At UN Development Meetings, Sisters Present Pathways to Eradicate Poverty

by | Mar 23, 2018 | News

Sr. Teresa Kotturan, left, who represents the Sisters of Charity Federation at the United Nations, with Shanti Choudhary, who after years of challenges found new hope in one of the sister-founded cooperatives in Nepal. With savings from a poultry farm and loans from her cooperative, Choudhary expanded a vegetable cultivation operation, earning her and family an income they can comfortably live on. (Photo courtesy of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth / Malini Manjoly)

Sabitri Dakhal and her husband, Nilaram Dakhal, were struggling to make ends meet, as do many residents of the west Nepal region of Surkhet. Finding it harder to eke out a living in their mountainside village, the couple migrated to a more populated valley in the area in 2005. Sabitri worked as a maid; Nilaram worked as a day laborer.

But their incomes still could not meet basic necessities, forcing Nilaram to move to neighboring India for work. With her husband away, Sabitri got to know women who belong to a self-help group based at a community cooperative founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

Sabitri enrolled in six months of training at the cooperative, learned beekeeping “and gained self-confidence,” not to mention increased income from the beekeeping and honey-making, said Sr. Teresa Kotturan, who represents the Sisters of Charity Federation at the United Nations.

Kotturan related the couple’s story Jan. 30 as part of the U.N.’s recent meetings of the Commission for Social Development, the U.N. body charged with supporting and monitoring global development progress.

This year, the commission, which met Jan. 29-Feb. 7, explored the theme “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all.” The commission meetings and related events provided a forum for nongovernmental bodies like religious groups to present best practices as part of U.N.-led efforts to combat poverty through the implementation of the global body’s sustainable development goals, an effort called the 2030 Agenda.

Sr. Elsa Muttathu, who represents the International Presentation Association at the U.N., described the agenda as “a pathway to eradicate poverty, and to a life of dignity for all.”

“It is a moral imperative, challenging us to recognize our common humanity, our shared responsibilities and the centrality of human dignity,” she said in a statement issued to coincide with the U.N. commission meetings.

In her statement, Muttathu said the United Nations and its member states should never lose sight that those living in poverty “are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded, and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment.”

The persistence of poverty, she said in her statement, “is largely the result of political choices that have consciously been made by those in power.”

Muttathu said listening to the stories of those “living in multidimensional poverty attest that effective and sustainable solutions towards the eradication of poverty within communities often come from the people who live this reality.”

This was underlined in the story of a best practice Kotturan related from Nepal: Taking out a loan from the cooperative allowed Sabitri to buy land, build a small house and, with another loan, open a small grocery on the first floor of the new home.

“She was successful in her venture — so much so, she was able to pay back the loan with interest in nine months,” Kotturan said.

Moreover, a steady income allowed Nilaram to return from India. He, in turn, learned how to cultivate mushrooms at a government-sponsored training. Later, husband and wife each trained the other in their respective trades.

With this, the couple now earns an income of about $10,000 per year, about twice as much as the average income in Nepal.

“It’s like a rags-to-riches story,” Kotturan said.

Kotturan said the tale is an instructive story about what getting out of poverty actually means.

For the Dakhals, it means the couple could pay for their children’s educations, including college for their daughter; provide food security — better access to food — for the family; “recognition and reward for risks taken and for the leadership in the community,” Kotturan said; and the pride in providing neighbors fresh mushrooms and pure honey, which earned Nilaram Dakhal a presidential honor in 2015 for innovative farming practices.

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Source: Global Sisters Report, Chris Herlinger, GSR international correspondent