This week we’ve launched our new impact report, which focuses on how we change lives through integrated programmes in health, education and livelihoods.
For our 2019 Impact Report, we wanted to focus on a growing area of our work, women’s empowerment. Whether we’re increasing capacity for maternal healthcare, supporting mothers’ groups with methods to prevent malnutrition, empowering girls through education, or training female farmers, women and girls are at the heart of all our projects. Previous PHASE projects have shown, that when we increase opportunities for women, many others in the community also benefit, increasing impact and offering a long-term route out of poverty.
The power of empowering women and girls is widely acknowledged within studies, frameworks and guidance within international development. Gender equality and women’s empowerment features prominently in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Evidence shows, when more women work, economies grow (International Monetary Fund), with gender gaps estimated to affect the GDP of each country by at least 15% (OECD: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). Women comprise 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries worldwide but are under-represented within high-yield or profit varieties and have little access to training. If they had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by at least 20–30% (Global Agriculture).
Increased educational attainment is estimated to be responsible for around 50% of the economic growth in OECD member states over the last 50 years. Increasing education for all ensures more children are able to access quality education and opportunities in the future. PHASE believes all three aspects are essential to achieving a life beyond poverty, and this integrated approach is reflected across all our programmes.
Around the world, 800 women die every day from pregnancy-related complications, most of these in lower- and middle-income countries (World Bank). In the Far West of Nepal, the maternal mortality rate is 320/100,000, compared to a national figure of 239/100,000. 50% of cases of child mortality in children under the age of 5 in Nepal are malnutrition-related. Not only a threat to life, malnutrition can also damage cognitive and physical development, having a long-term impact on the lives of children. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy can cause stillbirth and miscarriage. Vitamin A deficiency is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in children. Iron deficiency also increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby and premature delivery.
Although they vary in each area PHASE works in, malnutrition rates are high in Far West Nepal. A recent survey found that 7.3% of children in Bichhaya suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition. In Rugin 73% of children were found to suffer from Moderate Acute Malnutrition. Both a threat to a child’s long-term health, PHASE works to both treat the immediate needs of mothers and children severely affected by malnutrition, and to prevent further cases, or children at risk of developing severe malnutrition.
The first 1000 days is a key window of opportunity to prevent key risks to children’s health, and particularly malnutrition. This starts by working with women and their families in the early stages of pregnancy, promoting behavioural change and increasing understanding around antenatal care.
One of the ways PHASE Worldwide works to empower women living in remote areas is through the training and placement of Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) at our community health posts. Maternal and child mortality rates have been drastically reduced for communities in which a PHASE Worldwide supported health post is present. Further improvements are to be expected, with a project to train ANMs to become Skilled Birth Attendants over the next 2 years.
The Global Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank, Muhammad Ali Pate believes that ‘improving women’s, adolescent’s and children’s health and wellbeing is an important part of creating conditions for lasting development’. This statement reflects PHASE’s emphasis on prevention and building a strong future for children from day one. This is in continued support of SDG 1: ensuring healthy lives and wellbeing for all.
PHASE’s livelihoods work has two focuses: improving food security and income generation.
In Nepal, 1.7 million children under the age of 5 years old are currently suffering from at least one form of malnutrition (World Health Organisation). Less than 20% of those living in remote areas have access to a secure food supply all year round, posing a risk to health for all, but especially pregnant mothers and young children, whose nutritional requirements are essential for future health.
The role of women in livelihoods, and particularly agriculture is under-represented, despite over 80% of women being involved in agriculture in Nepal. Women are vital to the main source of livelihoods for the majority of the country, and yet their role is not formalised, with a lack of training and support meaning that many rely on subsistence farming. The effects of climate change are making it harder to grow enough food each year, making it vital that this potential is not wasted.
In many remote areas, a shift in work cultures and conditions means that male family members seek work in urban areas or abroad. Women are left to manage the land and grow enough food to feed their families, most having never had access to any training. For this reason, PHASE focuses its efforts on female farmers. Training is given to farmers in animal husbandry, seed production, kitchen garden management and crop cultivation, with the aim of increasing access to nutritional foods all year round, by providing support and resources and improving knowledge of effective farming techniques.
Additionally, PHASE supports the establishment of farmers groups and cooperatives, creating a network of support for female farmers to access training, markets, savings advice and finance. This gives women the option to create a small income from their agriculture, further promoting self-sufficiency. This also leads to women being more involved in household decision making which improves the overall quality of life for families.
PHASE Worldwide believes that access to education is a basic human right and vital in the development of happier, healthier communities. However, the gap between males and females in this respect is vast. Girls and rural communities are being left behind in Nepal, with the male literacy rate at 71% and only 44% for females (Nepal: Living Standards Survey).
In 2015-16 28% of children in Nepal did not attend school at all but the statistics showed that this was made up of mostly girls (Nepal: Annual Household Survey). The same survey collected data that suggested primary school completion rates are under 30% for boys and under 20% for girls and Unicef quote that only 42% of girls in Nepal reach secondary school.
PHASE Worldwide supports SDG 4: equal access to quality education across the world. PHASE works with communities, Parent Teacher Associations and School Management Committees to raise awareness of the importance of education for all and promote change in the way education for girls is valued. Alongside formal education, PHASE supports girls’ empowerment programmes which aim to increase confidence and teach leadership skills. These kinds of projects also rais awareness about the dangers of Chaupadi (menstrual exclusion), child marriage and trafficking.
PHASE Worldwide has also been working to address problems with literacy in adult women in Nepal. Basic literacy and numeracy have been found to be essential in making sure citizens are engaged and able to nurture healthy, prosperous families (World Bank). Without education, women may experience difficulties in engaging in their community later in life.
In this year’s report, you’ll hear the stories of Maiya, Esmita, Bachkali; women and girls who have been supported by PHASE Worldwide in 2019 and are creating lasting change in their communities. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all, whichever way you got involved with our work over the last year, and we hope you enjoy reading about what your support has achieved.
If you would like to support the work of PHASE Worldwide and help us to continue empowering people living in isolated regions of Nepal the best way to do so is through regular giving. Even the smallest amount a month can make a huge difference. As a regular supporter you will receive exclusive updates and will become part of the PHASE family. You can set up your regular gift easily and securely online.
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