Steps Education program is run in conjunction with Beni Handicrafts, and covers five main areas.
1. Vocational (skill) training
Some women are forced to move to Kathmandu because of domestic violence, single motherhood or widowhood.
They move in the hope of a better life for themselves and their children. Steps works with Beni Handcrafts to train these women in income-generating skills. Work skills are taught over a 3–6 month period, part time, so they may secure work as a seamstress. Part-time training usually means 3 days a week, with the other four days used to study, to secure work or look after their children. For some this period provides a ‘breathing space’ while they look at their options in life. Some return to their homes, others take further education/training, or settle and secure work in Kathmandu or abroad.
2. Basic Education
Many girls have never attended school, or have not completed their basic education (class 10). There are many and varied reasons why girls/women leave the countryside for Kathmandu. Poverty, poor education and medical facilities for the family, loss of house or farmland (landslides), divorce, death of a spouse etc. This group also includes many older women, who have never been to school, have no marketable skills, yet still have responsibility for two or more children. Their children need to be registered in government schools. As they do not know how to write even their own name, they fear meeting the ‘official’ Nepal. So many children miss schooling. Steps helps with registration, as well as providing the uniforms. Today Steps and Beni Handicrafts encourages women to take part-time lessons in Nepali language, mathematics etc.
The aim is to improve their general education level, so that they gain knowledge and in so doing increase their confidence. With a basic education, it is easier to secure work in lesser skilled positions, such as household or office cleaning, childcare, restaurants, etc.
3. Higher Education
Girls who complete their Class 10+2 often wish to continue to higher education, but are stopped by economic restraints. Here the goal is to assist girls by providing part-time employment, allowing them to attend their courses while earning an income. To date, a number of girls have completed Bachelor Degrees, Hotel Management Diplomas, etc.
4. Legal rights awareness
Violence against women is commonplace, and seemingly they have little or no legal recourse. To mitigate this imbalance, Steps hosts half-day workshops with a lawyer, covering relevant legal issues and rights. These sessions cover divorce, inheritance and property rights.
Steps has represented a number of women in divorce cases, to secure their freedom from difficult marriages and gain rightful compensation.
5. Health Camps
These take the form of a lecture on a specific subject, where the women and girls can then discuss their issues.
From 2019 these have been extended to be ‘training’ for active Steps members, and local health workers, teachers and all genders are invited.