In 2007 SHEP entered into a learning partnership with the Nepalese organisation, Sahakarmi Samaj (‘Interdependent Community’), a community development organisation that has worked on community empowerment projects in Nepal since 1998. Like SHEP, Sahakarmi Samaj specialises in the training and deployment in the community of skilled facilitators. The main aim of the organisation is to strengthen and mobilise community groups and networks in order to address social, health and economic challenges.
Sahakarmi’s facilitators work to build trust and solidarity among members of village communities and provide support to community groups, as they learn how to manage their affairs through democratic deliberation and planned collective action. Since 2007, Sahakarmi’s work has led to the establishment of over 288 community-based organisations which continue to address the direct needs of their respective communities, directly helping over 8,100 disadvantaged people.
The organisation has been operating in South Western Nepal in 3 districts, Banke, Kanchanpur and Bardiya. In phase III of the project Sahakarmi has added two new districts, Kailali and Jajarkot. It targets disadvantaged communities such as tribal villages or migrant villages and the facilitators spend 3 years living amongst the villagers, in order to facilitate capacity building.
Sahakarmi uses the FEST approach (see separate section), which is based on a belief that people themselves can bring real change to their lives and that the role of a supporting NGO is to create an enabling environment. Within this approach, communities independently analyse problems and plan and implement responses appropriate to their situations.
The strategy used by SS comprises the following elements with communities:
- Group and network formation
- Building problem solving skills with the community groups
- Development and capacity building of community groups
- The creation of learning materials
- The creation of a database of local service providers and available resources for use by community groups.
SS usually works for three years directly with each community group and the support is individually tailored to the specific groups. E.g. of change within villages would be that after SS facilitation, groups would:
- be capable of accessing local government resources to get toilets built, gravel for roads etc, conduct collective farming to increase a communal fund;
- used to fund various village needs e.g. hospital visits, school fees, buying seedlings etc,
- understand the need to build sustainable local resources e.g. planting trees.
Once these grassroots groups are well established, Sahakarmi’s emphasis shifts from facilitating the community groups, to establishing a number of local and regional networking organisations, which will then assist the community groups in their dealings with government and other agencies and advocate necessary policy changes.