In the past year, Village Development Foundation (VDF), GHRD’s partner organisation from Nepal, has taken tremendous steps to achieve inequality and justice in two vulnerable districts of Nepal. The goal of “Fight Discrimination, Equal Rights for All” was to address the discriminatory problems faced by the Dalit, economically underprivileged people, women and children; issues that are also apparent in Millennium Development Goals.
Even though Dhanusha and Mahottari district are accessible and have good linkages with economic centres, the human development index is quite low because of the discrimination based on caste, class and gender. Such discrimination and inequalities were hindering access to participation and decision making as well as inclusion of the poor, Dalits, women and children in the development process. Gender based violence, social violence, dowry system and early marriages were very common.
Over the course of the year the project has helped to empower the poor and minorities to claim their rights, and to stop child marriage and untouchability practices through a human rights awareness programme and legal literacy training. VDF inspired more than hundred committed members of the communities to help these vital causes. By providing literacy training to these social advocates VDF formed watch groups- social policies of the communities. VDF was able to create six watch groups within six villages of these districts. The perseverance of the watch groups, the willingness of the residents and the work of VDF has resulted in a greater understanding of minority, child and gender-based rights and violations of these rights within the community; this has led to drastic changes. Through the assistance of the watch groups hundred children were saved from the brutality of child marriage. Within these communities there has also been an extreme drop in social violence, gender based violence and caste based discrimination; these crimes have been reduced by 80%.
Not only are people aware of such acts being a crime and have come to realise their rights, but VDF also included local politicians as a part of their aim to bring equality in these communities. They have not only provided training of inclusive participation to the people but they have included political figures of the community as a part of the trainings. They have organised dialogues between local politicians and the people. Thus, influential people of the communities have also become social advocates for equality and the fight against discrimination. The marginalized population of the project areas are more capable of participating in the decision making process and the politicians are more willing to allow inclusion. While there is much more to be done, people are being heard and within a year VDF has been useful in opening the eyes of the community.
While “Equal Rights for All” is a long term universal goal, VDF has already come a long way to achieve this goal in their project areas. A small step goes a long way -the work achieved by VDF is a victory in the fight towards equality.