Young and Empowered Mothers of Sneh Program

The engine accelerated as we bounced up and down the seats of our ride to visit the third group of the day in Jaretar. It was August 1st, the opening of the Sneh Program for pregnant and young mothers aged 14-24 in Panchkhal Municipality, Kavre. We clutched to our seats as we rode through Jhiku River, a tributary of the Sun Koshi River to reach our destination. We were stunned to know that the only road to Jaretar was a river, which was not possible to cross during monsoon.

Finally, after a couple of bounces, we reached Jaretar. A young girl preparing for the opening day welcomed us. She was Hishila Danuwar, the 19-year old co-facilitator of the team. She informed us that her mother, Tulsi Danuwar, the trainer of the team was on her way. The mother-daughter duo was all ready for the opening day and the topic of the day was written beautifully on a paper and stuck on the whiteboard behind them. Soon, the participants started arriving and the session began.

“I couldn’t have done it without Hishila”, says Tulsi Danuwar, after the completion of the 15-day training. “She supported me and used to teach me how to deal with each topic. We discussed the training while cooking food, working in the fields, and even during our spare time,” she adds.

Tulsi Danuwar seemed very pleased to work with her daughter and Hishila agrees with her mother. “I was glad to work with my mother because she is my closest friend,” says Hishila.
Hishila also mentions that it was a new experience since she has not worked with women older than herself and her mother by her side helped her a lot.

Tulsi and Hishila come from a Danuwar community, a marginalized group in Nepal. Hishila tells us about the high rate of child marriage in her community. As many as 88.1% of participants in the Sneh program were Danuwars.

Sneh program was divided into four groups in different places like Baluwa, Jaretar, Tinghare, and Aapghari with a total of 55 young mothers. Initially, the program was planned for March but due to the nationwide lockdown and global pandemic, the training was shifted to August, when the transportation was feasible. We followed the COVID-19 guidelines of the government and conducted the workshop with safety, including the three-day TOT (training of trainers). All the participants and trainers of the program are safe.

Sneh program trains pregnant and young mothers aged 14-24 on hygiene, maternal and infant health, family planning, mental wellbeing, communication and negotiation skills, and financial literacy.

“My mother-in-law enrolled me in the workshop. I learned about taking care of a child and breastfeeding, which was relatable to me as a new mother. I knew about the importance of having a gap between two children in the topic of family planning which I will apply in my life,” says Aarti (name changed), an 18-year-old mother of a five-month old child.

Though it took some time for the participants and the trainers to get to know each other, they soon started interacting and engaging with each other.

“I was nervous in the first session, but gradually, when I started talking and sharing with the participants, it became easy,” says trainer Muna Shrestha from Aapghari.

Other trainers had similar reflections. Nevertheless, trainers’ work was effective. Before the workshop, only 54.2% of participants responded that menstruation is natural, and after the Sneh workshop, 89.3% agreed that it is a natural process. 23-year old mother Bhumika (name changed) also stated, “I learned menstruation is a natural process so now I will not be shy to talk about it and I can hang my clothes (cloth pad) I used during menstruation in the sun.”
On the closing day of the workshop on 15 August, only our team member who lives in Kavre could join the ceremony. The participants performed dramas on family planning and menstrual taboo, they wrote and sang a song dedicated to the Sneh program and Hishila even made a paper crafted “Our Turn” on the last day. We were glad to see the enthusiasm and energy of the empowered young mothers and their young children who would sometimes tail with their mothers to the training.

We were glad to contribute to the community where awareness is vital especially during the pandemic, and even more so to have it successfully done with the help of residents of Panchkhal Municipality and our team.

small_20200801080530_IMG_5643

small_20200801080812_IMG_5652

small_20200801081121_IMG_5664

small_20200801083001_IMG_5705

small_IMG_20200801_110609

small_IMG_20200801_113522

small_IMG_20200801_115742

small_IMG_20200801_120300

Sneh program 1

Sneh program 3

Sneh program 4

Sneh Program 2