Editor’s Note: Acommitment to empower women is embedded in Heifer International’score values for sustainable development. In honor of International Women’s Dayon Thursday, March 8, this week we’re sharing the stories of Heifer participants who takethe gifts of animals and training and run with them to extraordinary resultsfor themselves and their communities. Through hard work and innovations, eachwoman secures her rightful place in the family, the marketplace and the world.


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Video by Geoff Oliver Bugbee and Puja Singh

Ganga Khanal of Jirouna, Nepal describes herself as stubborn, driven and outspoken, traditionally not celebrated qualities in a Nepali woman.

Her fierce spirit grew all the stronger after a heart-breaking early married life full of betrayal and blame.Her first two children were daughters, and her husband and mother-in-law turned on her, blaming her for the lack of a son. Her husband hit her when she spoke up, and her mother-in-law encouraged him. She never had enough to eat.

But she would not accept that life of poverty and pain. She heard about a women’s group looking for a new group of women to receive Heifer animals and knowledge through the practice of Pass on the Gift. Armed with that sliver of hope, she rallied her neighbors.

“I said, ‘Let’s do something. We are very poor people. We lease other people’s goats and raise them. If someone is willing to give us goats for free, why wouldn’t we take that opportunity?’” Khanal said.

Despite bitter opposition from her husband, she formed the Jagrit Women’s Group and received two black and white goats and training in Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones.

“Today I am something,” Khanal said. “I have substance; I have animals; I have crops. … If you have the backup of the whole group, the trust of the group, there is nothing you can’t do.”

Khanal now sits on the executive board of a larger cooperative of women’s groups that owns and operates a commodities store where the women can sell their own produce.

Her husband came around too, a few months after she received her goats and a loan from the group savings. “He started helping me in the farm and with the animals. We were making enough money to get us by.

“I believed what I was doing would result in a bright future for my family,” she said. “So I didn’t lose faith. I didn’t give up.”Khanal is hopeful her efforts will mean a better future for all her six children, four girls and two boys.

“I used to be guilty as well in believing it was more important to educate or provide for my sons than for my daughters,” she said. “But the trainings changed all that for me. Today, my daughter is in the army. My daughter has made me realize and understand that girls are no less than boys.”

Her son, Sudip, learned that same lesson from Khanal. “I have so much respect for these women who have created opportunities for people like me. The future looks bright for us because of our moms.”

To read the full article about Khanal in World Ark magazine, click here. Below, Khanal shares what her life is like now.

Author

Donna Stokes

Donna Stokes is the managing editor of World Ark magazine. She has worked for Heifer International since September 2008 when she leaped over to the nonprofit world from a two-decade career in newspaper journalism.