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Alumni lead change with support of Alumni Innovation Grants

Posted: 2 August 2023

Nepal, Alumni, Grants, Impact,

Australia Awards – Nepal offered four Alumni Innovation Grants to two individual alumni and two groups of alumni in early 2023. Each grant was worth up to NPR 270,000 (approximately $3,000) for activities that supported alumni as leaders, changemakers and innovators in their respective fields of expertise. By June 2023, all grantees had completed their activities. Their projects are highlighted here.

Avishek Malla, Energy Specialist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), led a training program on 20-21 April 2023 for 100 young engineers in practical design of a lift irrigation system (lifting water with pumps or other mechanical means) optimised with solar photovoltaic (PV) energy. Offered at ICIMOD and in collaboration with GridVille, Kathmandu University and the Nepal Engineers Association (NEA), this training on cost-effective renewable energy upskilled undergraduate and graduate level students across mechanical and electrical faculties in 21 academic institutions. Practitioners trained the students to consider real-world factors in system design for the effective implementation of solar energy systems to achieve food security. Importantly, the training also focused on how students could incorporate Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) in their systems. Students learnt about GEDSI issues and barriers that may arise in irrigation projects, such as limited access to opportunities, land ownership, issues of representation and meaningful participation of women, people from marginalised groups and people with disability. They learnt the need to consider people’s backgrounds and contexts in infrastructural projects and to design and implement projects that are sustainable, effective and inclusive. Participants also gained exposure to Government of Nepal irrigation priorities and programs and increased familiarity with engineers’ associations and networks in Nepal. On sustaining the grant outcomes, Avishek notes, ‘The course content delivering a deep dive into solar PV design in irrigation development will be used in future capacity building trainings conducted by ICIMOD and will be promoted to its nodal partner agencies. NEA and Kathmandu University are also interested in providing this training to other engineers in the future.’

Avishek Malla (far right) alongside engineering students who participated in his two-day training on designing solar powered lift irrigation systems.

Pallav Pant, Chairperson of Atullya Foundation Pvt. Ltd., led a gender and inclusion workshop on 15 May to assist his organisation’s planning for the creation of a disability inclusive manual for disaster preparation. The 34 participants included individuals from Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), federations, government entities, non-governmental organisations, and a representative from gender and sexual minorities. The workshop comprised interactive sessions, group discussions and knowledge-sharing exercises to build participants’ capacity to understand and incorporate Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) principles into the manual. Furthermore, GEDSI guidelines were developed for the manual, which will ultimately be used by the government, non-governmental and community-based organisations involved in disaster management in Nepal. Additionally, participants could meet other practitioners and advocates who are committed to promoting GEDSI principles in disability inclusive disaster risk reduction initiatives. Pallav notes that in addition to building participants’ capacity, ‘The workshop has also supported the development of my own knowledge and skills. As sharing was done by experts in GEDSI and disaster risk reduction, I will be able to apply this new knowledge while working towards the development of training manual and become a more effective agent of change, better able to support inclusion development activities in Nepal.’

Pallav Pant leads a session as part of his workshop on gender and inclusion for a disability inclusive disaster preparation manual.

In April and May, Sagar Prasai, Director (Head of Office) of Diverse Patterns, and Sarita Lamichhane, Founder President of Prayatna Nepal, organised a mentoring and training bootcamp for ten entrepreneurs with disability. The bootcamp specifically targeted people with disability and more than half of the participants were women. Participants’ enterprises include textiles, handicrafts, photography, content creation and food products. By providing participants the opportunity to learn and develop essential business skills, the program empowered these individuals who often face additional barriers in entrepreneurship due to societal prejudices and limited accessibility. The four-week part-time bootcamp program included a series of weekly classes, individual and small group meetings and mentoring sessions. Participants learned from a lead trainer and other experts on business planning, e-commerce, financial management, legal compliance and disability rights laws. Mentors in marketing, investment, legalities and operations delivered sessions and shared experiences. The program further supported the entrepreneurs in branding and marketing tools including creating pitch videos, printing business cards and starting social media pages. Additionally, the alumni conceptualised an e-commerce platform HamileBanako.com, on which the participants and other entrepreneurs with disability can sell their products, reach larger markets and foster networks. Currently, the alumni are building networks among disability organisations to make the website sustainable. Sagar and Sarita report that ‘The participants’ feedback and testimonials demonstrate the program’s positive impact on economic empowerment, contributing to broader community economic growth and social inclusion.’

Sagar Prasai (front row center with the cap) and Sarita Lamichhane (third from right, standing) are pictured amidst participants and trainers of their mentoring and training bootcamp for entrepreneurs. Australia Awards – Nepal team members were also present at the closing event.

Sagar Prasai and Sarita Lamichhane also created a web portal for entrepreneurs to market and sell their products.

Dr Sujata Sapkota (Post Doctoral Fellow/Assistant Professor at Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences), Dr Buna Bhandari (Assistant Professor at Tribhuvan University’s Central Department of Public Health) and Rabina Dhakal (MIS Specialist at CARE Nepal) collaborated with Apara Innovations on a community support group initiative to promote non-communicable disease (NCD) management in Kathmandu. The project aimed to establish and explore people-centred care through community support and meaningful engagement. By forming four community support groups (CSGs) for a total of 41 participants, the intervention engaged women, elderly, people from marginalised communities, and others aged 40 and above who have diabetes and/or hypertension. The CSG meetings convened every fortnight over three months increased awareness on NCDs and informed participants on simple and achievable actions for NCD control and management. During orientation sessions, the alumni delivered information on diabetes, hypertension and NCD self-management practices, including diet/nutrition, physical activities, medicine use, self-care/monitoring and tobacco/alcohol consumption. Participants discussed these issues and shared their own experiences about managing their NCDs, the challenges and mitigations of adapting healthy lifestyles and behaviours, and if and how they could support one another in the NCD management process.

Dr Sujata Sapkota (front row, far right), Dr Buna Bhandari (back row, second from left) and Rabina Dhakal (front row, second from right) conducted orientations as part of their project to establish community support groups which met fortnightly to discuss diabetes and hypertension management.

Following the CSG activities, participants felt motivated to start physical activities and have encouraged their broader communities to be more physically active. Similarly, they have become more aware of their food habits and are making conscious efforts to change their food practices, such as reducing salt intake and avoiding fried food. A few have had their health checked after they attended these discussions and a couple started or resumed medicines for NCDs. The alumni note that ‘the community support groups have the potential to educate and improve diabetes and hypertension self-management. These activities can also play a role in improving diagnosis of hidden cases.’ They continue to analyse the data and expect that the findings will provide important insights into the modality and benefits of CSG activities for the gregarious Nepali society. They note that the activity also stimulated community and health stakeholders’ engagement at the local level, such as from the municipality chairperson, health coordinator, ward chairperson and members, municipal hospital leaders and staff, including female community health volunteers (FCHVs). The alumni grantees anticipate that when they share their final findings, this local-level engagement will be further enhanced.

In total, the alumni grantees directly impacted 185 community members through their Alumni Innovation Grants through training, workshops and leadership in their fields.