Morgan St. Clair

Morgan’s first experience with international work came in 2003, when she travelled around the world with Semester at Sea studying intercultural relations. She received her Bachelors degree from Assumption College in Worcester, Mass, and worked as an intern in the probation department in the Worcester Trial Court. Morgan then worked on human resources at a Biotech company. At the time of her fellowship, Morgan was pursuing her Master’s in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations with a concentration in community development at the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont.

democracy in Nepal?

10 Sep

Sadly, my powerbook plug has decided to die in Nepal.  It’s currently being worked on in the market of Gaighat.  A good thing because I might have started a fire at the NESPEC office if I had kept on using it.  If only there was a mac store near by…

Most of my pictures and video are on my computer including pictures for this blog.  Please excuse the lack of visuals while I wait for my plug and hope I don’t need to buy a new computer. 

Yesterday morning while getting ready to step out the door to take my short walk to NESPEC my host family, Sova and Ram Basnet invited me to the local National Congress Party Office in Gaighat.  Throughout the summer I have attended the democratic political party meetings where people discuss current issues locally and nationally as well as mediate conflicts that may come arise with one another. 

 I have enjoyed the meetings to witness how active people are in Gaighat, especially seeing Ram and Sova take part in the democracy they strive for.  It’s a gathering place where all different castes are represented, can come together and relate to one another through their shared admiration of the Democratic Party.    

It was BP Koirala’s 95th birthday anniversary, a revolutionary leader who helped create the National Congress Party. He was tragically imprisoned many times for the sake of freedom for Nepalis. In 1959, in Nepal’s first try at ‘democrcacy’ was when he was elected to prime minister only to be jailed two years later for angering the King, Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah and the traditional elite.  He was known to have socialist ways by the royalty; took away elite tax exempt land, opened schools, built drinking water, started phone lines, introduced international flights and radio communication.

Since there are not enough hours in the day to understand the political history of this country I am reading the book, “Forget Kathmandu” by Manjushree Thapa to help me understand how the current situation got to be where it is today.  I recommend it highly for a personal account of the quest for true 21st century democracy.

That struggle for democracy was in the forefront in my mind after attending the Nepali Congress and many questions come to mind almost on a daily basis about the political situation while talking to Nepalis.  The citizens want equality and freedom yet the political parties see it much different and only for themselves.  What exactly does democracy mean in a country like Nepal?    

“Democracy does not exist here and I don’t know if it will ever,” words spoken by Gilash Bati Chaudhary. While at the crowded meeting trying to understand the few words I could, I met the chairperson of the single women group in Gaighat.  The group is called Single Women Struggle Committee and represents single women in the Udayapur district. 

Gilash Bati Chaudhary, a young woman whom I felt at ease with right away is speaking out against the inequalities single women face through her own story.  She no longer is scared to talk about her own story, realizing that she must overcome her own tragedies to fight the injustice single women face in Nepal.  16 years ago her husband was killed while working at a mill, with only her baby daughter a few days old she was left with very little.  Property rights to her house and land were disputed for many years with her father in law, worried that she would start a new life somewhere else without her two children.  The fighting ended communication with her husband’s family.  Soon after her husband’s death she started cooking in homes until she earned enough money to sell rice herself. 

For the past 16 years Gilash has had to face immense discrimination with being a widow.  She has decided to wear a red sari while I was speaking with her in defense of how she cannot wear one without being ridiculed. (Red saris are only for married women Nepali culture dictates, along with tikas). Neighbors tease her relentlessly about not having a husband and one man has even propositioned her to marry and promise to split the government dowry, the appalling 50,000 rupees that will be given to men who marry single women.

Posted By Morgan St. Clair

Posted Sep 10th, 2009

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