Development is multidimensional and complex. This powerful statement was spoken by Professor Prateep during my first days as an undergraduate student and they still resonate with me to this day.

Presently, I am in Nepal, working as a CECI volunteer. I work for a non-for-profit organization called, The Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (FWEAN). FWEAN, “advocate[s] on issues related to women’s socio-economic empowerment [3].” FWEAN is an outstanding organization, where many employees are women, who are of the women, by the women and for the women [3].

My daily commute to work consists of loud honks, traffic jams, and crowded buses. Traffic in Nepal can be described as an organized chaos. This made me wonder about why Nepal doesn’t have traffic lights or stop signs, as it could be an effective solution to the constant traffic and could help improve its traffic system immensely.

I was curious to learn about how the locals in Kathmandu felt about the traffic system. Thus, I consulted with the two local interns who also work at FWEAN. These two individuals represent the “youth” of the nation. I asked them what they believed the most prominent developmental issue in Nepal was, and I assumed it would be a straightforward answer such as the traffic. However, when asked, they introduced me to a greater issue and stated that it was the political system.

One of the interns, Aatish, said, “The Prime Minister changes so often that I am not even sure who the Prime Minister is right now.”

The other intern, Saksham, stated, “there was a project related to water facilities that started when I was born, and it still has not been completed, even after 18 years.”

Aatish and Saksham described their concern for the traffic system in Kathmandu, they said that there use to be traffic lights in the past, however, they were never maintained and eventually stopped working. They brought to light a significant issue, explaining how even when a certain project or task is implemented by the government or voted to be implemented by its’ citizens it never lasts for long. Why? Because of the constant change in power.

From my research, I discovered that Nepal has been a democratic state for a decade [1]. Meaning that for many years the local citizens have had the power to vote on who to elect as their prime minister. This may be seen as a positive influence, given the nation’s long history of political instability. However, in retrospect, after nearly 10 years of being a democratic country, civilians still feel irritated by the political stance [1]. Why? Because the locals view democracy as a tool that amplifies Nepal’s problems, as opposed to diminishing them, because the main governance system of Nepal is built through the local prime minister. [1] Sure, their voices are heard; yet, when a project or policy is suggested or implemented it does not last long.

 

For example, I came across a project relating to power development initiated by the World Bank in 2003. Essentially, this project was designed to extend the energy services to a national grid so that families in rural areas would have access to electricity [4]. However, this project has been reconstructed twice in 2008 and 2012. It has yet again been proposed on May 18th, 2018, due to the many obstacles they faced [4]. One of the obstacles face is the political instability of the country, the World Bank report stated, “Political instability in the country and lack of capacities in the counterpart organizations caused delays during the initial stages of project implementation”. [4] Further stating that there are many factors that lead to the delay of this project implementation, such as “[the] lack of a coordinated approach between the major government stakeholders, which leads to delays in decision making”.[4]

I started to wonder how this political instability affected the work FWEAN is doing for women entrepreneurs across Nepal. After talking to my supervisor, I learned that FWEAN has had governmental support since they were first established, however, it still lacks in the forms of funding or changing certain policies. My supervisor provided me with a report written by FWEAN’s project partner Fin Church Aid (FCA), which described how despite the difficult work women endure, they still lack access to financial capitals and skills to “participate in small-scale enterprises for generating income” [2], this is due to the fact that “Women’s capacities are undermined and their voices are unheard due to their poor networks and institutions which is further fueled by the poor governance.”

However, FWEAN has been hopeful in taking new steps, with the support of government to bring change and empower the women of Nepal.

I now understand that  development is complex and multidimensional as professor Prateep stated. I realized that due to Nepal’s political instability and delayed project implementations, organizations such as FWEAN might have a difficult time creating a major impact. However, I still have a lot to learn as I continue my placement and I am interested in further educating myself about how governance, political systems, and prime ministers impact the roles of developmental organizations across Nepal.

 

 

 

References

 

[1] Huang, R. (2017). Wartime origins of democratization: Civil war, rebel governance, and political regimes.

 

[2] Fin Church Aid. (2018). Socio Economic Empowerment of Disadvantaged Women and Girls in Lalitpur District (SEED). Kathmandu: FWEAN

 

[3] FWEAN. (2003). FWEAN. Retrieved October 26, 2018, from http://www.fwean.org.np/

 

[4] Shrestha, R. (2018). Implementation Completion And Results Report Of Ani IDA Credit. The World Bank, From http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/115341528124182127/ICR-Main-Document-final-May-31-P043311-SECPO-05312018.docx