Moving Mountains? Gender and Social Inequality in Nepal
Nepal — Uniterra
Throughout these first few months of my mandate, I have been working to understand the problems that minority groups in Nepal are facing, specifically in the dairy industry. While I had done extensive research before my departure, it has been challenging to find the real issues. Is it really that women are just not motivated, or are there more barriers preventing them from joining a cooperative? What are those barriers? Is the caste system truly abolished, or should we still address the social stigma in our trainings? How do I talk about these clearly uncomfortable topics?
It has also been assumed that I am a gender expert, which I am not. I have a baseline knowledge, but beyond that, I’m struggling to explain that I don’t know everything about women and other minority groups in Nepal. This has been causing me to question why I’m here. I don’t feel like I know enough. I don’t understand how women and men interact in society. I don’t know if caste is really a problem today or if it’s just something I’m fixating on.
I desperately want to find the answers, but I’m left feeling frustrated quite often. There have been many holidays since the beginning of my mandate, which sounds wonderful, and I have enjoyed traveling during this time. However, it has been difficult to get much work done as I’m often not at work. When I am, many things get pushed to after the holidays, which seems never-ending. Sometimes I feel as though my organization just expects a simple solution. But as I’m discovering, creating training programs and economic empowerment action plans is much more complex than just writing up a document. There needs to be follow up, and significant work done if any project I propose is going to be successful. I’m just not sure how to make that happen.
Over the last 3 years sitting in classrooms, I have been told countless times that development is difficult, frustrating, and disappointing. These last couple of months have proven that to be true. I am often frustrated when things move slowly. I’m often disappointed when I don’t get the answer I was looking for, or don’t accomplish as much in a day as I would like to. But strangely enough, these challenges just motivate me more. They make me keen to leave something that will increase awareness of the importance of gender equity and social inclusion while altering perspectives in Nepal.
Despite these mountains that I must overcome, I have slowly been learning how I fit into society, how to take the bus, how to barter, my Nepali is improving, and I will continue to learn more. In the next few months, I will be visiting some of the cooperatives to speak with women and other marginalized people to learn the facts and understand their lives. I’m hoping that despite the challenges and setbacks, that in six months time, I can fly home knowing that what I did was productive and helpful for both my host organization and for the minority groups working with them.