During the course of the Inter-regional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation and Development (the project) 32 User Groups, including 8 Women Groups, have been formed to date. Most of these user groups have been actively involved in the participatory planning and implementation of activities coordinated by the project.
The Women Groups differ from the general user groups in several respects:
1. They (obviously) consist of women only, whereas general user groups are often dominated by men.
2. Most of the women groups were formed spontaneously, while the general user
groups were often induced by the project.
3. The women groups are usually focused on income generation and welfare where the general user groups were often formed to implement and manage infrastructures.
Women are relatively disadvantaged: they do not inherit paternal property or rights to land and property, they have less access to services, they often are less well educated, lack confidence, and so on. By organizing themselves in women groups, they hope to improve their situation.
While visiting and reviewing women groups in the project area (Bhusunde Khola watershed), the National Consultant Sociologist (the consultant) became aware of certain recurrent weaknesses of these groups, in particular:
a. Vague group constitutions, with very broad and unattainable objectives. It seemed that all women group constitutions were similar and copied from each other.
b. Many women were not aware of the objectives of their self-set group constitution, or of their rights and responsibilities within the groups, some were even ignorant that they actually were members of a group.
c. Insufficient managerial and organizational skills to secure a long-lived fruitful existence of the groups.
From the point of view of watershed management, women are very important as users and managers of natural resources. Women are therefore a major target group in the participatory approach to integrated watershed management. Women groups will play an increasingly important role in conservation and development activities in the project area (as elsewhere in Nepal), but this process needs to be supported by specific training in troth managerial and technical skills (income generating activities).
Thus the project decided to initiate a series of training courses to development group leadership and management skills.
The objectives of the Leadership Development and Management Training were:
1. To teach local women a process of local leadership and management techniques, as a result of which they will be able to develop realistic group constitutions, effective meetings, record keeping systems, and so on. This in turn will improve their ability to identify and initiate appropriate income generating and other activities.
2. To motivate existing women groups, and to generate enough interest. so that they will be better able to function independently, and get more involved in the participatory conservation and development activities of their own resources and environment.
3. To develop lesson modules for leadership development and management training that are adapted to the local field situation and can be replicated for training of other user groups as well, to build their capacity to organize and manage their own activities with little or without outsiders assistance.