I’m not sure how three months have moved so swiftly, but I have just returned from my time in Nepal. It has been 23 bus rides, eight flights, countless taxi rides, two knock-down drag out flues and thousands of ‘momos’ since I began my work this summer. But sadly, the time has come for me to begin the transition back to my life in Washington.
I must admit that though I’m looking forward to returning to the things left undone in the states, I’m sad my time as an AP Fellow in Nepal must end. For the past three months my work has been my life, and I’m not ready to disconnect. This summer saw the successful execution of a way to empower Nepal’s Dalit by giving them a voice. Ted and I, together with JMC’s Prakash Mohara, traveled throughout the far reaches of Nepal interviewing Dalits on the lowest rungs of Nepal’s social, economic and cultural ladders to tell their stories. We strengthened a network of Dalit journalists living in and covering these remote regions by producing a means of disseminating their work to an international audience. I shared my knowledge of information systems and American slang, and met people that I will always be proud to call friends.
There were also many elements that I didn’t anticipate, but were equally instrumental in making this one of the most powerful educational experiences of my life. Living in Nepal during such an important time gave me insight into the countless inputs affecting her future. It pulled the country from the lifeless print of newspaper and endowed it with the context that only names and faces can provide. It also gave me an insider’s view of both the assets and ills of the NGO world. For better or worse, international development is an important industry injecting valuable currency into poor countries like Nepal, and it was wonderful to have such a close view of how international organizations work together.
I had a platform to grapple with the many facets of discrimination -the propensity for humankind to divide itself into groups that subvert each other based on arbitrary differences. Against the advice of many Nepali Americans I met before my arrival in Nepal, I couldn’t help comparing caste-based discrimination to the discrimination problems in my own country. It is true that there are many differences, but there are so many similarities. Though someone’s caste is virtually invisible based on physical attributes, it still causes many to believe false stereotypes based on ignorance.
Finally, amidst the poverty and conflict that continues to plague Nepal, I experienced the beauty of humanity. I was inspired by the group of young Dalit journalists for their courage and commitment to what they believe in. And I witnessed the kindness of strangers on a daily basis as I was continually given so much from those who owned so little.
I started this blog wondering whether my time in Nepal would serve to help human rights on some small level, and my inclination (and hope) is that it has. If I merely succeeded in helping a few more people learn about caste discrimination in Nepal, perhaps that’s still a rupee in the coffer of tolerance. I hope that at the very least, acknowledging a system of discrimination taking place on the other side of the globe helps us articulate how we as Americans engage with discrimination issues at home.
To say that I am incredibly grateful to have received this once in a lifetime opportunity is an understatement. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. My warmest regards and heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who gave their time, words and support to this project. I’ve enjoyed your company immensely.
Posted By Devin Greenleaf
Posted Aug 24th, 2007