Based on the increasing number of cases of girls sexual and physical abuse in Nepal, and findings from the project baseline and midline reports indicating some incidents of harassments, the STEM II project (Supporting the Education of Marginalized Girls) intensively focused on building awareness about sexual and physical abuse and establishing both a community support system for protecting girls and women in the projects areas and teaching them self-defence techniques. The project conducted awareness campaigns to for parents, teachers and community members and established child safeguarding mechanisms at the school and community level to prevent abuse, mitigate immediate risks thorough complaint handling mechanisms, and strengthening referral systems.
Self-defence: The STEM II baseline report indicated instances of harassment in schools by teachers and girls being bullied by boys on their way home. To address such issues, the project rolled out self-defence training to in-school girls, focusing on preventive measures, identifying and reporting child protection concerns, and learning about emergency support and referral mechanisms. The training provided individual skills to defend oneself physically and verbally, while at the same time helping to build self-confidence.
The project designed self-defence training in partnership with Girls Kick with a participatory approach, to engage participants throughout the training while involving parents and community members with a focus on the bigger picture of creating a safe and secure environment for adolescent girls. The training method was designed to enable girls and women to deal with day-to-day challenges and lower the risk of various forms of abuse through developing psychological, verbal and physical self-defence techniques. This training involved self-defence techniques and drills, along with developing skills to assess surroundings and risks, diffuse situations, and engage verbally or physically if necessary. The program also focused on identifying support systems with the involvement of parents, school teachers, community representatives and other concerned stakeholders.
In the initial phase, the program produced 88 self-defence trainers as young leaders through training of trainers (ToT) program. They were then mobilised to facilitate a 3-day training in the project schools. The self-defence training was provided to a total of 1,890 in-school girls of grades 8, 9, and 10 and 650 out-of-school girls. The training proved to be very effective as various schools and local government officials requested such training to be conducted in their areas. This has also served as a motivation to the young leaders who have expanded their knowledge and skills outside of the project schools.
Creating sustainable mechanisms for safety
As part of its scale-up objectives, the project helped raise awareness for local representatives about the increasing incidents of abuse and harassment of girls and women. This was followed by orientation on self-defence as a preventive measure. This led to the replication of the self-defence training in their respective municipalities, where 488 adolescent girls received the training within 6 months of the start of the intervention. Some of the municipalities of Kailali district have established child protection committees at the local level and are in the process of drafting a Municipal child protection policy.
Peer support system
“Self defence is unique approach that enables girls and women to understand and act on day to day harassment and violence. These are easy and low-cost activities and I will incorporate them in our municipal plan for the safety of girls and women.”
Deputy Mayor- Gauriganga Municipality
Based on the findings from the midline report, which showed high self-efficacy of 87.8% of the target group, the project adopted some new initiatives directly linked with behavioral change and creating a safe environment. Following the finding, the 88 self-defence graduates were also mobilised to establish peer learning support mechanisms at the community level to raise awareness about the issue as well as serve as a platform to share problems faced by adolescent girls. The engagement of boys in the program highlighted the importance of the role of the opposite sex in creating a safe environment, gender equality and transformation.
Based on the ethnic diversity of the STEM II beneficiary portfolio, the project also included equal representation of self-defence trainers according to ethnic diversity. This was very effective as it added value through delivering training in the local language and communicating more effectively on sensitive subjects. In addition to the knowledge and skills, the training also focused on developing participants’ leadership, teamwork, facilitation and problem management abilities.
“As a shy young girl, the training helped me find myself. I was no longer the girl who couldn’t speak up anymore. It tremendously helped my confidence and I think I will be able to handle difficult circumstances on my own. I want to spread this message to other girls in my community. Now I have provided training of self-defence to several schools while I have also received requests from different schools to conduct such training.
Ishwari Ranabhatt, Self–defence facilitator
Expanding knowledge and skills
The ToT participants, once they had been equipped with the required knowledge and skills, were capable and eager to transfer their knowledge to their peers and communities. The method applied by the project to first create trainers was aimed at reaching as many girls as possible outside of the project as well. The trainers now have reached out to different schools in their areas, youth club leaders, and local government personnel to share their experience on how self-defence can build confidence among the youth and provide a feeling of safety and leadership.
Reaching Beyond STEM
“After receiving ToT and conducting my first training at school, I was called by the head teacher of a local school in my village. He appreciated my work in supporting girls and requested me to conduct a 3-day training in his school. Through that training, I trained 64 young girls of grade 11-12. Now everyone in the school knows me and appreciates my work. I feel proud of what I do and want to conduct such programs in more schools.”
Narendra Saud, Self–defence facilitator, male from Kailali
Acknowledging the effectiveness of training and stakeholder engagement since the beginning of the activity, there were several requests from school teachers, local government officials, and adolescent girls to conduct such training in their respective areas. Such requests have led to more training sessions outside of the project schools. The motivated young leaders have trained a total of 488 adolescent girls in adjoining schools and communities. Based on the FGDs and individual interviews conducted with the training participants, the participants appreciated the innovativeness of the training and its focus on building life skills, as well as the wider engagement of local stakeholders. In recent days, the new self-defence facilitators have been reaching out to local government with proposals for expanding the training. As the local government has allocated funds for child protection and women’s empowerment, some of it has been released to conduct such training by these young leaders. Various local government representatives have shown commitment to include such programs in their upcoming development plan.