ABOUT THE PROJECT: In May 2017, we asked the residents of Umakunda in Ramechhap District, Nepal what makes them feel at peace. Most of the respondents associated peace with the future of their children. Since education is one of the factors in ensuring a better future for children, we coordinated with the principal of Bamti village’s elementary school. We decided to organize a book drive and establish a mini-library for the benefit of the school children. If you are interested in helping us fulfil the local peace aspiration of Bamti village residents, please consider donating books or donating funds to Peace Perspectives for us to construct and install bookshelves, purchase new books, and transport the books to the village.
ABOUT THE BOOKS: We are requesting non-curricular books to promote reading among the children outside their school’s curriculum. To encourage them, we will run a contest of book reviews by the students. The principal of the school also specifically requested science and world history books to guide the teachers in their classes. New/used and English/Nepali books are very much welcomed.
ABOUT THE SCHOOL: Two years after the 2015 earthquake that hit Nepal, the reconstruction of elementary school in Bamti village is still underway and they had to do with makeshift classrooms for now. The school has 63 children and 6 teachers.
ABOUT BAMTI VILLAGE: Bamti village is located in Ramechhap District, Janakpur Zone, eastern Nepal. As of 2011, Bamti (or Bamti Bhandar) has 3,144 residents in 739 households. The lack or inadequate transportation infrastructure contributes to the remoteness of the village. Heavy rains make the rough roads inaccessible leaving residents and visitors no option but to walk 17.6km for around 5 hours to reach Shivalaya, the nearest town where transportation is available during rainy season. Several houses in Bamti still sit in ruins since the 2015 earthquake as reconstruction support from the government is yet to be completely implemented. Like the rest of the country, agriculture remains to be the main source of income for local residents with potatoes, wheat, rice, buckwheat, and millet, among others as their main crops. In May 2017, Bamti residents also participated in the first local elections in 20 years and walked about an hour to their polling station dressed in their best to cast their ballots.
Peace Perspectives team talking with residents about the election.
Father and daughter manually threshing wheat.
Workers rebuilding a house destroyed during the earthquake.
The Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) interviewed our co-founder and Executive Director about Peace Perspectives, in addition to her PhD research and recent publication. The following is an excerpt from the ACUNS website.
In this Professional Development podcast, the 2015 Dissertation Award Winner, Dahlia Simangan, is joined by ACUNS Book Review Editor, Anastasia Ufimtseva, to discuss Dahlia’s experiences as a PhD student and her current work as a founder of Peace Perspectives. Dahlia won the Dissertation Award for her work on “The Limits of Liberal Peacebuilding and Pitfalls of Local Involvement: Cambodia, Kosovo, and Timor-Leste in Retrospect”. Considering the merits and pitfalls of both ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches, Dahlia proposes a middle ground that finds a balance between liberal peacebuilding and local involvement.
Since completing her dissertation, Dahlia has been dedicating her time to Peace Perspectives, “an independent, non-profit international organization committed to the promotion of inclusive and lasting peace.” Founded in March 2017 and based in Nepal, the organization operates on the principle that every local peace perspective deserves equal consideration, and promotes small-scale community outreach.
The podcast is available here and the discussion about Peace Perspectives starts at 18:40.
We are happy to share some of the photos of our volunteer models, Pragya and Robin, wearing our official Peace Perspectives t-shirt and taken by our Public Relations Officer, Sudeep. These are the t-shirts donors will receive when they donate US$101 or more and those who bought tickets for our launch/first charity event.
Narayan Mahat is originally from Arghakhanchi District but now resides at Gorusinghey, Kapilvastu. He served the Indian army for more than 20 years until his retirement last year. He now drives a e-rickshaw for a living. His rickshaw is a sustainable and affordable form of transportation benefitting local people of Gorusinghey for short distance travelling. He also sits as a Secretary in Hindu Hymn Association of Gorusinghey, Kapilvastu.
When asked what peace meant to him, Narayan responded:
If my family members, including myself, are able to exercise our rights fully, I’m at a state of peace.
Narayan believes that peace should start within the family as it is the most basic unit of society. He adds that if a family is happy and at state of peace then neighbours, and ultimately all members of society, get encouraged to live the same.
Nepal, however, is fraught with issues related to family well-being. Nepal’s legal stipulations on the rights of women and children, for example, look excellent on paper but it is often disregarded mainly due to absence of consistent implementation and oversight mechanisms. Civil society organisations are working with the government on how to protect women and children from oppression and exploitation. Peace Perspectives joins in this initiative by echoing the peace aspirations of all Nepalese, including women, children, and other marginalised groups. Learn more about our work and consider donating to our community outreach activities.
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.
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.