Caste and gender based discrimination is still prevalent in rural Nepal. Although there has been gradual improvement, there is still a lot to be done in this field. Due to a prevalent superstition, the so called low caste people (Dalits) are treated as ‘untouchables.’ Badachaur in Sitapur VDC of Arghakhanchi district is one of the most affected areas. Dalit students are deprived of education because they are poor and come from lower caste. The “high caste” people there think that contact with the ‘low caste’ people will pollute them. Discrimination is practiced widely in all spheres. The locals don’t realize that the caste system was formulated in the past for the purpose of work division and has no contemporary relevance. The main objective of this project is to build a sense of community where everyone is treated equally and to launch various income generation activities within the village.
- Because of the caste system, Dalits have unjustly been prevented from entering places of worship such as temples. The locals believe that the lower castes should not enter the houses belonging to the so called higher castes. They are not allowed to draw water from the common well. The reason it is difficult to get rid of this extreme discrimination is because every new generation is taught to discriminate in this way from childhood. By the time the kids turn into youth they are already preoccupied with this concept of the caste system.
- One of the main reasons as to why discrimination is difficult to eradicate is because of the economic gap between the ‘high castes’ people who are usually wealthier compared to the ‘low caste’ people who are poor. Nevertheless, there is a lot of potential of small scale handicraft industry in the village because the Dalits are traditionally very skilled in making handicraft items. The demand for such decorative products is very high in the tourist areas in the capital city Kathmandu and in Pokhara. However, the Dalits have stopped producing the beautiful traditional handicraft items because of lack of money to buy the raw materials and the lack of market in the villages.
- The number of Dalit students in the local Saraswati Higher Secondary School is significantly less and the number of girls is even less. Sending a daughter to school is considered futile as she will be married and gone someday.
This project aims at making people aware that no one has the right to discriminate anyone. The resources of the village should be shared by all the locals and the villagers can only progress when they work together collectively.
- Reduce the practice of caste-based discrimination and untouchability against Dalits through education and awareness. Motivate the school dropouts to consider going back to school by providing a pair of school dress and bags.
- To train the young Dalits on making handicrafts items on a small scale and connect them to markets in cities.
- Convince the school advisory committee and the Village Development Committee (VDC) to have at least 1 Dalit and 1 woman member. Also, create funds for providing need based scholarships to Dalit children.
Plan of Action
Reinstalling Hope has worked closely with Principal of Saraswati Secondary School, Mr. Rajendra KC to ameliorate the project’s influence. We start by pasting pamphlets and posters which demonstrate ‘Right to Equality’ in the school and other public areas there. The school children will participate in various arts, awareness and writing workshops we plan to conduct.
Ms. Mathura Khanal, an experienced expert who has conducted several workshops in the past will accompany our volunteers to the village. We will purchase all the stationary required for distribution in Kathmandu as it is cheaper here.
At the work area
A meeting of the village committee will be called and we will let them know about the objectives of the project. From the next day we will start by pasting the anti-discrimination posters in the important places in the village like the water source and the school.
Secondly, we will meet the Dalits who have been making handicrafts for centuries. They will teach the interested youth of the village to make such products. This will prevent the traditional culture from being lost because these special techniques will be passed from one generation to another. Also, the trained volunteers from Reinstalling Hope will be carrying out horticulture and off-season vegetable farming training in parallel. We hope that the villagers will use the skills from this training to be more productive. Due to the fact that unemployed youth in Nepal are going to Arab nations for labor jobs, motivating them towards small scale industry within Nepal is necessary.
Finally, we plan to distribute a set of school dress, one bag, 10 notebooks and a bunch of stationary to 100 needy students so that they can re-attend school. This will be a huge boost for their families and they will be encouraged to send their children to school. Also, a series of poem writing, art workshops and speech competitions concerning the ‘Right to Equality’ will be held on the school premises. All the villagers will be invited and the winners will be awarded. Through this we intend to train the children to think that everyone is equal and no one is inferior. The school advisory committee and the VDC will continue similar programs after the project completion.
Expected outcomes and Challenges
The project is expected to be completed in five weeks. Reinstalling Hope’s contingency fund will be used if any unexpected circumstances arise. By the end of the project, we expect the village committee to have at least a Dalit and a woman member. This will be a platform for women and marginalized people to have their voices heard. It will however be difficult to uproot the years of superstition the villagers have been following. Also, we expect many school dropouts to go back to school and many poor students to be motivated to study as well. The village is expected to produce more off-season vegetables than before because of the scientific methods of farming they will be exposed to. Most importantly, the villagers will start realizing that there is no such thing called ‘untouchability’ and working in groups with others is more effective. The real success will be gained when children from various castes go to school together at Badachaur. This will bring peace and prosperity to Badachaur as the effects of caste based discrimination will be reduced.