Mark Koenig

Mark Koenig (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Mark was born in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from the International School of Bern in Switzerland in 2000, he spent one year at Davidson College in North Carolina and then moved on to Johns Hopkins University where he received a bachelor's degree with honors in Political Science in 2004. While studying at Johns Hopkins, Mark completed internships with genomics researcher Craig Venter, US House Representative Chris Van Hollen, and in London with Lady Sylvia Hermon, a Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland. After graduation, Mark moved to Shenzhen, China where he lived for two years teaching English at Shenzhen Senior High School. At the time of his fellowship, Mark was studying at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston focusing on post-conflict reconstruction, law and development. After his fellowship, Mark wrote: “I think that perhaps it is my interest in and understanding of community level dynamics and activities that has developed the most while here. The significance of community level interactions and relationships as it pertains to the events that take place on a national level is an intriguing topic that this summer has given me new insight into.”

Dhan Maya Pun

23 Aug

Dhan Maya Pun lives in the village of Mayurbasti in Bardiya District. The Pun’s are an ethnic minority group in Nepal (minorities are called Janjatis) that do not figure directly into the Hindu caste system. Their ancestors came from the hilly areas of Nepal and slowly spread south onto the flatlands.

Dhan Maya Pun is happily married. She has a young daughter, a kind husband and enough land on their farm to feed their growing family every year. What she does not have yet is a house of her own.

Dhan Maya Pun and her husband live in the same house as her older brother-in-law Lal Bahadur Pun. Lal Bahadur Pun’s father had built the house himself well before his sons were grown. Upon his death he gave sole ownership of the house to his eldest son, Lal Bahadur Pun’s older brother, while leaving equal amounts of land to each of his three sons.

After a few years the eldest son decided to take his family and move back to the hills. This left the question of who would take the house. The brothers decided that legally they would split the house between the two younger brothers and in fact both their families would live there. In practice though it is Lal Bahadur Pun’s house, and it is expected that his younger brother will build a house of his own someday.

While Dhan Maya Pun herself gets confused when describing the details of these transactions, she can tell you clearly the effect it all has on her. As she is the wife of the younger brother, she now finds herself on unequal ground with the wife of her husbands elder brother. The women split most of the house-holding duties but it always remains clear who is in charge. Tradition and culture place the elder brother’s wife higher on the family hierarchy so Dhan Maya Pun must obey her elder sister.

While Dhan Maya Pun does not feel maltreated and feels no resentment towards her elder sister, she still dreams of the day when her family can have a house of its own. Once she has a house of her own, Dhan Maya Pun will know that her daily work will be for her family and her house, and from knowing that Dhan Maya Pun is sure she will find happiness.

Posted By Mark Koenig

Posted Aug 23rd, 2007

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