Devin Greenleaf

Devin Greenleaf (Jagaran Media Center): Devin developed his business and marketing skills in the private sector before pursuing a BA in English at the University of Utah. His spent his spare time programming the Amnesty International Human Rights Film Festival and teaching language and life skills to immigrants. At the time of his fellowship, Devin was studying for a Master’s degree at American University’s School of International Service, where he researched the intersection of communication and international human rights. Devin was also active in the American University’s Center for Social Media.



1976 –

06 Jul


I’m standing before her, staring at her rough weathered hands as she crouches over a pile of rocks. She spends her days with a small steel hammer pounding stones from the nearby river into small marble sized pieces. These pieces are destined to become cement and pavement in towns many miles away.

If she can fill a nylon bag within two days, she promises to make 20 rupees (of which a middleman will take 2). In other words, she works 12 hours a day to make roughly 15 cents – a paltry sum that forces women in her position to sell their bodies once the sun has gone down.

The fact that we are both 30 years old, imparts on me a compelling sentiment. Crouching before this woman with an $800 camera around my neck gives me the feeling that she represents an unattainable opportunity for everyone I’ve enjoyed. Though I’m here to help and want so badly to accomplish something for her cause, I feel embarrassed at the inequities we’ve experienced in our now-converging 30 years. As a widow, a woman, and a Dalit, she suffers daily at the hands of extreme poverty and social immobility. Yet she sits across from me with such composure and sincerity. Giving me a moment of her time so generously.

This is the Doti district of Nepal, said to be ground zero for discrimination based on caste. As I interview this woman I’m reminded that this is exactly what I wanted in an effort to gain an understanding of this practice – the opportunity to physically see the hierarchy built on the backs of a so many Nepali citizens. But as I sit across from a face of the exploited, learning her name and that she lost her husband last year because they couldn’t afford medication, I have no idea how to respond. I also know that as powerful as this moment is, just by virtue of being a foreigner, a man and an American, I am completely incapable of truly understanding this woman’s lot. No matter how long I empathize with her on the jagged banks of the Seti River, I can never understand what it’s like to be shackled by caste.

***

Having just come from the 8 X 12 mud bricked home she shares with her family of seven, she explains that the thatched roof leaks on her and her children every time it rains. Having met her beautiful 14 year old daughter who’s been attending school on scholarship for the past two years, I attempt to uplift the conversation. I ask whether she has hopes that her young daughter will be able to live a different life by getting an education. But it was to no avail. She explains that her daughter’s schooling is only temporary. After all, she is one of five children. As the oldest, she must leave school because the family needs additional income.

Posted By Devin Greenleaf

Posted Jul 6th, 2007

7 Comments

  • Jer

    July 11, 2007

     

    Wow….rough. Every person born in the US should be required to spend some time with a person like this in a situation like this. That kind of exposure would do more to motivate individuals to contribute to their global community than any other event likely.

  • Pratik Pande

    July 13, 2007

     

    Devin, its good to read this. Keep up with your good job.

    Pratik

  • Hamster

    July 15, 2007

     

    The world of change has to begin with the change of oneself… dev, you are a good example, keep up the hard work and you can encourage change in all of us that read these posts.

  • Dan Chong

    July 24, 2007

     

    This is terrific Devin. Thanks for sharing your experiences so vividly, and for bringing the reality of discrimination to life.

  • Kristin

    August 14, 2007

     

    Dev –
    It’s often difficult to put oneself in a position like this. I met several women this summer whose lives were so completely different from mine, whose worries and stresses were so much more devastating and encompassing than mine could ever be….yet I like to think that compassion and humanity can go a long way.

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