Jamuna Adhikari runs a local Bar at Budhhabhumi, Kapilvastu. Her two sons are currently studying at a nearby boarding school. As a student myself, her genuine response to what peace meant for her left me speechless.
When the atmosphere is favorable for my children to get good grades, that is peace for me. That is what gives me peace.
Jamuna has a reason to worry about his children’s performance in school. For example, in 2015, the average marks for core subjects tested for School Leaving Certification (SLC)* in Nepal were barely passing.
Confronted by these challenges, the Nepalese government is taking positive strides toward improvement of the educational system. In his recent budget presentation to the Parliament, Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel enumerated several plans for education covered by the 2017 budget.
“Primary education would be made compulsory and free while secondary education would be gradually made compulsory and free.”
“Rs 26.5 billion has been allocated for the School Sector Development Programme.”
“Special programmes would be introduced to bring dropout children back.”
“The government would adopt a strategy to prepare human resources needed for the national development within the nation.”
“Religious educational institutions would be promoted into mainstream.”
“More teachers would be appointed for Science, English and Mathematics subjects at community schools.”
“The community schools would gradually adopt English medium education.”
“Meanwhile, Masters level students would be mobilised for volunteerism for six months in their final year of the study.”
If these plans get implemented, mothers like Jamuna will have at least one less thing to worry about.
While winnowing her grains at mid-day sun, we met 53-year-old Dumkala Adhikari. Her husband works all day on the field because it is the only source of income for their family of six. After marriage she came to Basantapur, Kapilvastu in the southern part of Nepal where she now resides. She originally hails from Arghakhanchi District, Western Nepal.
On being asked what peace meant to her, she said:
Peace means being free of diseases and not to suffer from any illnesses. My heart is at peace. If you are not sick, it is good for family as well.
Dumkala has not been able to work due to her illness. She added that it has become very difficult for her husband to work alone on the fields. Expensive medical charges make her reluctant to regularly visit a doctor. She is currently under limited medication and her husband bears all her medical expenses.
Dumkala hopes to get rid of all her diseases so that she could resume in contributing to household expenses, which ultimately leads to happiness among family members. For Dumkala, peace means a healthy life.
Behind a row of cows, Damar carries a stick and a “kukri” or Nepalese knife. We encountered him and his herd while traversing the steep hills of Simma, a remote village in the eastern region of Nepal.
“What can I do? All my sons are “laure” (overseas workers) and I’m the only one left in my family to do the herding.” This was his response when Suman asked him why he’s still herding that late afternoon. Damar is 84 years old.
If I am well, that is peace. If I don’t have to worry about food and shelter, for example.
Damar’s definition of peace is as simple as his life.
He talked more about his sons. There was a glimmer of pride but also hint of loneliness in his eyes.
Damar is a manifestation of an emigration phenomenon affecting every corner and sector of Nepal and every aspect of its people’s well-being. BBC reported in 2015 that “more than three-and-a-half million Nepalis – that’s well over 10% of the population of this mountainous, underdeveloped country – have left to work abroad over the past 20 years.” When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook the country in April 2015, the consequences of this massive outflow of people became more apparent. There was no one left to rebuild. And the devastation of this natural disaster forced more Nepalese to leave the country.
While more young men and women leave the country for greener pastures, people like Damar are left behind to continue living in the pastures of Nepal.
Govinda Gurung owns the lodge we stayed in. It was like a homestay: we ate what they ate and slept where they slept. Throughout our stay, the lodge was always packed with travellers who walked for hours across the hills and needed warm food and shelter for the night. Every night, strangers huddled around the fire, talking to while their time, and becoming closer like a family when the last ember died.
Every day, Govinda bids goodbye to the family he fed and sheltered the previous night. It’s a daily cycle-a cycle that he is now used to. In any case, he has a family that never leaves: a wife, four sons, three daughters, and a granddaughter. The seemingly endless greetings and farewells are comforted by the fact that he has a family that stays with him every night, by the fire, and every morning, before the first ray of the sun bathes the hills he calls home.
Before we left Simma, we asked Govinda what peace means to him. His answer, like his way of life, was communal.
Peace means happiness and facilities in village or country.
How about you? What is your peace perspective? Is it personal or is it communal like Govinda’s? Share your definition here or consider donating to Peace Perspectives to help us fulfil Govinda’s definition of peace.
After three days of traveling on the road our group finally reached Simma, a remote village in Sankhuwasabha district of Nepal.
Our beaten vehicle and tired driver gave in to the unlit rough road. We had to walk a few hundred meters to reach the first house of Simma. A contrast to the darkness of the night, a bright wide smile welcomed us. It belonged to Sita, a mother of three, with her youngest wrapped in a colourful cloth slung around her body.
As soon as we slumped on wooden chairs, Sita gently placed her sleeping baby in a cradle and asked her other daughter to rock it. She then went to the kitchen where her husband had already started the fire and prepared our dinner in between conversations.
During our short stay, we learned a lot about village life in Simma from Sita. She taught us the differences in local wine varieties, the common source of income for the people, and the recent incidents in the village, one of which was the passing of a young boy who fell off a cliff and was left untreated due to lack of medical facilities.
On our last night in Simma, we asked Sita the question, “when do you feel at peace?” With the light from her firewood stove glowing on her face while breastfeeding her baby, Sita gave us her definition of peace. It was an honest and salient reply.
Peace is when my children are not sick. I am at peace when everything is fine in my household, when my friends and family visit me.
Any ideas or comments on Sita’s peace perspective? Share your thoughts below. If you want to share your own peace perspective, click here.
We met Suman Gurung in a “bhati” or a local bar located in Simma, a remote village in Sankhuwasabha in the eastern part of Nepal. When we told him about our project, he was more than eager to talk about peace. When asked what does peace mean to him, he said:
Peace means no quarrel among people, to have an open heart, to be beautiful from inside not just from outside.
After a bowl of “chang”, a local Nepalese rice wine, he showed us around freshly harvested terraced paddy fields. Throughout our conversion, he emphasized how he values a simple life. He also said that despite living simply in a village that is seemingly distant from the politics in the capital, Kathmandu, he understands the causes and consequences of class struggle in Nepal.
Any ideas or comments on Suman’s peace perspective? Share your thoughts below. If you want to share your own peace perspective, click here.
Local involvement does not always produce favourable outcomes. There are instances when local actors exploit the legitimacy of liberal institutions to advance their political interests or deny the pursuit of justice for the sake of short-term stability. This has happened in Cambodia, Kosovo and Timor-Leste when the decisions of the local elite failed to reflect the local aspirations for justice and reconciliation.
The cases of Cambodia, Kosovo and Timor-Leste are examples when local involvement that is exclusive to the political elite failed to resolve the conundrums of transitional justice. In Cambodia, the local elite exploits the legitimacy of liberal institutions of justice to advance their political interests. In Kosovo, local actors from the dominant ethnic group use the institutions of justice as venues for revenge against the Serb minority. In Timor-Leste, the local leadership sidelined the pursuit of justice for the sake of reconciliation with Indonesia.
Reference: Dahlia Simangan, “The Pitfalls of Local Involvement: Justice and Reconciliation in Cambodia, Kosovo, and Timor-Leste,” Peacebuilding, online first 4 January 2017, doi:10.1080/21647259.2016.1273489.