Nari Chetana Kendra

Changing the banking practices of a nation

Nari Chetana Kendra / Women Awareness Center Nepal (WACN)
Nepal | Founded in 1992 | Thousand Currents Partner since 2005 | WACN’s Facebook page

How do you turn a handful of rupees per household into a permanent safety net for tens of thousands of women?

Discipline, a commitment to equality, and a culture of collectivity.

Representing 42 cooperatives and over 45,000 women, Nari Chetana Kendra / Women Awareness Center Nepal (WACN) has combined farming, economic development, and gender justice to weave one of the strongest civil infrastructures in Nepal. Each collective is made up of smallholder farmers who use the food primarily for sustenance and secondarily for family income. Founded 25+ years ago, WACN boasts one of the largest bases of organized farmers and the combined assets of these 42 cooperatives are over 457 million Nepali rupees (US$ 4.2 million).

Over a decade ago, WACN was being encouraged to start its own bank. After studying banking models, they realized that all banks have minimum standards which often leave out the poorest members of society. Since WACN is based in these very communities, it decided to refine its own model of microlending within its own network. WACN was so successful that women in these districts starting leaving the banks to join the cooperatives to benefit from the lending rates which were more fair. In turn, the banks started changing their lending rates, to be competitive with the cooperatives.

And that’s how a group of grassroots women changed the banking practices of the nation.

WACN’s economic work is just a fraction of its mission. Committed to sustainable agriculture, and the culture of collective power – WACN members have stopped traffic to protest violence against women and police misconduct, weighed into constitutional negotiations, supported members in running for political offices, and held federal officials accountable.

What will the next 25 years bring?

Learn more about WACN’s work on our blog.

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