KATHMANDU, Nepal — Since Muhammas Yunus established Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1974, the use of economic development programs to combat poverty in developing countries has permeated the globe. As Yunus writes in his book, “Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty,” he believes people are not poor due to illiteracy or lack of skills, but because “ [t]hey have no control over capital, and it is the ability to control capital that gives people the power to rise out of poverty.” Nonprofits and community leaders worldwide have seen Yunus’ success and have begun developing programs that also seek to equip the poor with both the capital and the knowledge needed for them to increase or generate their own income.
Such programs offer these services through education, mentoring and/or financing. Many equate this movement as a shift away from old charity models of community development to a more sustainable approach, one that empowers communities to build more long-term solutions to poverty.
In the case of Nepal, the country has seen favorable development within the last few decades. However, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD,) Nepal is still “one of the world’s poorest countries.” The country ranks 157th out of the 187 counties listed on the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2013; 30 percent of its population lives on $14 per month per person.
Despite these statistics, nonprofits in Nepal are convinced economic-minded education can shift the country away from its current poverty status and into a vibrant future. There are numerous organizations based out of Nepal that seek to empower locals through entrepreneurship training, business financing, career counseling, and vocational training. This article will profile four organizations, all based in Nepal, that illustrate the various approaches to community development leaders in the country are taking.
Seed Capital & Business Plan Writing
ChangeFusion Nepal (CFN) is one of Nepal’s leading organizations focusing promoting social entrepreneurship. Its mission is to, “help local youth direct their vision and skills towards benefiting people and the planet through social entrepreneurship.”
CFN states that currently about 12 percent of its youth is unemployed and due to the lack of viable employment, many leave Nepal in search for work abroad. While this can still be seen as an opportunity, CFN states that Nepal’s poorest families cannot afford to send their children abroad. This leaves “the majority of Nepalese struggl[ing]with very limited education and employment.”
CFN’s Founder, Luna Shrestha Thakur, saw this as an opportunity to engage Nepal’s disenfranchised youth. The organization fulfills their mission by offering their fellows resources from what they consider four key areas: “Knowledge, Network, Mentorship and Financing.” Local youth take part in an annual fellowship competition focusing on training, mentorship, and building networks for local youth. CFN also assists winning fellows in securing seed capital. The organization gains this funding by focusing a portion of its fundraising efforts
In addition to CFN, Luna Shrestha Thakur, its founding director, saw this growing movement towards innovation and entrepreneurship and established Hidden Journeys. This is a program that connects tourists to vibrant social entrepreneurs in Nepal and seeks to provide access to “learn about social entrepreneurship and market-based development approaches.”
Another nonprofit in Nepal that promotes entrepreneurship among Nepal’s youth is EduLift Academy, a project part of Social Development Initiative-Nepal. Just opening its doors last year, its founder, Tenzin Sonam Gonsar, begun Edulift with the belief that entrepreneurship is a life-skill to be learned. By promoting entrepreneurship and offering other skills training, such as career counseling and computer training, EduLift illustrate its belief that such education is crucial to both Nepal’s youth and overall future success.
EduLift’s education model is “based on relevant life-skills training through an experiential teaching practice…” They strive to bring in local entrepreneurs, teachers, and career counselors to both mentor and train Nepal’s youth. EduLift’s entrepreneurship program helps students to write their own business plan. However, they take their dedicated to experiential learning a step further leading students through the implementation phase by offering opportunities for “role play and real-world assignments.”
Nepal’s Nonprofit Career Counseling and Skills Training Efforts
In his report to the National Labor and Employment Conference in Kathmandu, Dr. Jagadish C Pokharel wrote, “…30 percent of total current economically active population was classified as underutilized.” He offers suggestions as to what skills can produce employment opportunities. Pokharel writes that even though half of the working age population in Nepal is uneducated, “[t]he good news is that there has been a visible increase in the number of people who have received vocational or professional training…”
The Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF), a local organization offering various services for the country’s youth, focus on providing this type of training through their Vocational Education and Career Counseling (VECC) program. According to NYF, VECC “sponsors children in training programs for dozens of different careers, such as website designer, hotel manager, nurse-midwife, electrician, cook, and lab technician, and the number continues to grow.” They state in Nepal’s economy, formal higher education is not fruitful for all of Nepal’s youth. There are often more immediate opportunities available for such skill sets.
For orphaned Nepalese, NYF utilizes the VECC program to offering one-on-one career counseling. It offers mentorship on exploring the child’s interests and abilities, building confidence to begin seeking employment, and helping them understand the important of negotiation.
Another robust nonprofit in Nepal that prizes itself on providing what they call, “livelihood skills training” is The Small World (TSW.) TSW also has various programs, such as an orphanage for girls, scholarships, and enhancing rural education. However they see women being the key to a family’s financial sustainability. Therefore, they established their Women Empowerment Project which focuses solely on providing training on how to design school uniforms, costumes, and other children’s clothing.
TSW writes on its website, “[n]ow the women can start small local market and sell their products at local level which will give them income.” Yet, they don’t stop at providing only this type of skills training, each woman is also provided financial education centered on saving for emergencies. TSW has educated 250 women throughout Nepal, claims to have 80 percent job placement among these women and currently has offered computer training to 40 girls attending college.
While these organizations are only a fraction of the type of community work in Nepal, they present an overview of a country’s growing nonprofit involvement in economic development.
– Angela A. Russo