Reflect meetings are small weekly gatherings in the surrounding villages that NESPEC has started with their social moblizers facilitating. The purpose is to discuss any issues that are affecting them so that they can take power in making social change. I attended the reflect meeting in the village of Jogidaha with Bijuli Sada, the local social activist and Ram Chaurdray, project coordinator.
It was a small group huddled closely, some not present due to work and some even afraid to attend because of a bad situation with an activist several years ago. Ram Chaurdray and I were not even sure if we could attend because of a strike occurring the same day.
Six different ethnic groups were protesting their rights and representation, shutting down all schools and businesses in Gaighat. The Tharu caste is demanding representation and more rights. The day after the strike, the president, an ex-Maoist leader called a conference in Gaighat. He is threatening an armed political movement with other ethnic groups and possibly forming a parallel government since the current political parties will not work with him. I am sure much more news will come. These demands all seem outragely complex in a country where the government does not take into account it’s ethnic differences.
The agenda for the Reflect meeting was about socio economic support among the community. The members in the community meeting are of the Dalit caste, living in 18 houses of the Jogidaha district, Ward 6. The issue of single women government subsidies was brought up with many to discuss the issue on widows. There are eight women over sixty years old whom are widows; seven receive the monthly subsidy because one does not have citizenship. Migration papers were lost when settling in the present area.
Claiming birthrights and obtaining paperwork for citizenship is a major challenge in Nepal. Many remote villages do not understand the importance of establishing citizenship at birth or over the years people lose track of their documents, missing out on much needed money from the government. I began to wonder exactly how many are not accounted for because of lost papers the government will not replace. It is unknown exactly how many people in Jogidaha do not have citizenship. To replace migration papers and issue a new citizenship card is simply way too complicated in the local government offices. I believe its another way the government can save money is by not claiming citizenship or not educating people on its importance, an issue I want to explore much farther.
The central issue at the Reflect meeting involved corruption at the local school, Shree Janta Higher Secondary. The government gives scholarships to all Dalit children, a new law that was approved this past year for children in class 1-10. Children in classes 1-5 are not receiving the scholarships (350 rupees per year) and are often not giving the correct amount for families that have more than one child.
Also, this system does not allow children to excel into class 10 or beyond because of the high exam fees that the Dalit caste cannot afford. “Why should I send my children to school when we are so poor?” one woman asked desperately. The school issue only adds to the great discrimination that the untouchable Dalit caste face. Bijuli-ji, the social activist will help in gathering students’ names that have not received scholarships and will attend along with the parents to the management school board committee.
Posted By Morgan St. Clair
Posted Sep 3rd, 2009