Nicole Farkouh

Nicole Farkouh (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Nicole graduated from Smith College with a BA in Cultural Anthropology. She also has a Master of Education from the University of New Orleans. Nicole’s professional background is in education. She has worked as a teacher, administrator, and consultant, mainly with middle school students with special needs. She is also a certified community mediator and has studied a complementary model of mediation based on Non-Violent Communication. She has studied abroad in India, lived and taught in Mexico. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Master of Public Policy degree at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. After her fellowship, Nicole wrote: "More than anything, this summer I received a new level of understanding /appreciation for the complexity involved in “development” and “human rights” work…. Particularly being a foreign body trying to work in a new culture."


27 Jun

The Nepalese people are nothing if not politically active. In my first 3 weeks in Nepal I’ve seen a 24 hour sit in, 2 rallies, 3 organized civil society conversations and 5 protest marches – 2 of which involved fire. The majority of these gatherings were speaking out against the monarchy and pushing for the formation of a republic. One of the rallies was an attempt to raise awareness and increase support for ratifying the International Criminal Court.

COCAP 24hour sit-in in Kathmandu to pressure the government to adhere to the people’s request of making the government a republic.

The newspapers (which Nepalis seem to be reading all the time) are filled with political articles (that would verge on a soap opera if the stakes weren’t so high), commentary, analysis, and editorials. On top of all this comes the Bahndas and the endless political discussions that seem to happen around me all the time (from what I can tell).

It isn’t surprising to me that just over a year ago Nepalis were able to mobilize mass public protests, manage to sustain them through a 90 day period of tightly stretched food and other resources, and through the “People’s Movement” bring about a massive change in their political system.

People lighting torches made out of tires at the beginning of a protest march calling for removal of the King. The woman on the left is Sabita-ji, my land lady.

It also isn’t surprising to me that this is a land filled with NGOs. Sure, there are lots of International NGOs here to help with a myriad of issues, but there are an infinite number of Nepali NGOs as well – the number I’ve heard is around 10,000. Not bad for a country of 25,310,000 people.

I had a light bulb go off today (after reading my COCAP partner in crime Tasso’s blog) that the reason there are so many NGOs is because the “G” is effectively missing from the country. NGOs have developed to fill the void that has been created by an ineffective or non-existent government. They truly are grass roots organizations that derive from a few people who see a need in a community and organize around trying to meet that need.

The NGOs I’ll be working with most closely this summer (in descending order) are the 4 members in COCAP’s Eastern Region. Nepal’s Social Development and People’s Empowerment Center (NESPEC), which is in the Udayapur district and houses the COCAP focal point office is a very well established organization and is where I spend my days. Just a 15 minute walk to the other end of town leads to PRDC: Panchawati Rural Development Center. About 2 hours away in the Siraha District isCommunity Development Forum(CDF). And an 8 hour bus trip away isCommunity Legal Research Centre (CLRC).

From what I’ve experienced they are all staffed by kind-hearted, socially progressive, and earnest people who really want to bring about social, political, and economic change. I have been impressed by the quality of the programming of these organizations, though it is often small in scope and covering a broad array of issues, all falling under the category of provision of or advocacy for basic human rights.

Not a night goes by that I don’t fall asleep praying that I’ll wake up with a miraculous understanding of Nepali that will allow me to engage in the work and conversations going on around me in a more meaningful and in-depth way.

Posted By Nicole Farkouh

Posted Jun 27th, 2014

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