In 2003, Dr. Ganesh Gurung, founding Chairperson of the Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS) and former member of the National Planning Commission of Nepal, sought to establish a member based organization to advocate for the rights of women who returned to Nepal after migrating abroad for employment. In order to do so, he sought the assistance of Nepali women who had migrated abroad for employment. The name Pourakhi, which means self-reliant in Nepali, was chosen because it was representative the original vision and mission of the organization. Despite the fact that the founding members of Pourakhi were all women who had migrated abroad for employment, the person selected to be the first Chairperson was a man. The founding members feared that if a woman was appointed as the first Chairman, the organization would not be able to be effective in its’ advocacy efforts with the government. However, after only one year Pourakhi appointed a female Chairperson.
Since 2003, Pourakhi has become a leading organization for individuals who migrate abroad for employment. In order to achieve its’ objective of ensuring the rights of women migrant workers in the entire process of foreign labor migration, Pourakhi has established a number of programs to address the issues of pre-employment, pre-departure, employment and post arrival support programs. In 2009, Pourakhi opened a Shelter House Facility for returning migrant workers. The goal was to provide a safe space for women who returned to Nepal and were not able to rejoin their family and community. After the establishment of the Shelter House Facility, Pourakhi recognized that many women who returned from abroad had been victimized during the migration process and needed to seek relief from the government of government of Nepal. In order to provide assistance to these women, Pourakhi founded a paralegal program. The paralegal program has been extremely successful in its’ advocacy efforts on behalf of returning migrant workers. In addition, Pourakhi has established a number of other programs that seek to empower women when they return to Nepal from foreign employment. More specifically, Pourakhi established a financial literacy program to educate women about how to best utilize the money earned abroad in Nepal and an entrepreneurship program that provides skill based training that focuses on how to open, manage and build a business.
In the area of pre-departure, Pourakhi has established a number of programs that seek to educate women before they migrate abroad. Pourakhi recognized that the majority of women who migrate abroad do not live in the capital of Kathmandu and thus established community based programs in sixteen districts of Nepal. Because of the success of the pre-departure educational programs, Pourakhi hopes to expand to all of the districts in Nepal.
Pourakhi has also been a leader in its’ advocacy efforts with the government. Pourakhi has been instrumental in ensuring that the voices of migrant women workers are heard and reflected in national policy and law. Additionally, Pourakhi has successfully advocated for the government to ratify a number of international laws that seek to protect the rights of women migrant workers.
Although Pourakhi began as an organization by and on behalf of women, it has recognized that all migrant workers have the right to safe migration. Therefore, Pourakhi now assists both woman and men in all stages of the migration process. In addition, Pourakhi expanded its’ efforts to include the family-primarily children-of migrant workers in the educational context. Pourakhi began a program to ensure that the children of migrant workers who either died or were injured abroad were able to continue with their education. The program has been extremely successful in providing financial assistance to a number of children who would not have been able to complete their education absence the assistance from Pourakhi.
Finally, Pourakhi’s staff has grown to include women and men from diverse backgrounds. As an organization that was begun by women, a historically marginalized group in Nepal, Pourakhi understands that a truly democratic and just society can only be achieved through social inclusion.