Being a graduate student, my life has returned to the annual rhythms of the academic year again. And all students know that summer is a particularly unique time – a reprieve from usual coursework, but an exciting time for learning nonetheless. Before I left the US for Nepal lots of conversation with classmates in my masters program naturally included questions about summer plans. I’d like to take a moment here to start off with a general overview.
As a 2022 Peace Fellow with The Advocacy Project (AP), my project scope has three broad goals.
The first third of this fellowship is focused on supporting income generating activities for a group of women from the same district who each experienced a forced disappearance of a family member during the Nepal civil war from 1996 to 2006. The association of wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters first began working with embroidery as an art form to provide visual aids to advocacy efforts, commemoration activities, and solidarity building within this conflict-affected community. Over the years the group has refined their skills and the youngest generation of members are interested in continuing to use their sewing skills to bring in some extra money.
The second component of the fellowship includes a cross-over between two long standing AP partner organizations, NEFAD and BASE. Two embroidery artists from the association for families of the disappeared in the Bardiya district will act as trainers for the first time and teach a group of women who work under unfavorable labor conditions in the Dang district on how to produce embroidery for advocacy storytelling. The training intends to build the facilitation skills of the trainers, teach a new skill set to the trainees, produce firsthand accounts of the lives and concerns of the participants, and offer a community building platform for mobilizing next steps with the women in Dang.
The final component of the fellowship goals is to explore the place of local commemoration in the transitional justice process; hopefully through a paper submitted to the UN. Nepal has struggled to move forward with concrete measures that address the various needs of conflict victims from the civil war. There have also been noted differences in the ways various parties have prioritized different transitional justice goals from prosecution and reparations to recognition and truth-seeking. In the absence of satisfactory top-down progress, local-level commemoration efforts led by those affected first hand provide positive outcomes in a way that other countries could learn from.
All of these fellowship goals are both standalone priorities and interwoven issues. I think the international affairs and international development world can silo itself into various sub fields where everyone feels a need to profess their particular speciality, but these projects at the grassroots level really show how interrelated things are between human rights, income generation, women’s empowerment, advocacy, justice, and so much more.
When I think of my place in this process, I recognize that I am a visitor and a learner. I’m looking to support the work that is already being done by great people at a very localized level who could gain from greater international attention to their work and priorities. That makes me partly a reporter and photographer of sorts during this summer. On the other hand, I also see the Peace Fellow’s role as one side of the organizational capacity building that happens when similarly-aligned organizations collaborate domestically and internationally.
Posted By Therese McCarry
Posted Jun 13th, 2022