The past week at the office I sat with Bijay a majority of the time going through their program for 2004. This has been a long process and the fact that we work differently made for a slow start. I like all information at once and he is more systematic. We have taken his route, but I have all the information now and will be editing the 2004 report for the next two days. Afterwards we will insert photos and then send if off to be printed. The report will be submitted to the donor organization as well as to the member organizations during the General Assembly, to be held the weekend of July 9th.
I am looking forward to the General Assembly because it will give me a chance to meet the other members of COCAP. Two from Nepalganj have requested that I visit for 2-3 days and discuss proposals and report writings with them. This is the biggest concern for local organizations because they don’t have enough funds to support themselves and they don’t have the best English to express their needs and goals in proposal form. Many can write a great proposal in Nepali, but the English translation is a huge barrier.
I have continuously stressed that I will not be writing the proposals or reports for them, but I can help with English translation and advising what information needs to be placed in the proposal or report. My fear is that if they don’t even know how to put together a proposal, what will they do when COCAP staff doesn’t have the time and when the foreign intern leaves? Bijay has been flexible with this request and proposes to sit a member down with one of our office volunteers to outline the proposal. Then the volunteer, who also speaks some English, can express the ideas and goals of the proposal to me and I can translate into English. This is the compromise.
This past weekend COCAP was part of a team of organizations that organized a two day National Conference titled, ‘Sustainable Livelihood and People’s Access to Natural Resources’. The set up of the program was an opening ceremony, and then participants broke into three areas of concentration, Land, Water and Forest. In these sub groups they were able to address the concerns of deforestation, irrigation and land rights. The first day they spoke about concerns and issues and the first half of the second day they came up with steps to take to resolve the issues from the day before. The second half of the second day had all three groups coming together again to share what they learned and their proposals for how to resolve the issues. A report will be published in the next few weeks of the outcome of the conference.
The conference was expecting around 300 participants, but they ended up with over 450 people attending with about 90% coming from outside the Kathmandu Valley. Most of these participants arrived late due to police checks along the road and arrived around 12 noon on the first day. Those that attended came from forestry groups, fishing communities in Chitwan, Dalits from eastern Terai, Halliyas from Dadeldhura district and freed Kamaiyas from far western Nepal, some of whom are experiencing land displacement or discrimination from those who still practice the caste system.
I attended the opening ceremony only, since all was in Nepali and I can not get the details of the meetings through my language skills. On Saturday I found out that Bijay and I were on TV the night before. During a news clip of the conference they showed us standing in the back of the conference hall as the opening ceremony was taking place – I made Nepali TV in the short time that I had attended the program!! That afternoon I had actually gone back to the office to work on our 2004 report. Within an hour of me getting to COCAP the electricity went off and did not come back on before 5pm. They were working on the electrical wires. In the paper today I saw a picture of a man at the top of a telephone pole, no ladder, no support whatsoever and the caption said he was working on the electricity in Anamnagar (COCAP office is in this town) on Friday. He was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, that was all, and he climbed the pole himself to work on the wires.
Last night I attended the viewing of “Tamas:The Darkness”, by Ashima Ranjit. She is a Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University. The performance was thought provoking. The ending was, for me, confusing, but as it was explained to me, the state of Nepal is also in a state of confusion and this is the way the performance left you. Simple, but effective. It was conducted completely in Nepali and afterward they provided both a Nepali and English version of her words.
On the way back from the program I walked with a Nepali man. He had explained the ‘confusion’ aspect of the viewing to me and our conversation turned to why I came to Nepal, to finding work in Nepal and then to discrimination. I noticed that the girls in my host family sent pictures with their job applications and asked the Nepali man if he had to do this. He said sometimes they ask and when they did he sent the photo. I admitted that I did not like these practices because it could lead to discrimination based on ones looks, either they are not pretty or handsome. He said that as a woman I should be more worried about this, but that they did not discriminate this way against men. In Nepal a majority of the time you can tell someone’s caste by their last name, so maybe the photo would not be needed because once they saw the man’s name they would know a person’s background and make their judgment. I pushed him a little more and said that if he did not look like the right caste he could be discriminated against. He again said that this did not happen, but he himself was a Brahmin and I wonder if he just doesn’t realize it happens because it has never happened to him. To be fair, he was being honest and was not defending the practices, he just didn’t seem to think they happened as much anymore.
Part of the Maoist insurgency is said to come from the constant discrimination against those of the lower caste. They have less rights or the laws in place to protect them are not enforced. For this reason many of the Maoist rebels are said to be from this part of society. Conferences like the one held this weekend, which works towards hearing the voices of the marginalized societies, are needed to let the people know that their voices are being heard. Other policies are also going through the current parliament to have a certain percentage of those in political offices to be representatives of women and of the Dalit communities. These steps need to be taken in order to integrate the people into society so that they don’t turn to the Maoists, who are offering equal treatment to all who join.
Posted By Anne Finnan (Nepal)
Posted Jun 25th, 2005