of NRA’s GESI/Livelihoods in Reconstruction workplan process in October 2017, the NRA GESI/Livelihoods Section formulated a question to guide us and keep us on track in terms of prioritising focus on the excluded and the most vulnerable persons and communities so as to “leave no one behind”: before, during and after an emergency, how do we make GESI work, for and with the most vulnerable?
The quest for answers to this question led to the realization that there was a need for the NRA, in reconstruction and recovery, to gather more knowledge about the situation of women and girls, the vulnerable and the excluded - their strengths, aspirations, enablers and deterrents - and work together towards closing the gaps. We also realized that the knowledge being sought for could only come from the vulnerable and the excluded themselves and needed to create the environment to ensure meaningful participation.
This is the NRA’s core GESI value, and thus, the GESI Concerned Interest group (GESICIG), NRA’s extremely valuable informal partnership, was born. The GESICIG is a loose, voluntary body of Nepal’s major GESI concerned umbrella organizations that represent earthquake-affected community women; media; persons living with disabilities; LGBTI; Dalits; Adibasi and Janajatis; children and youth; senior citizens; and organizations working on GESI focused livelihoods. “Nothing about us, without us” is the integral Mantra followed, and GESICIG is viewed as a core informal advisory body to NRA’s GESI in reconstruction and recovery processes at all levels - to enable the vulnerable and the excluded to meaningfully participate in decisions and processes affecting their lives.
The partnership with GESICIG also came as value added when members provided logistics support to the GESI Analysis of NRA’s Reconstruction and Rehabilitation researchers’ team in each of the 9 identified Districts. The NRA GESI/Livelihoods Section had been able to leverage a small fund for the Analysis from another one of the members. This amount stood at less than half of the funds required for the entire exercise. The field logistics support cut down the projected expenditure by more than half. The fact that the GESICIG was involved right from conceptualizing to developing and refining tools, field testing and covering the researchers’ local costs is considered a shining example of ownership and truly meaningful participation.
Following the recommendations of the GESI Analysis and voices from the ground, we sought to encompass livelihoods and social recovery activities from a GESI perspective beginning with targeted interventions for/with the most vulnerable (Single women 65+, persons living with disabilities-blue/red card holders; Senior citizens- 70+ and children under 16), based on NRA’s Vulnerability Criteria. To date, we have succeeded in carrying out GESI focused livelihoods training and material support in 15 municipalities and rural municipalities of 14 districts.
The GESICIG has traveled with the NRA right from developing the first GESI/Livelihoods Workplan in October 2017 to its finalization and approval in May 2018. Each of the members, representing women, vulnerable and excluded/disadvantaged communities, provided input into the workplan from their experiences, knowledge, work on the ground and aspirations and has pledged support and partnerships throughout the implementation of the workplan and beyond. In the span of 14 months, there have been 8 big coordination meetings hosted by the NRA, and several informal meetings and regular, ongoing email discussions.
The GESICIG has been involved as voluntary sessions designer and resource persons in NRA’s GESI internalization and capacity development exercises. It has been instrumental in adding value to NRA’s livelihoods plans targeted to women, vulnerable/excluded groups and youth, by providing pragmatic advice through discussions, and evidence-based livelihoods programs. These frequent GESICIG interactions work to constantly remind everyone of our initial guiding question, as we work together towards seeking the answers, taking the positives to scale, closing the gaps and making GESI work with/for the most vulnerable.
People say that the NRA’s “purpose partnership” with GESICIG is unique, novel and meaningful. Through this partnership, the GESICIG and the NRA have learned that we need to enhance dignities by facilitating empowerment in ourselves and others by which each vulnerable/excluded person considers themselves less and less as a mere recipient of sympathies, services and benefits and more and more as an equal and rightful partner in development- exemplifying the transformative value of “together” vis-à-vis shared accountability. This accountability is crucial for Nepal and the Nepali people. That is how we see GESI working with/for women and vulnerable groups of people, with diverse degrees of underlying intersections. And that gives us hope.
(Dr. Bhandary is the Member of the NRA Executive Committee)