The world of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is vast and growing if you live in Nepal. Some experts estimate there is a whopping 50,000 registered NGOs (PDF) in the country, a steep increase since an NGO registration change in 1992. With that change, groups of individuals joined together in droves to create organizations to fight the languishing poverty in Nepal, a country that has been classified by the United Nations as one of the world’s least developed countries since 1971. Experts also attribute the increase of Nepalese NGOs to the country’s small private enterprise sector. Most Nepalis believe the only way they can make money is through civil society where tens of millions of dollars flow through Nepal’s civil sector every year.
While many organizations follow the safe blueprint of how NGOs should operate, there are some that are devising innovative ways in which to help communities at their most basic level, especially after the earthquakes that rocked the landlocked country caused nearly 9,000 fatalities nationwide last year. The earthquakes shocked the country and exposed immense disaster relief vulnerabilities of the government as well as the throngs of NGOs that were not prepared to handle a major natural disaster.
The energy and enthusiasm was palpable as we walked into a room full of eager women entrepreneurs role-playing the everyday dynamic between business owners and their customers. While the room was loaded with fun and laughter during this exercise, its importance was not lost on any of the women who had come to the campus of Coca-Cola Bottlers Nepal Limited’s (BNL) 5by20 training, an initiative to empower 10,000 women business owners across Nepal by 2020. Even though these women are already a part of Kathmandu’s bustling community of urban shop owners, they had come because they realized there are more business skills to learn, hone, and improve. And, as women in micro-enterprise the more skills they learn, the more they can earn for their households in a country where men overwhelmingly dominate the private sector.
It’s been raining virtually nonstop since we arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday morning. There were downpours all day without any let up until the evening. I hope we get to see the sun on Tuesday. It’s the end of the monsoon season in Nepal, but I don’t think the weather quite wants to get rid of the rain yet.
Today was our very first site visit for this Nepal trip to see Coca-Cola’s rebuilding efforts after last year’s earthquake as well as their work with women in their global #5by20 program that will empower five million women by 2020 across Coca-Cola’s value chain.
Today, we focused on how Coca-Cola is helping local NGOs rebuild after the quake as well as how Coca-Cola employees joined as a team to push through the crisis they endured after two very sizeable earthquakes.
You can read about our visit to a village about an hour and a half away from Kathmandu and how a local NGO is using innovative ways to create sustainable communities.
Last year I remember exactly where I was when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. I was on my way to Haiti to report on maternal health, and really good friends of mine from the International Reporting Project had been in Nepal for a very short time on a reporting trip when the quake hit. I remember tweeting them to see if everything was okay. Thankfully they were and wrote amazing, insightful articles from their harrowing experience on the ground. Even though I wasn’t in Nepal, knowing people who were and reported once the quake happened brought the crisis close to home.
The way in which countries respond to disasters varies. One thing is certain: governments cannot shoulder massive disaster relief alone. I learned this once I saw the coordinated one-year disaster relief in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. Relief, I’ve learned, is always a combination of public and private partnerships that work in tandem to benefit citizens that have been hardest hit. Sometimes it is not easy and the coordination may be a bit slow-going, but the truth is private companies that have apositive, established footprint in countries with an excellent track record can benefit government and NGO partners with logistics support, private enterprise expertise, and most importantly finances.