Today marks 5 years since MP Jo Cox was murdered. Since then the Jo Cox Foundation has funded projects that have helped to create something positive from the tragedy of her death.
In April 2019 Carers Worldwide and our partner organisation LEADS Nepal, launched a two-year project funded by a Jo Cox Foundation Memorial Grant titled “Promoting social and economic empowerment of carers by strengthening women-led Carers Associations.” The project was based in Baglung and Myagdi in Nepal and its objective was to raise awareness of carers’ existence, role and needs; lobby for practical support; and advocate with local government for policy changes and recognition.
This project has a specific focus on advocacy and the economic inclusion of carers with the aim of strengthening and empowering, predominately female, carers in both the civil society space and in their immediate communities.
On this anniversary of Jo’s death, we wanted to share the stories and thoughts of some of the carers that have been a part of this project. They are a testament to how Jo’s legacy has brought about real change to peoples’ lives around the world.
Renu, Carer from Myagdi
Renu’s husband is living with severe mental illness. They have three children and their eldest daughter also has a physical disability. They were extremely poor and Renu had to go out and do manual labour in order to earn money to feed all the family. Unfortunately, she was not able to earn enough to feed them all and the small children were starving.
Our project involved her in a carers group and provided her with two goats so that she could generate her own income from home to fit around her caring responsibilities. She is now a leader in the carers group and is raising 16 goats, giving enough income to support her family. She then moved on to to open a restaurant. Her annual income is now around 350,000 NRS (£2,115).
“I cared for my sick husband and disabled daughter with struggle, now the goats are caring for the whole family”
Nisha, Carer and now Project Coordinator from Myagdi
Nisha was a carer for her mentally ill husband and was running a small grocery shop, but she was struggling to meet her husband’s medical needs. She joined her local Carers Group run by us, and our project provided funding to expand her shop. She successfully runs the shop and has also started a small brick factory.
She became Chair of her Carers Group as well as increasing her income. She did not limit herself to working within the one Carers Group and instead was interested in connecting with district Carers Groups. She was elected as Carer Association Chair as well as Carer Cooperative Chair. LEADS recognised her leadership qualities as well as her being a potential coordinator to act as carers catalyst. She is now Coordinator for the Jo Cox funded project. Nisha travelled to our other partner organisation, SGCP in Kathmandu to train carer leaders. She is an entrepreneur and community leader in the district now.
“I was single carer, I thought, but I have thousands carer friends now to fight for the human rights of carers. I know my role is to make everybody aware that all of us, now or in future, are carers”
Bhola, Carer from Baglung
Bhola is a carer for his 29 year old daughter living in a rural village. He was stigmatised in the community due to his daughter’s illness, as well as struggling with severe poverty. Our project provided training in vegetable and fruit growing and in compost manure preparation and also supported him with agricultural tools, seeds and some funding support. He started growing vegetables, selling them in the local market, then he started keeping poultry. This gave him adequate income to feed his family and to start saving too.
Bhola then expanded his vegetable production and poultry farm and gradually achieved success after success. He had hilly and unfertile land that had been unused for several years, but he started planting kiwi fruits, which are very new to the area. the Jo Cox project supported with polytunnels and water tanks for irrigation, pruning kits and agricultural tools. Bhola started producing kiwi fruits last year and earns around 500,000 NRS (£3,000) per year from vegetable and kiwis.
“I want to be an example to other poor carers living my previous life with poverty, stigmatisation, and social exclusion that we can change our lives.”
Sarita, Carer from Baglung
Sarita became a carer for her husband soon after they got married. Her husband suffered a spinal fracture after having a bad fall. For 25 years he has been disabled and using a wheel chair. They are from an extremely poor Dalit family. Dalit is the lowest caste in the traditional caste system, characterised as ‘untouchable’. Sarita worked as a labourer for her whole life to care for and feed her family. They now have two sons. She was the only earner in the family and the low paid labour she did was not regular or reliable.
She joined our Carers Group very late because she had no time to come to meetings. The Jo Cox funded project initially supported her with 250 chickens to start a small poultry farm. Unfortunately, 80 percent of those chickens died, but our partner organisation LEADS again decided to support her with the same project as she already had the chicken coops. They provided support for a further 350 chickens and one goat. She made a success of the chicken business and is now making 150,000 NRS (£900) income a year. Both her boys goes to school and Sarita is now secretary of her local Carers Group. Through our project, she was also trained in jewellery making and she trained her husband as well. Bimal, her husband, now also makes jewellery and sells it in the Baglung Bazaar.
“I realise there are people who also think about us, perhaps sent to us by god. For many years I was alone, now I have a whole community, a way to earn and a chance to smile after more than 25 years.”