Following the devastating floods in South Asia serious concern for Dalit communities affected by the disaster is being reported. IDSN’s members are on the ground responding and monitoring the situation as it unfolds. Nepal, Bangladesh and India have experienced severe flooding over the past weeks and many Dalit communities are hard hit. In this article we will share some of the reports we have received from members in Nepal. We will be following up on this once more reports have come in from the rest of the region.
This paper, compiled by the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) of Nepal in consultation with Dalit women’s groups, seeks to inform the international community on the occasion of the High Level Political Forum on the SDGs 2017. It lays out the situation for Dalit women in Nepal, including the protections, the achievements and the challenges, and makes recommendations to governments and donors on the implementation of the gender provisions of the SDGs, to ensure that Dalit women’s rights are achieved and that no-one is left behind.
In connection with their participation at the High Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals in New York, IDSN member in Nepal, FEDO, has produced a valuable briefing paper on the Sustainable Development Goals and how they are directly related to the situation of Dalits, and in particular of Dalit women. The paper offers key insight into the relevance of the SDGs and their implication at the national and local level.
Children in Dalit settlements of Bishnupur Rural Municipality in Saptari are in dire need of relief materials, as they have lost their houses along with clothes and food grains in the recent floods in the district. The hapless children, along with their parents, have been taking shelter in makeshift tents on the roadside. They are just surviving on food items such as noodles, biscuits, and beaten rice provided by different organisations.
Pabitra Bishwokarma is the President of the Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) in the Makhanpur District of Nepal. “I was forced to get married when I was only 14. My husband was 11 years older than me and we had never met. I wanted to continue at school, but my parents insisted that I marry. So I tried to poison myself. But I still had to get married. “I heard FEDO interviewed on the radio and was interested in what they said about Dalit women’s rights. After I became District President I realised that I needed to be more educated so that I could motivate and help other women. “My ambition is to be a political leader and a role model for the Dalit community. In the past Dalit women have been used by political parties, but, thanks to FEDO, we now have bargaining power.
Women from the Dalit caste in Nepal face huge discrimination on every level and are treated as outcasts in society. They are made even more vulnerable by their lack of access to money, housing and land. We met Sharada, a woman from the poorest Dalit community. She gets support from our partner Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) to understand and fight for Dalit women’s rights.
Deemed ‘untouchable’ by her community, Kamala faced discrimination for being a Dalit woman. People were afraid of her and she felt ashamed. With support from the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), Kamala joined the Shiba Madesi Dalit Women’s Group where she gained the skills and confidence to claim her rights and take control of her life
Married at just nine years old, Anita’s story is far from uncommon among Dalit women. Facing discrimination for her lower caste status, Anita was led to believe she was ‘untouchable’ by her community. Through joining a women-led group organised by the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), Anita built strength, grew in confidence and made friendships. Now, as the President of the group, she stands up for the rights of Dalit women and girls.
Mayawati was illiterate for much of her life. As a Dalit woman, she faced discrimination and was ashamed of who she was. With support from IDSN member Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), Mayawati joined a women-led group and completed training courses. This helped her to realise how important her voice is.
Santu was grieving the loss of her husband and looking after her five small children when the earthquake hit Nepal in 2015. On top of the hardships she already faced, Santu lost her house to the earthquake and was left with nothing.
The government’s decision to build houses for Dalit families of Arnaha Rural Municipality, Saptari, under the People’s Residence Programme has fallen flat. Dalit families of the locality are disappointed as construction work has yet to begin though the current fiscal year is coming to an end. Local Lalaku Sada said, “The government’s false promise has disheartened our impoverished Dalit community.” The government’s apathy in constructing the residences has let down Dalit families of around 50 Village Development Committees across the district.
Nande Luwar, 70, of Jukot in Swamikartik Rural Municipality, Bajura has voted many times in his life. But, due to some reasons Nande could not cast his vote freely. “I will vote where the upper caste people ask me to vote,” he added.This is a common trend among Dalit families of Jukot, Bajura.
A local fined Prem Bahadur BK of Chhededaha Rural Municipality with Rs 2,000 for touching the former’s cowshed in Bajura. Rajendra Bahadur Singh of Chhededaha, Biradi fined BK the amount just for touching his cowshed during the door-to-door election publicity campaign on Friday.
A person from the Dalit community was thrashed mercilessly in Bode Barsain Municipality, Saptari, yesterday for entering a temple to perform puja. Liladhar Das (Tatma) of Bode Barasain Municipality was beaten black and blue by the local non-Dalits. According to eye-witness Laxmi Ram, locals Raj Kumar Yadav, Kasindra Yadav, Ramchandra Yadav and Sakaldev Yadav, among others, had attacked Das when he reached the local temple to perform Asare Puja.
Seven-year-old Laxmi Nepali of Bhagwati Aulagurta VDC of Jajarkot district wakes up early in the morning and rushes toward a nearby school. While most of the children of her age carry books and other educational materials, she is seen holding a sack on one hand and a hammer on the other en route to Nepal National Secondary School. For the sake of Rs 100, she crushes stones into gravels in front of the school from early morning. Though it is not her wish, she is obliged to do so to sustain her life. She completes crushing a sack full of gravels from 7 am to 9 am in the morning. “I give this money to my parents and they will buy me books and new clothes,” Laxmi said.
Minna Havunen, of the Dalit Solidarity Network-Finland, traveled to Nepal and met Dalits in the villages of Rautahat. She heard first-hand stories of discrimination and segregation and met Dalit teenage girls at a NNDSWO centre, who were learning about their rights. Read her blog post about the visit here. Photo from DSN-Fi blog post.
Several human rights organisations in Nepal have joined forces to launch and impressive new online portal that will collect information on human rights violations relating to caste in Nepal and push for action to address them. The portal is a much-needed tool to help ensure implementation of Nepal’s legislation against caste discrimination as this form of discrimination much too often goes unpunished. The portal will also raise awareness of the needs of Dalits in Nepal and other issues affecting Dalit communities.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat has reiterated the government’s commitment to end the caste-based discrimination and the practice of ‘untouchability’ from Nepal at the earliest possible.
Raksha Ram Chamar (Harijan) from Madhesi Dalit community has been awarded the first Darnal International Award for Social Justice