EWB-RMP member Jon Monson conducted the following interview with the Green City Women's Group (GCWG) based in Ilam, Nepal. The interview took place at the GCWG office in Ilam during some rare downtime on a RMP assessment trip in August 2015. Asmina Dhakal, a community mobilizer at RMP's partner organization, the Namsaling Community Development Center (NCDC), provided translation.
On this Sunday morning, Rina Ghimire, Narvka Khatri, and Devi Bhattrai were busy recycling green soda bottles into vertical garden plots. The vertical gardens have been installed in ten schools around Ilam to provide greenery where there was only concrete. The women meet monthly to plan their activities and much more often to implement their selected projects.
The women's group was formed in June 2013 as a response to the Ilam Green City designation the year before by the government of Nepal. In 2014 the municipality of Ilam was recognized by the national government as the number two Green City in Nepal, and the GCWG set their sights to help the municipality gain the top spot in the next year. Rina is president and also the wife of Kaji Ghule the head of NCDC. Narvka is treasurer, and Devi is one of the 11 active members of the group. They have a total membership of 35 and often coordinate with other groups on larger projects. In addition to creating green spaces throughout the municipality of Ilam, the group has focused on raising awareness of women, especially in the areas of waste management and kitchen gardens. For instance, year ago the GCWG sponsored a contest for the best kitchen garden, selecting the top three gardens from the nine wards of Ilam municipality. Top prize was Rs 5000 (approximately $100), in addition to receiving seeds of various varieties. Sanitation and hygiene, improved cook stoves to reduce indoor air pollution (a major environmental health concern for women and children), and strengthening local organizations of women are all other areas of activity by the women of GCWG.
As is appropriate for their name, the Green City Women's Group has coordinated and implemented many green beautification projects in Ilam over the last two years. The Ilam District administrative complex is continuously busy with between 50 and 100 people doing business there at any one time. The complex is clustered around a large reflecting pool. Built about 12 years ago, the pool was in disrepair, dry and full of mud and trash. Two months ago, with funding from the Urban Development Office the GCWG provided the drive and construction management to renovate the pool, which was cleaned out, fenced, planted with flowers, and filled with harvested rainwater. The pool now provides a beautiful centerpiece for the administrative complex. The pool can is also used as a fire protection reservoir for the municipal fire protection service.
The GCWG have created many other beautification projects. They have created an entryway arch to welcome visitors to Ilam and have renovated the plaza in the center of the market square to be a showplace of local flowers. Their vertical gardens are seen everywhere around the market. The women also act as unofficial monitors of the local vendors to minimize waste and trash around the market place.
One of the more recent areas of interest for the women's group are abandoned children in the villages around Ilam. Often when men leave the country to work abroad, their wives must remarry in order have support. Occasionally, the new husband will not accept the woman's children who are then abandoned to be on their own. The GCWG have identified between 16 and 20 children between ages of eight and fifteen who are in this situation. The women are creating a program to monitor the nutrition and well being of these children and to connect them with the appropriate government agency.
The Green City Women's Group is a highly successful active public improvements group run by and for the women of the community of Ilam who are doing their part to make Green City Ilam a model city for Nepal. RMP loves having the opportunity to work in such a progressive and exciting community in Ilam! The GCWG is just one example of the incredible people in this community who are dedicated to improving quality of life by implementing sustainable, locally driven projects.