This startup supports a group of women in western Nepal who lost close family members during the conflict between 1996 and 2006. Their relatives disappeared after being seized by the Nepalese security forces or Maoist rebels and many years later the women still seek answers. What happened? Who was responsible? Why has no one been prosecuted?
After 13 years of democracy the government of Nepal has yet to provide an explanation. Meanwhile, over 2,500 families remain in limbo. Transitional justice is on hold.
This startup examines the deadlock through the eyes of women who lost 25 close relatives in Bardiya, a district in the midwest which suffered more disappearances (272) than any other during the conflict. The women are members of the Network of Families of the Disappeared (NEFAD), a partner of AP since 2015. They vary greatly in age, education and income but they have one thing in common – they have not come to terms with their loss. Poverty adds to their distress because many lost their main source of income when the family breadwinner disappeared.
As the prospects for a national consensus over transitional justice fade, many families are channeling their frustration into new and innovative forms of memorialisation. These now include advocacy quilting. For the past three years AP has helped the Bardiya women to remember their loves ones through embroidered squares. Early in 2019 Bobbi Fitzsimmons, a leading American quilter and AP board member, visited Bardiya to help the artists assemble their squares into two large quilts. They hope to use the quilts in making the case for transitional justice.
A second goal has emerged from this startup. Many of the women are keen to turn their sewing skills into a source of income, and they have formed a cooperative to make bags. Economic empowerment is central to transitional justice.
The most impressive outcome from this startup so far has been the Bardiya cooperative. Working together has empowered these women. Whether they can turn this into a business or influence the national debate on transitional justice remains to be seen. But they have shown how families – particularly women – offer the first line of defense against abusive and illegal acts like disappearances, and demonstrated the importance of advocacy quilting as a form of memorialisation. (May 2019)
Sarita is the inspiration behind the Bardiya cooperative. She was eleven when her father Shayam Bahadur was denounced by a cousin as a Maoist and taken away by the police, never to reappear. Sarita, her mother and younger brother were ostracized and driven from the village. Sarita gave up school to concentrate on the search for her father and suffered further tragedy when her husband died from a snakebite. But these misfortunes only stiffened Sarita’s resolve. She returned to school and completed grade 12 with girls half her age. She has also trained herself to become an expert seamstress. Sarita is a natural leader and beloved by other cooperative members and she repays their affection with kindness. It was Sarita who calmed their nerves and helped them to testify before a government commission investigating the disappearances. She is a strong believer in embroidery as a way to empower women and has led the projects to produce memorial squares and Tiger bags with enthusiasm. But the wistful look is never far away. Even the friendship of women cannot compensate for Sarita’s terrible losses.
Tilak Rani Tharu
Tilak’s son Uttam was seized by Maoists while he was on leave from the army. The family knew it was risky because the Maoists had warned Tilak several times but Uttam was determined to see his parents and wife. When Maoists came to the village, Tilak tried to hide her son but neighbors disclosed his hiding place and he was taken away with a close friend, Ram (the husband of cooperative member Ram Kumari). Says Tilak: “The Maoists said they would return my son if I paid them a fine. They tied his hands and put a blindfold on him.” When asked about reconciliation, Tilak says that she identifies with families that lost relatives to the security forces: “What happened happened. We all have the same problem and need to get together. We have become friends and share our pain.”
Bobbi is a retired educator and award-winning quilter who lives in North Carolina and recently joined the AP Board. Bobbi came to know AP from assembling advocacy quilts from Uganda, Kosovo, Nepal and the Middle East. In April 2019 she travelled to Nepal with Iain from AP to help the Bardiya cooperative produce two memorial quilts and Tiger bags. This was the first time an American quilter had provided technical support for an AP partner in the Global South and we hope it will create a precedent! The experience energized Bobbi and gave her a new perspective at a difficult personal time. “It changed my life,” she says. AP followed Bobbi’s journey and compiled it into a short documentary. Watch it now!
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How it Began
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2017 Peace Fellow Vicky Mogeni with Kalpana from the Bardiya Cooperative.
AP’s work on disappearances began in 2014 when we formed a partnership with the Network of Families of the Disappeared (NEFAD) and its founder, Ram Kumar Bhandari. Five Peace Fellows have worked at NEFAD in the years since.
Our first direct encounter with the families came in August 2015, when Iain Guest met with eight women whose husbands had disappeared during the conflict. Several of the women, including Shoba Bhatta, had also lost their houses during the recent earthquake. AP launched a crowd-funding appeal for three vulnerable communities that had been pushed deeper into poverty by the earthquake, including families of the disappeared. That appeal, which closed in 2018, yielded around $10,000 for the Bardiya cooperative.
Peace Fellow Megan Keeling visited Bardiya in the summer of 2016 and helped Sarita Thapa to train 35 cooperative members in sewing. NEFAD and AP paid 1,000 rupees ($10) for each embroidered square. By early 2019, the women had produced over 40 squares that described the kidnap of their loved ones, often in chilling detail.
By the time Iain visited Bardiya later in 2016, the cooperative members had also begun making tiger squares, in honor of the tigers that live in the Bardiya National Park. AP contributed a sewing machine, and in June 2017 two Peace Fellows – Vicky and Kirstin – took the tiger designs to Kathmandu where they were turned into bags by tailors. Sarita then took over the bag-making, and by the time Komal, our Peace Fellow, arrived in June 2018 Sarita had made twenty bags. However none had sold.
By 2019 twenty-nine women were still active in the cooperative on behalf of their 25 disappeared relatives. AP launched a new appeal in early 2019. Iain and Bobbi Fitzsimmons visited Bardiya in April and helped the women to assemble two quilts from memorial squares and make their Tiger bags more appealing to consumers. Sarita rented space near the Bardiya park where cooperative members could produce bags, while Iain and Bobbi brought sample bags back to the US.
This bag project has left little time to advocate for transitional justice, described on the next page, but AP is committed to helping NEFAD try and break the deadlock. Hopefully the Bardiya cooperative can play its part.
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Expressing loss: The Bardiya cooperative allows family members to remember their loved ones.
Disappearances were first used in a systematic manner by dictators in Latin America during the 1970s and the practice has remained a tool of unscrupulous governments ever since. A UN working group is currently investigating over 49,000 cases in 92 countries.
Given the attractions of Nepal it comes as a surprise to learn that more disappearances occurred in Nepal than any other country during the height of the Maoist rebellion (2006-2016). These unsolved crimes still haunt Nepali society, particularly in villages, where the conflict was often deeply personal.
Tharu in the Crossfire
The conflict began in 1996 when Maoists attacked a police compound in the town of Gorahi, Bardiya. The Maoists were understandably demonized during the 10-year conflict that followed but they were also much loved by their families. Four of the 25 Bardiya victims were active Maoists and are still mourned by their relatives.
One reason Bardiya suffered so many disappearances is that Maoists found fertile ground for their ideology among the local Tharu people. Of the 25 families covered by this startup all but four are Tharu. (The rest are from the Brahmin and Chettri castes). The Tharu have long been one of the most marginalised groups in Nepal and this left them vulnerable to such practices as bonded labor and the domestic enslavement of Tharu girls (known as kamlaris). Sumitra Chaudhary, the sister of cooperative member Mankumari, worked as a kamlari for 15 years. She had been home for just four years before being taken away by the police at the age of 23, never to return.
Both sides used disappearances, kidnapping and murder during the conflict. Of the 25 victims, four were women. Four were killed or disappeared by Maoists and the remainder by security forces. Of those seized by the army or police, seven were known Maoists and several of them died in confrontations, but only two have been identified and buried. Kalpana, whose brother died in a crossfire, was only told of his death two years later and blames the Maoists for not returning his body. The Maoists were certainly capable of great brutality. They seized Uttam Prasad when he was on leave from the army, visiting his mother Tilak. Kamala’s father, a policeman, was summarily shot after surrendering to Maoists.
Victims and Survivors
Demonstrations by family members are dignified and frequent.
Although disappearances were used strategically against suspected “subversives” in Bardiya, many cases resulted from personal feuds. Binita’s husband Shree Ram Chaudhary was denounced by other villagers to the police after Maoist rebels came through the village and demanded food. Tilak’s son was handed over to Maoists by neighbors after she tried to hide him. Sarita’s father was accused of siding with the Maoists by a cousin. Belmati’s daughter-in-law Gita, a Maoist sympathizer, was going to a festival when she was seized by other villagers and handed over to the police. After soldiers raided her home and seized her husband Ram Prasad, Sangita learned that Ram had been accused by a local landowner who had been turned down by Ram after offering to buy some land. Ram Pyari’s husband was mistaken for someone else, but that did not save his life. There was no such thing as neutrality in these villages.
When someone disappears, his or her family is left with nothing but memories. This applies even to cooperative members who were very young at the time. Alina was a year old when her father was seized. Kancham was eight when her brother was shot and killed in the home. Yet however distant the event, grieving mothers have made sure their daughters will never forget and this has made a deep impression on young minds. Kancham has also replayed her brother’s death over and over again with friends like Gita, who lives in the same village and lost her own brother. Four of the younger cooperative members are so committed that they often attend meetings on behalf of their mothers.
Kancham used embroidery to remember how her brother was shot and killed by an army patrol.
For some women, the loss has been made worse by social ostracism. Fudiya, who lost a son and two daughters in law, feels like an outcast: “Other people gossip about us and say: ‘Your son was guilty and politically active.’ This hurts us deeply. It is hard for us to live without him.” After Sarita’s father was taken off, his family was shunned and forced to leave the village.
The pain is made worse by the fact that many of those who denounced their relatives are free. Sangita cannot bear to look at Mohan, the local businessman who turned her husband Ram in to the police and she finds it extraordinary that Mohan has “never apologized or expressed regret.” Sharada knows the identity of the police sergeant who led the squad that arrested her husband and it keeps her awake at night. The national commission on disappearance claims to know the identity of over 1,000 perpetrators around the country.
The memories have also been sharpened by poverty. After her father disappeared, Sarita – then 11 – dropped out of school to look for him. The search would cost over 200,000 rupees ($2,000) and the family has never really recovered. Kushma, 24, has delayed her marriage because her mother cannot afford a second dowry after her sister got married last year. Mina has never attended school because her parents could only afford to send one child to school after their son disappeared, and chose Mina’s brother. Life has been particularly hard for the older women, like Mina’s mother Fudiya, Sarita’s mother Subitra, and Belmati. All have been forced to make up for the loss of their husbands by working well into their later years.
A disappearance can divide families, cause squabbles over inheritance, and even turn wives against their inlaws. But perhaps surprisingly, the experience rarely results in crude opposition to the authorities. One of the most charismatic members of the Bardiya cooperative, Pooja, has even married an army man, even though the army disappeared her father. She sees no contradiction between her roles as an advocate and wife.
Deadlock over Transitional Justice
Candlelight Vigil for the Disappeared
The government’s policy on disappearances started on a promising note in 2006 with the signing of a peace agreement that ended the war, brought the Maoists into the political process and made extensive – if vague – promises to conflict victims. Then the process got bogged down by politics. It was not until 2014 that parliament passed a law establishing two commissions to investigate the disappearances and promote transitional justice. Unfortunately, the law also offered an amnesty to perpetrators and was struck down by the Nepal Supreme Court. The UN, human rights organizations and western governments backed up the ruling by boycotting the work of the commissions.
While the amnesty provisions are obviously unacceptable, the boycott ignored the wishes of most family members and their advocates, who called for “critical engagement” with the commissions. Over 65,000 Nepalis have since testified before the commissions, including the cooperative members in Bardiya. They are grateful for the opportunity.
This difference over the commissions has exposed a rift between family members and the professional human rights community. Many victims feel that the boycott deprived the commissions of expertise and resources and guaranteed their failure. The government, meanwhile, has extended the two commissions three times, most recently in April 2019. The new commissioners are currently being selected.
Reparations and Compensation
Family members have suffered from the lost earnings of their breadwinners. Many older women work in the fields.
The government has offered compensation to conflict-affected families but gets little credit for this from the Bardiya cooperative. One reason is that payments came late and in installments, which made it hard to invest in a house or land. For a time, part of the first installment also took the form of shares in a utility company.
The Maoists doubled the compensation package to $10,000 after coming to power, but even this has been complicated by inheritance laws and uncertainty about the legal status of the disappeared. At first wives were asked to sign a death certificate. This meant conceding on their most precious demand, but some like Sharada were so desperate that they gave in.
Even after the policy was dropped, some families have still not received the full amount. By 2016, Belmati had only received 100,000 rupees in spite of losing three family members. Kalpana only received 100,000 for her dead brother, because her father died before he could collect the full amount. After her brother was killed, Kancham’s sister-in-law received the full amount and then married another man. This left Kancham’s mother without compensation for her son, even though he had been the family breadwinner. After Kushma’s father disappeared, the transfer of his land to her mother was put on hold by a dispute with her inlaws. Prem Kumari received title to the family land after her husband disappeared, but remains totally dependent on her father-in-law.
Most disputes have now been resolved, and a new law will make it easier for women to inherit from their husbands. Many cooperative members have also invested their compensation wisely. The commission on disappearances may recommend that the payout be doubled to $20,000 and this could be part of an eventual compromise package that includes an education allowance for children. But even this will not make up for the lost earnings. Before he disappeared, Manju’s husband earned 90,000 rupees ($900) a month from making furniture and would have earned much more than Manju has received in compensation. But perhaps the strongest criticism leveled against the compensation package is that it has come without any acknowledgement of guilt – the essence of true reparations.
Investigations, Prosecutions and Exhumations
Ram Kumar Bhandari has led demands for transitional justice that addresses the needs of victims and survivors.
All but three of the 29 cooperative members in Bardiya said they want to see the perpetrators brought to justice, but this has been complicated by the poor performance of the two commissions, which were set up in 2014. Family members reproach the commissions with not launching serious investigations. The commissioners reply that they have developed files on 2,518 disappearances and identified over 75% of the perpetrators. Commissioners also claim to know the location of over 1,000 mass graves.
Exhumations would end the mystery and allow relatives to rebury their dead, but are certain to be resisted by the security forces. Only four conflict victims have been exhumed, including Maina Sunawar, 15, who was killed and buried at an army barracks in 2007. Maina’s body was exhumed by the UN and Nepali Human Rights Commission. The courts called for the prosecution of four soldiers, but the army maintains that it is not answerable to civilian law.
Until 2017 the government seemed at least open to a discussion, but this changed when the Communists and Maoists joined forces and won a landslide election victory. The government has restocked the Supreme Court with political appointees and asked the Court to repeal its landmark 2015 ruling against amnesty, which would end any possibility for investigations and prosecutions. The families have also been weakened by a serious split in their national network, the Conflict Victims Common Platform.
In short, the climate has never seemed more unfavorable to families of the disappeared. The next page looks at their response.
The Community Response
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Group effort: The Bardiya cooperative completed the first of two memorial quilts with help from Bobbi Fitzsimmons from North Carolina, center.
Over twenty years of anxiety has left the Bardiya women in limbo – unwilling to close the book on their loved ones but knowing in their heart of hearts that they will almost certainly never return. They women must also come to terms with the fact that some neighbors still look on them with suspicion. All of this is truly disempowering.
The Bardiya cooperative is first and foremost an attempt by grieving women to regain control over their lives. It starts with memorialisation, which is the only course of action completely within their power and not dependent on others.
Remembering a loved one can be passive and private – nothing is more dear to Sarita than the fading photo of her father, looking proud and young. Or it can be active and take the form of expression and denunciation. To denounce a crime to an authority, and to be taken seriously, is an act of protest as well as deeply cathartic. This explains why all of the Badiya women have given testimony to the commission on disappearances, in spite of its flaws.
As the prospects for a national solution have faded, families of the disappeared have resorted to ever more innovative ways to remember their lost relatives. Shobha Bhatta, whose young husband was taken away by Maoists in 2000, has erected a stone monument near her house in Kathmandu. In Bardiya, Sunita and her family will use their compensation money to build a new house in the memory of Sunita’s sister Kriti, a Maoist fighter who died in a confrontation. Several communities have erected memory gates to those who disappeared. One family even wants to plant fig trees where travelers can rest in the shade and remember the disappeared.
Concrete expression: Shobha has built a private memorial to her lost husband which is used by the local council for meetings.
Such actions are intended to heal the community, not just individuals, and more such initiatives can be expected as power and funds devolve to local councils under Nepal’s new constitution. One newly-elected ward chairman, whose own father disappeared, has proposed dedicating an entire community forest to conflict victims. The Marsyangdi rural municipality in the district of Lamjung has opened a ‘Centre for Memory of the Disappeared and Martyrs’ with an office and budget. Some local authorities have agreed to rename roads and public places after the disappeared. Family members have also used art in the form of wall-painting and theater to remember their relatives. The International Day of the Disappeared (August 30) is celebrated with intensity and imagination in Nepal.
Advocacy quilting addresses many of these needs because it allows relatives to remember, express, denounce and communicate. They have done this in a deeply personal manner, ranging from Ram Pyari’s exuberant flowers to Sarmila’s raw anger at the army that seized her brother. Many of the women have produced a second batch of smaller squares which fit more easily into a quilt, but their earlier, more spontaneous, expressions are deeply treasured.
The Bardiya cooperative is a classic example of women organizing in the face of a common threat. The cooperative is also part of a web of networks that are gradually restoring confidence to survivors and communities. Ten of the women belong to a local group known as Hatemalo which was established by the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide wives of the disappeared with modest financial support. Most also attend local meetings of the Conflict Victims Committee. Such associations allow women to share their loss with other women – an effective form of therapy – while working towards a common goal.
Community spirit: Cooperative members help each other to learn quilting.
Many of the women are also members of a savings group. Kancham’s mother joined a group three years ago and has invested 20 rupees every month ever since. The group loans up to 10,000 rupees to individual members at a rate of 1% interest and is managed by a member “with a good education.” All loans have been repaid, says Kancham’s mother: “It works on trust.”
When AP first met Manju, Alina’s mother in 2016, Manju was depressed and anxious about money. Three years later she is active in three initiatives – a Hatemalo group, a private savings group, and a government savings scheme that pays 8%. Manju has deposited 200 rupees a month for ten years without making any withdrawals. Her frugality has allowed her to deposit half her government compensation ($5,000) in her daughter’s bank account.
Not surprisingly, younger members of the Bardiya cooperative are in a better financial position than their elders. Fudiya and her husband depend on their land but Fudiya’s husband is too old to work and Fudiya herself has a serious problem with her back that makes it difficult for her to even cook. Kancham, in contrast, has just started working in an insurance company and is earning over 10,000 rupees a month. She keeps 4,000 rupees for herself and uses the rest to cover her sister’s education. Overall, Kancham’s family is doing well and bringing in twice as much as they spend (10,000 rupees a month).
Eventually, all of the women hope to earn money from the Tiger bags. Kancham, one of the cooperative’s most energetic members, hopes to earn another 3,000 rupees a month – a tall order, but indicative of her optimism and skills.
United by sadness: The husbands of Mankumari and Durga were killed by the Maoists and Army respectively. They have become fast friends.
Reconciliation is cherished by conflict resolution specialists and by some indicators Nepal has been a huge success. The Maoists have been incorporated seamlessly into the political process. Indeed, after launching a brutal rebellion, the Maoist leader Prachanda is now arguably the most powerful man in the country.
It is different in the villages. For every family member like Sangita, who feels her missing husband was well liked, there is a Fudiya whose neighbors still whisper about her behind her back. This is where reconciliation is most needed.
The Bardiya cooperative offers a way. Shared grief has brought together women who lost relatives to the Maoists and the security forces. In much the same way, savings schemes are not just about money because they build trust between conflict victims and their neighbors. All of this promotes reconciliation. Advocacy quilting also produces a sense of common purpose as long as it is not seen as imposed by well-meaning foreigners.
The National Campaign
Disappearances have brought family members together at the national as well as community level. This is due to the determination of individuals like Ram Bhandari, who lost his father and responded by launching the Network of Family Members of the Disappeared (NEFAD). Ram also played a leading role in creating the Conflict Victims Common Platform, a loose association that works for all victims and survivors, not just of the disappeared.
From memorialisation to income-generation: Sarita and other cooperative members hope to sell Tiger bags.
These associations have been effective because they are seen as authentic and representative by the families. Their campaign reached a high point in September 2018, when they met with a government Minister and seemed ready to compromise on justice and accountability. But the dialogue fizzled out when government withdrew from talks. Since then the government has launched a determined bid to kill any chance of investigations and prosecutions. The government has also exploited a split in the victims’ common platform over the future of the two commissions.
As the prospects for a national compromise recede, the focus will switch back to memorialisation. The security forces have proved tolerant but this could change if memorialisation seeks to expose war crimes. For example, some advocates would like to turn army bases into memorial parks.
Perhaps the main risk is that memorialisation, and compensation, will become a substitute for justice and accountability. This will test the cohesion of families.
Translation by Prabal Thapa
Sharada Tharu, Cooperative President
Sharada’s husband Buddhi Ram was arrested in February 2001. After he disappeared Sharada was afraid they would come for her and her baby as well. Sharada has not remarried and this makes the memory of her husband especially poignant, particularly as she knows the identity of the police sergeant who arrested him. Life has been difficult since Buddhi Ram disappeared and at one point Sharada was so desperate for money that she registered him as dead. She has since been compensated for the loss of her husband and now earns a good living from selling vegetables. Sharada testified to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and believes that those responsible for the disappearances should be prosecuted, starting with the man who seized her husband: “No one can forget their loved ones.”
Sarita Thapa, Secretary
Sarita is the inspiration behind the Bardiya cooperative. She was eleven when her father Shayam Bahadur was denounced by a cousin as a Maoist and detained. Sarita, her mother and younger brother were then ostracized and driven from the village. Sarita gave up school to concentrate on the search for her father which has cost the family an estimated 200,000 rupees ($2,000). She endured further tragedy after her husband died from a snake-bite. But these misfortunes only stiffened Sarita’s resolve. She returned to school and completed grade 12 with girls half her age. Sarita is a natural leader and beloved by other cooperative members and she repays their affection with kindness. It was Sarita who calmed their nerves and helped them to testify before government commissions investigating the disappearances. Sarita is a strong believer in embroidery as a means of empowering women and has led the projects to produce 50 memorial squares and Tiger bags. But the haunted look is always there and Sarita drives herself hard. Even the friendship of women cannot compensate for her terrible losses.
Sima Tharu, Treasurer
Sima comes across as shy, but as the cooperative treasurer she has a lot of responsibility. Sima was four when her father Siva Charan, a farmer, was arrested while traveling to Kohalpur. He was then taken to another police station and placed in a cell before he disappeared: “I visited him in jail with my mother and then suddenly he was no longer there.” Sima thinks about her father a lot, particularly when she sees other parents: “We lost the head of our family. I feel hurt.” Her first memorial square used a flower to commemorate her father. Sima testified before the commission on disappearances but is disappointed at the lack of follow-up and investigations.
Sarita has a soft spot for Aishwariya and considers her to be one of the cooperative’s most skilled seamstresses. Aishwariya was a year old in 2001 when her father Bupendra was seized by soldiers while working in the fields and her first square shows him being taken away along a yellow road. Aishwariya’s family has received compensation and testified to the disappearances commission but she does not hold out much hope for the commission. Asked what should be done she answers in a soft voice: “I can’t answer that.” But she is clear about why she clings to the memory of her father: “I know how important it is for my mother. Also, I feel his absence when I see my friends with their fathers.”.
At 17, Alina is the youngest member of the cooperative and the other members hover around her protectively at meetings. Alina was an infant when her father Hira Mani disappeared in 2003. Hira made furniture and earned 90,000 rupees a month – a significant amount. One day, he went to work at a neighbor’s house and never returned home. Soldiers came to the family home and questioned Manju, her mother. Manju was about to follow them when a neighbor stopped her, afraid that they would take Manju away as well. When AP met Alina in April 2019 she was waiting for grade 10 exam results and had produced several squares that showed her skills as an artist. Alina’s mother Manju is profiled below.
Anita remembers how her husband Tulsiram Tharu, a farmer, disappeared: “He was arrested in Baskari by police in the morning. They took him to the district jail and kept him for two months.” Anita visited him in jail and was overjoyed when she read that he had been freed. But he never reappeared: “The police gave us false news.” Life since has been hard for Anita. She works as an indentured laborer for an upper-class landowner (known as a “landlord”) and pays back part of what she produces as a tithe. This leaves just enough to make ends meet. She was relieved to receive compensation but wants her husband back. “He was my husband, my life partner. I often think of him.” In spite of her loss, Anita seems less angry than other women and is apprehensive about prosecutions: “I want the guilty to be punished but I have only one son and I am afraid that they will make him disappear as well.” Anita is proud of her son who provides her with a wonderful connection to her husband.
Babisara is the older sister of Pooja Shahi, one of the most active cooperative members. Babisara was three when her father disappeared in 2001 and married at the age of 15 while still at school. After her marriage ended Babisara returned to the town of Bhurigaum where she lives with her family and works in the fields. She joined the cooperative in 2017 and likes to make tiger squares.
Belmati is older than most of the other cooperative members and she rarely smiles. During embroidery training she seemed withdrawn and found it hard to master some of the steps. The other woman helped her, but unobtrusively so as not to cause her embarrassment. Belmati lost one of her six sons and two daughters in law during the conflict – a devastating loss for one family. The younger of the two women, Kamala, was married to Belmati’s son, Jagat Kumari. Jagat had stomach trouble and was going for treatment when he was seized by Maoists and forced to serve as a porter. The army came for his wife shortly afterwards. Belmati’s second daughter-in-law Gita, an active Maoist, was seized by villagers while she was going to a festival and handed over to soldiers. Belmati memorialised Gita in her first embroidered square. When AP first met Belmati in 2016 she had only received 100,000 rupees in compensation. The companionship of the cooperative is important to Belmati, but it will never make up for the loss of her family members: “I remember them all the time, when I’m working or when I celebrate a festival, or when I see other children. I have kept my son’s clothes…we want compensation and proper answers…we lost everything.”
The disappearance of Binita’s husband Shree Ram appears to have resulted from a personal feud. Ram did not support the Maoists but he could hardly refuse when a group of Maoists came to his house and demanded food. This was noted by neighbors and reported to the local police. Shortly afterwards soldiers came and took Shree Ram and three others away. Binita went to the local barracks with her son but was met with a blank stare. Binita testified to the commission on disappearances and favours prosecutions. Indeed, her first memorial square is a powerful image showing justice blind-folded. “I can’t forget my husband” she says. “It is difficult to support my two children on my own.”
Fudiya has become a familiar figure at cooperative meetings. She has a bad back and it is increasingly difficult for her to travel or stand for a long time. The others understand this and are grateful to her for participating. Fudiya lost her son Krishna in 2002. He was 20 years old and had just graduated from High School. Krishna was active in a student group with sympathies to the Maoists but had no political affiliation to the Maoist party. Other villagers saw him being stopped by the police when he was cycling on the road. Fudiya looked everywhere for him but without avail. “We are mentally stopped since he disappeared. He was young and I had so many dreams for him. I can’t stop my tears. We can forget anything else, but not our memories. They are in our eyes.” Khrishna’s disappearance was particularly devastating because he was the main family breadwinner. Fudiya and her husband have a small plot of land but Fudiya’s back means that she is no longer as agile as she was once and even finds cooking difficult. Her husband is also too old to work the fields. It is left to Fudiya’s younger son to do what he can in between school. In spite of Fudyia’s plight she still hears whispers from neighbors: “People gossip about us and say ‘Your son was guilty and politically active.’ This hurts. It is very difficult for us without him.” All this explains why Fudiya is still obsessed with Krishna’s loss. She wants prosecutions because Khrishna’s body was never found: “We need the truth. We don’t know who is guilty but the police took him away without any crime.” It may also explain why Fudiya seems more dependent on the cooperative that most others. “Before we were united, it was very difficult to express our grief. We were alone in our homes. We are stronger together.”
Goma Budha Chaudhary
Goma’s sister-in-law Sita was travelling to Kohalpur on December 5, 2000 when she was taken from the bus by the police. Her parents visited her twice in jail but she was then transferred and they lost track of her. They have been searching for Sita ever since. Like many family members, Goma still harbours a hope that Sita is still alive: “We still hope that she may reappear at a festival.” When we met her in 2016, Goma was a strong believer in the two commissions and worried that the commission on disappearances would not be extended. By April 2019, the commission’s future was assured for another two years but no investigations had been launched. Goma’s mood had changed from anticipation to disillusionment.
Kalpana is the only Brahmin – high caste – among the 25 cooperative member and a reminder that all levels of society were affected by the conflict. Kalpana explains that her brother Naram Prasad was an active member of the Maoist Public Liberation Army. She was deeply saddened but fatalistic when he was reported killed during a confrontation. But Kalpana only learned of his death two years after the event and blames the Moaists for not handing over his body and giving the family a chance to mourn. Wth four children of her own, Kalpana still pines for her brother: “I only had one brother and I can’t forget him. It was war, yes and he was a Maoist so I’m realistic. But politicans have let us down.” It is indeed ironic that the Maoists are now a partner in the government and hold the most powerful postion in the country. Kalpana was also bitter about compensation when we talked to her in 2016. Her father had died and as the sister she had received only 100,000 rupees. Kalpana wept as we talked.
Kamala is one of only two cooperative members who has been able to bury a relative, bringing some measure of closure. Kamala’s father Keshad was a policeman and in 2002, the police station where he served was overrun Maoists. Keshad was among those who surrendered only to be shot down. Kamala was a year old at the time, and her first memorial square shows her father with his hands in the air before he was gunned down. “I don’t remember him but I need to remember the deed. If my father was still alive he would care for me,” she says. The government was able to retrieve Keshad’s body and hand it over to the family. Kamala has a stepmother and 2 sisters. Her stepmother remarried, and this delayed compensation. Kamala appreciates the friendships she has made through the cooperative and makes the important point that the cooperative brings together victims of government and Maoist violence. “We are great friends, but political leaders try to divide us,” she says without elaborating. You sense that there is a lot of hurt that needs to get out.
It is easy to be drawn to Kancham. However grim the subject may be, a smile is never far behind. Kancham is also an excellent artist and has covered the walls at her home with a huge and intricate painting of a Hindu festival. Kancham has brought all of her skill to the Bardiya embroidery project. Her first memorial square in 2016 described in vivid detail the fateful afternoon in 2002 when her brother was shot and inside the house by an army patrol. A second, smaller, square shows Kancham herself being consoled by her mother. The memories have remained with her and she often thinks of how her brother supported the entire family. The years following were not kind to Kancham’s family. After her brother died his widow remarried, which meant that Kancham’s mother did not at first receive compensation (which goes to the wife or children). When we first met Kancham in 2016 she had dropped out of school after grade 10 because the family could not afford to keep her at school. But when we returned in April 2019 Kancham was two months into a new job which was paying her 12,000 rupees ($120) a month and – typically generous – paying for her sister’s education. Kancham’s mother is justly proud of her daughter and says with a smile that other families in the village are jealous of her success. Kancham loves the cooperative and they appreciate her sense of humor. But her loss is never far from her mind and Kancham is often brought back to reality by Gita, a childhood friend who lives in the same village and lost her own brother during the conflict.
Kushma has benefitted more than most from the friendships offered by the cooperative. She has made two squares describing the way her father Ton Bahadur was taken from home by soldiers at night. Kushma was seven at the time and does not remember the incident, but her mother has described it many times: “The army came to my home, took my father away and beat him.” Kushma’s father was another victim of a local score. He was not a Maoist, but active in social work in the community. He won election and got into an argument with an unsuccessful candidate who denounced Bahadur to the army. Ton had many friends in the village, but the army did not investigate. Kushma is close to the younger members of the cooperative and always keen to learn. She comes across as elegant, smart, and sophisticated but she her life has not been easy. Kushma left school after grade 10 because money was short. She is still not married at the age of 24 because her mother cannot afford to pay a second dowry after Kushma’s older sister was married a year ago. The family has not been helped by a dispute with inlaws over the ownership of land, which has gone on for years. Kushma testified before the disappearances commission in 2016 and thought that the commission was doing a good job. But her mother will not register her husband as dead until she learns what happened. Kushma sees the cooperative as a way to learn new skills and escape the pressure at home. She was the natural choice to manage the cooperative’s new shop at the Bardiya national park, and will play an important role in managing the business. She looks forward to making handicrafts and selling them to tourists.
Mangthi’s husband Siva Charan was arrested by the police in the town of Baskhari and disappeared soon afterwards. Mangthi lives by cultivating the land and makes barely enough to cover her needs. She has three children including Sima (profiled above) who is also a member of the cooperative, and two sons. One of her sons is married but does not support Mangthi. When asked about her husband, she stays: “Although it happened in 2001 I cannot forget him. I can’t sleep or work well.”
Manju is a core member of the cooperative, although she often exchanges places with her daughter Alina. When we first her in October 2016 Manju was still trying to come to terms with the disappearance of her husband Hira Mani. Alina, 14, was also asking questions. Hira made a good living working in furniture and was with a neighbour when he disappeared. Soldiers came to the family house asking about Hira and Manju started to follow them until she was restrained by a neighbour. After her husband disappeared, Manju found some protection by marrying his brother, but her family life then became complicated. Manju’s fortunes had changed for the better by 2019. She had deposited the final installment of compensation in Alina’s bank account. Manju also inherited 10 khatta (half an acre) of land from Hira. She was active in three savings groups, and able to save 200 rupees a month. Manju is still loyal to the Bardiya cooperative but bitter about the loss of her first husband and she wants to see the guilty prosecuted. Manju’s most precious gift is her daughter Alina, who is serious, talented and devoted to her mother.
Mankumari has a sassy sense of humour and grins when AP Fellows and staff make a social gaffe, unlike the others who are too polite to comment. Her sister Sumitra disappeared in March 2001. This is one of the saddest stories, which illustrates why the disappearances have been such a tragedy for the Tharu. When she was very young, Sumitra was sent to work in the house of a landowner as a domestic servant (kamlari). In return, her parents were allowed to use the landlord’s land. Sumitra spent 15 years away from home and by the time she returned the Maoists assumed she would be receptive to their message of social change. They put pressure on the family by visiting the house for food and inviting them to break their ties to the landlord. Manakumari thinks Sumitra was seized because she attended a concert which the army viewed as propaganda. She blames the Maoists as much as the army for the loss of her sister, but says the landlord had no part in it. In a strange twist another of Mankumari’s sisters now serves in the army. Sumitra’s disappearance was devastating for her younger sister because Sumitra was always trying to “educate” Mankumari in spite of her own difficult start to life. “Do I really remember her?” asks Mankumari. “Of course. Who can forget a sister?” Mankumari was unable to meet with us when we returned in April 2019 for the very good reason that she had married and given birth to a baby. In her place, Mankumari sent her sister Binita to the cooperative training. We like Binita but missed Makumari’s sharp wit!
With her flashing eyes, bubbling personality and sense of fashion, Pooja is one of the cooperative’s most charismatic members. She is always ready with an opinion and uninhibited about expressing her enthusiasm. Pooja’s father Hukum had been farming in India when he disappeared in 2001. Soldiers took Hukum to an army base near the family home and national park. He never reappared and Pooja – who was a year old at the time – remains protective of his memory. She concedes that her father had once been a Maoist sympathizer but says he was no longer active: “He was living an ordinary life.” Pooja was in grade 11 at school when she first met AP in 2016. She has since married an army officer, but sees no contradiction in her role as an advocate: “I can’t forget. My family lost the roof over its head.” Pooja has produced one of the most popular tiger designs (seen in the photo) and featured in several AP publications. Her tiger reflects her sparking personality and seems certain to sell well in Nepal. Pooja gave birth in 2018 and delegated her sister Bhabisara to attend cooperative meetings. Definitely a family affair!
Prem Kumari Tharu
Prem Kumari’s husband, Prem Bahadur, was another casualty of local animosities. One of Prem’s closest friends, Uttam, was serving in the army when he decided to visit his mother. It was a risky move and a group of Maoists arrived and seized Uttam and two friends, including Prem Bahadur. Prem Bahadur and Prem Kumari had been married for four years and had two children. Prem Kumari has been the family breadwinner ever since her husband disappeared. The family land has been transferred to her name, but she remains dependent on her father-in-law, who has registered his son as deceased “because he was worried about his grandchildren.” Luckily the two are on good terms. Other families are not so fortunate. The ownership of land and disputes about compensation have divided several families.
Ram Pyari Tharu
Ram Pyari’s husband was seized by military police while sleeping at home in 2002. His wife insists he was not politically active and thinks that he was mistaken for another man who was arrested at the same time. Ram Pyari then began a long search to find her husband, going from army base to base. The two had been married for less than two years and had a 10-month old baby, Ramesh Prasad, who is now sixteen and a great support to his proud mother. Ram Pyari is still looking for her husband but you get the feeling that she may soon throw in the towel: “It is not time to forget but I am tired of the search.”
Sabitri’s husband Loknath was a Maoist fighter who lost his life in a 2004 attack on the Kailali army barracks. His body was never found, and Sabitri has not been able to give him a proper burial. She is less forgiving than other family members, who accept that casualties are inevitable in war, and she blames the Maoists as much as the army for delivering Loknath’s body. Sabitri is enthusiastic about the cooperative and excited by the embroidery training.
Sangita’s brother Krishna Prasad, a Maoist supporter, was seized from home in 2002. Sangita was six at the time and does not have a clear recollection of her brother. The family received compensation and testified to the commission. Sangita says “yes” to prosecutions: “Heinous crimes were committed in 2002.”
Sharmila’s first memorial square stood out for its raw and angry denunciation of the army. It describes the arrest of her father Kallu, who was in no way political: “A large group of soldiers came to our home and demanded that we open the door. My father was not even dressed. At least they allowed him to put on some clothes.” The family went to the local army base but could get no news. Sharmila was the youngest of six children and in her second year of university when we first met. But she has had to work the land to make ends meet and pay for school, which costs 2,000 a year. When asks whether it is time to forget, she blinks back tears: “My family was dependent on my father. I remember him a lot!”
Sunita mourns the loss of her sister, Kriti, an active Maoist cadre who was killed in a confrontation in 2001. The Maoists buried Kriti in the jungle, and her body was later retrieved – one of only two of the 25 victims who could be reburied by family members. Sunita and her parents plan to use the government compensation to build a house in Kriti’s memory. Says Sunita: “I can’t forget. She was a good person.”
Tilak Rani Tharu
Tilak’s son Uttam was seized by Maoists while he was on leave from the army. The family knew it was risky because the Maoists had warned Tilak several times but Uttam was determined to see his parents and wife. When Maoists came to the village, Tilak tried to hide her son but neighbors disclosed his hiding place and he was taken away with a close friend, Ram (the husband of another cooperative member Ram Kumari). Says Tilak: “The Maoists said they would return my son if I paid them a fine. They tied his hands and put a blindfold on him.” Tilak’s husband was away at the time. Tilak is the only family member to have benefited from an army relief fund but she has also experienced many problems since her son disappeared, not least disagreements with her daughter-in-law. When asked about reconciliation, Tilak says that she shares a common sense of loss with families that lost relatives to the security forces and that this has brought them together: “What happened happened. We all have the same problem and need to get together. We have become friends and share our pain.”
Ram Kumar Bhandari, Founder
As the founder of NEFAD and one of Nepal’s best-known advocates for the families of the disappeared, Ram is the spiritual leader of the Bardiya initiative. His career as an advocate began in the worst possible way when his father, a deeply respected teacher, was arrested in broad daylight near the family home in Lamjung district on December 31, 2001. Witnesses said that Ram’s father put up a struggle, and his kidnappers made no effort to hide their identity.
Following the restoration of democracy in 2007, Ram formed the first of several networks to lobby for families, starting with the Committee for Social Justice (2007) the Pressure Group of Searching Disappeared Citizens (2008) and NEFAD (2009). Today NEFAD represents over two thirds of the 2,518 families and has representatives in 27 districts. The Bardiya Conflict Victims Committee was an early partner.
Ram also understood the value of international public opinion in putting pressure on the Nepal authorities and led a submission by families to the UN Human Rights Committee. As his international reputation grew, Ram received several important awards. Utterly fearless, he has been arrested for his advocacy and is a prolific commentator in the mainstream and online media.
For the past three years Ram has spent time in Portugal studying for a doctorate, but he remains in touch with the family movement in Nepal and is deeply worried that their demand for justice will be ignored by the current government. Ram has long been an ardent and imaginative advocate for memorialisation and he jumped at the chance of making of memorial quilts and Tiger bags in Bardiya.
Contact Ram: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarita Thapa, Bardiya Team Leader
As readers of these pages will now know, Sarita is the inspiration behind the Bardiya cooperative. Her personal story was told in earlier pages and it remains a study in heartache and personal courage.
Sarita’s life has been guided by two immutable facts – the disappearance of her father in 2001 and the strength of her mother. The tears come quickly when she recounts how her father was seized and her mother Subitra was arrested and mistreated. Subitra opened a small teashop and has treated AP visitors generously, but she should really be enjoying life as the wife of a successful businessman. You also come away in awe at Sarita’s devotion to her mother. Sarita is a true family person, which is why the loss of her father remains so agonizing many years later.
Sarita has been a decisive influence on AP as we have searched for a way to provide practical help to the Bardiya family members. Four of our Peace Fellows – Megan, Vicky, Kirstin and Komal – have fallen under her spell and in one admiring blog Kirstin described her as “Superwoman.” Tiny and quite shy, Sarita hardly seems the part. But she has enormous presence and when she does express her feelings you pay attention. She has incredible energy and thinks nothing of hopping on the 17-hour bus ride to Kathmandu – an ordeal that leaves others gasping.
This steely determination, plus her consideration for others, makes Sarita the ideal leader of the Bardiya cooperative. She has seen many of the members through periods of sadness, and is always at hand to offer advice and reassurance. She understands the anxiety of older members like Belmati and Fudiya and relishes the spirit of youngsters like Kancham, Kushma and Pooja.
As the cooperative has moved into bag-making, Sarita’s personal skills as a professional trainer have become more important. She has become an expert seamstress and seems to be most at ease as she pedals away on her sewing machine, occasionally breaking into a melancholy Tharu song. After just three days of advice from Bobbi, Sarita had mastered the art of assembling quilts and producing high-quality bags, which she is now teaching to the others. Sarita has confidently set a 2019 target of 100 Tiger bags and she will make it happen. The Bardiya cooperative is in good hands!
Contact Sarita: email@example.com.
Prabal Thapa, Project Coordinator
In the four years that AP has known him, Prabal has evolved from a wide-eyed student to an expert in transitional justice and the indispensable link between the Bardiya cooperative and the world.
Prabal became acquainted with NEFAD and the issue of disappearances through Ram, who lived in the same district, Lamjung. Prabal then translated for Iain during AP’s first visit to Bardiya in October 2016, and showed so many different skills (social media, money management, administration) that he quickly became an AP field officer. Quietly competent and always thoughtful, Prabal has helped four Peace Fellows make the daunting trip to Bardiya and developed a close friendship with them all. He now manages all transfers of money and funds to Bardiya, helps Sarita with training, promotes the project on social media, and accompanies all foreign visitors to Bardiya. His Facebook posts typically attract well over 200 likes!
Prabal has not suffered personally from the conflict although he likes to say that he has seen his country through several transitions; from war to peace, amendments to the constitution, the end of the monarchy and now transitional justice. His closest exposure might have come at the age of ten, when he was picking fruit from a tree. An army patrol and group of Maoists passed within 45 minutes of each other and asked Prabal for fruit. “They were so close to each other. If they had met, there would have been a big fight.”
Although Prabal has not been personally affected by tragedy, he has – like many Nepalis – been hugely influenced by the persistence and dignity of the Bardiya families. Prabal may look up to Ram as a mentor, but his relationship with the Bardiya women is one of deep friendship. He knows their stories intimately, and they trust him with sensitive information.
Prabal’s is currently majoring in Development Studies at Kathmandu University and hopes to pursue a post-graduate degree in Ireland. His long-term plan is “to be a researcher and later become a professor” and we are confident he will achieve his goals. In the meantime, Prabal has Tiger bags to make and sell!
Bobbi never expected to find herself setting out on the 17-hour bus ride to Bardiya, to help relatives of the disappeared in Nepal make quilts, but she took to the assignment like a tiger takes to the forest and emerged invigorated. It came at a difficult time for Bobbi personally, as she explained to AP in a video interview. But seeing how the Bardiya women are coping gave her a valuable perspective and appreciation of the things that matter in life. During her trip she was delighted to read a Facebook post from her son – a US Navy Aviator – expressing admiration for his mum’s fortitude!
Bobbi’s journey to Bardiya has been long and circuitous. She has a string of impressive qualifications, including a doctorate in education, but her great love is quilting. She was an early enthusiast of advocacy quilting and is one of several skilled American quilters who have produced spectacular quilts for AP on difficult subjects. One of her recent quilt creations was assembled from the squares of refugees from Syria and Iraq, which gave her the chance to express her own dismay at the way refugees are treated in the US.
In 2017 we asked Bobbi to assemble tiger quilts from squares made by the women in Bardiya, and this established the connection. Her visit to Bardiya for a week of training was the next logical step. Like most professors, Bobbi developed a deep affection for her trainees and they reciprocated. As Prabal says in one video clip that AP posted on Facebook: “They cannot believe that someone of 71 can be so energetic!” Bobbi was deeply touched when Kushma’s mother – who is short of money – invited her to lunch.
Bobbi’s Bardiya training was the first time that an American quilter has provided technical support to a partner in the Global South and we hope that it will inspire other quilters to use their skills for a good cause. We also admire Bobbi’s generosity and desire to remain involved from the US, where she will contribute suggestions and promote the project through her quilting guild in North Carolina. But the most significant outcome from Bobbi’s week in Bardiya may turn out to be personal – her sense of achievement and understanding that women are capable of extraordinary resilience, in Nepal or the US.
With many thanks to…
Kathy Allen, John Altin, Claiborne and Marian Barksdale, Jack Barksdale, Caroline Battle, Nancy Boelter, Kilby M. Brabston, Katherine S. Brooks, Caroline Conley, Kathleen Conroy, Carrie Coulson, Barbara Couture, John M. Danskin, Timothy S. Davidson, Victoria Demetropoulos, Francesca G. Diggs, Stephen T. Diggs, Mary Elizabeth Diggs, Liza Edgerton, Ann Marie Edlin, Barbara Ellard Dziedzic, Cale Ettenberg, Beverly Putnam, Sandra Filer-Gothie, Sophie Gibson, Cornelis Gispen, Katya Danielle Gothie, Martha Guariglia, Rhonda Guinazzo, Michelle Hunter, Interactions for Peace, Lauren Iskander, Beth S Kitchings, Marianna K. Lee, Catherine Lowance, Julia G. Moore, Seeley O’Connell, Stephanie Osborne, Tay Parng Chien, Elizabeth Farish Percy, Mary M. Poe, Margaret A. Revelle, Rebecca Rodriguez, Amy Rouquette, Amanda Roussell, Mary Margaret Sanders, Valerie Scarborough, Richard Scribner, Anne Spencer, William Spicuzza, Katya Spicuzza, Katya Spicuzza, Francesca Talley Diggs, Charles Thompson, Elizabeth Tinsman, James Tuttle, Barrie Welty, Lee Wood, Raymond Yates
Leslie Ekings, Charles Fay, Jess Freestone, Takahiro Inoue, Karina Kristiansen, Tom Ross, Helen Lightner Smith, Yves Albert Mathilda Vervecken
Rayah Al-Farah, Kanako Y Allen, Sara Allen, Scott Allen, Fergus Anderson, Katharine Baker, Sujita Basnet, Jocelyn Bishop, H E Bittner, Mary E. Bittner, Anna Bliss, Anthony H Bliss, Lisa S Bliss, Anastasios Coulaloglou, Dorothy Craven, Sarah Craven, Heather Dolstra, Jeremy Drew, Dan England, Kelsey R Fausett, Sharon Fischer, Mollie Galioto, Gitanjali Gnanadesikan, Roy Alan Goldman, Jason Gomory, Devin Greenleaf, Iain Guest, Jennifer Guest, P A Bliss Guest, Micaela Hagstrom, Margaret Harvey, Kim Ingeneri, Lawrence Ingeneri, Erika Jason, Elina Kahkonen, Megan Keeling, Racquel J King, Wojciech Komor, Ashley A Kosiewicz, Abhijit Kulkarni, Tara Libert, Rita Lo, William Lorie, Melissa Majano, Julia Mascioli, Catherine Mathieu, Sara McCracken, Anna McGuire, Matthew McGuire, Suzanne Kay Murray, Richard Newton, Anthony Nicholson, Karin Orr, Angelique Palomar, Herbert Parsons, Tanumaleu Peleti, David Burton Perry, Lauren Purnell, Amanda Quesada, Martha Randell, Wendy Reeve, Stephanie Reid, Tim Riley, Priyankara Sanjaya, William Scott Jr., Paul Smyke, Jiahui Soh, Alison Soldano, James Soldano, William Spencer, Emily Stapp, Jiri Stavovcik, James R. Steadman, Maria Aldrina Z. Territo, Neil Tetkowski, Ida Thyregod, Peter Titelman, Areal Tolsma, Art Tolsma, Nola Tolsma, Tonya Tolsma, Kelsey Tuttle, Castillo Vianney, Christina Wagner, Katherine Wagner, Cristy West, Trevor Lee Wilson, Jennifer A Wolfe, Carol Yanisch, James Yanisch, Jefferson Yarborough
Lee Kan Yan, Lara Cerosky, Barbara Fitzsimmons, Judith Flacke, Marlena Hartz, Jo Lilley, Gleen Moser, Mary Radonich, Elisabeth Sandberg, Joan P. Taylor, Komal Thakkar, Georgia B. Young.
Vicki Bolt, Alexa Brenner, David Burton Perry, Sarah Craven, Nicole Gerhardt, Maria Rose Goodwin, Jennifer Guest, Sara Hunsicker, Lawrence Ingeneri, Jean Jones, Jo Lilley, William Lorie, Merry May, David McCarthy, Ruhee Singh, Susan Waklid, Noreen Wayland, Ali West, Kirstin Yanisch.
“After spending the afternoon talking to them about how the disappearances had affected their family, Sarita, Prabal, and I walked over to a suspension bridge in the town. From the bridge, we saw a forest which is suspected mass grave site. Ram of NEFAD amongst others wants this forest to be declared a memory site. As Nepal grapples with questions around memorialization on a community basis, it will also increasingly face questions about memorialization on a national level.”
“Wives of the disappeared have suffered economically, legally, socially and culturally as a result of their husbands’ disappearances. Certain societies in Nepal deeply marginalize women with widow status and yet the reparations law restricts re-marriage leaving a tough choice for the women. The conflict in Nepal was sparked by various social, economic and cultural inequalities, therefore striving for gender equality in the post conflict process is crucial to preventing future cycles of vio
“My interviews over the last few weeks in Bardiya and Kathmandu have highlighted the vast gulf between the high-level political mechanisms and the day to day lived experiences of conflict survivors. Bridges of communication must be built to cross this c
“The workshops were characterized more by solidarity than by grief. The women used their time together to discuss the truth commissions, the interim relief program, and whether these went far enough to address the injustice of what they experience. They gossiped, cracked jokes, and swapped town secrets. They honored the memory of their missing loved ones together, one stitch at a time”
The Bardiya cooperative has completed several Tiger quilts and two memorial quilts commemorating their lost family members. We will shortly post online “maps” of the quilts. Contact us to exhibit the quilts or volunteer for future quilting projects!