We expect heroes to come in strength, battle the villains and save the day for the grateful victim. But that’s for fairytales, not the real world. In low socio-economic communities where the villains are named Poverty, Injustice, Discrimination and Hunger, the heroes are everyday people who step up to transform life for themselves, their families, and their communities.
This is the story of one such hero.
Mina is a 46-year-old woman who lives in southern Nepal with her husband, father-in-law, two sons, her daughter-in-law and her little grandson, Kiran. These days, they are happy and thriving. But it wasn’t always so.
‘My early years were very difficult. I never went to school and married at 16,’ she said. ‘There were 32 members of my new family, and I had to do a lot of physical work after arriving at my husband’s house’.
Mina is Dalit, the people group sometimes called the ‘untouchables’ because cultural protocols demand that Dalits remain separate and lower in status than other castes. For Mina this meant she had no Nepalese citizenship, no education, no access to an income, and no rights. She was not even allowed to leave her home without permission from her family. Without any way to know her rights or challenge these norms, Mina accepted that this was her life. She continued to live in the darkness of discrimination as a Dalit woman, until about four years ago when our local Christian Partner started working in her community.
‘It started with a community consultation meeting,’ she said. ‘I just wanted a reason to leave the house and meet some other women, and that led to me joining the self-help group’.
I just wanted a reason to leave the house and meet some other women, and that led to me joining the self-help group.
A Better Life
Mina’s life changed dramatically, and so did her self-worth. Through the Self Help Group, she received training in animal handling and help from our Partner to start a small business commercially farming goats. Mina’s business thrived and she has been able to provide for her family, reinvest in her business, save for the future, and pay for her children and grandchild to receive education. Moreover, as she’s realised her success, Mina has become convinced that women had as much value as men, and that she has the gifts needed to help her community rise out of poverty.
The first step was gaining her citizenship, because only citizens can become officials in Nepal, and Mina was determined to gain a place on the local council. Then she worked hard to show the people that she could be trusted to advocate on their behalf.
‘I started by visiting different stakeholders to put forward the issues local people faced,’ Mina said. ‘This way I got to know what agencies and resources were available so I could make them accessible to those in my community who are poor.’
The Results of Hard Work
Mina was elected, and is now a highly regarded woman in her community and family. She and her self-help group have worked hard, and seen improvements in their community, such as:
- improved sanitation with many more homes now having toilets installed;
- higher crop yields, as farmers can access better seeds and learn modern farming methods;
- women can more easily obtain citizenship for themselves and their children;
- families are eating nutritious food from newly established kitchen gardens; and
- dairy farming has commenced, offering new income stream for families with milking animals.
In additional to all this, Mina has a particular interest in improving life for women. She defies the norms that once held her down, so that others can be raised up. Mina makes time in her busy schedule to meet with women of all castes, encouraging them to know their rights, and believe that they can transform their lives, and their communities. Her dream is for one of these women to become mayor, do even more good for their community, and one day see an end to discrimination, injustice and poverty.
Want to change the world for the better?
Get behind the real heroes fighting poverty this Christmas with a gift to our Christmas Appeal. Your support will mean our local Partners can create more opportunities for people like Mina to emerge from discrimination and oppression to lead their communities out of poverty.