We are excited to announce that the articles we have written since returning from Nepal are beginning to be published with Women’s International Perspective (WIP). Three articles are up on the web at this time, the rest will follow soon! Please check them out!!
“Building Equitable Peace in the Land Contrasts, Nepal” by Dr. Pushpa Iyer
“Can You Hear Us Now? Continuing Challenges Facing Women in Post-War Nepal” by Sasha Sleiman
“Across the Border: Nepal’s Struggle with Human Trafficking” by Lauren Renda http://thewip.net/talk/2012/05/across_the_border_nepals_strug.html
Asian countries are often said that they have many commonalities. People are basically friendly and warm, and have deep connection between people with a strong sense of community. Since I am from Japan, I was comparing the characteristics of Nepal and Japan during my stay. One thing that came up as a similarity was the political corruption.
According to Transparency International the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, Nepal had the corruption rate of 2.2, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). Among the 178 countries in the survey, Nepal ranked as 146. We can clearly see that Nepalâ€™s politics are far from being transparent. This rate can be given by analyzing the frequency and/or size of bribes, and for Japan, the rate was 7.8, ranked in 17th place. Seeing the figure, it may seem that corruption is not a big challenge for Japan, however, the corruption is endlessly broadcasted through media everyday and people cannot make a way out of it.
Corruption leads to peopleâ€™s lack of interest in politics. What we saw in Nepal was the passiveness of people to participate in building positive peace on their soil. They were just waiting for a savior to come and take leadership to change everything for them. That culture of suppression completely supports corruption to remain.
I think one reason for this passiveness is from the quality of education. In Japan, we define our education as cramming education and we are not used to think critically or raise questions. I have no idea how much children in Nepal talk about their internal conflict in the school, but seeing the people that we met, I donâ€™t think children are exposed to the failure and difficulties that the country is facing now. Nepali people just want to erase the past and keep going, not knowing that how fragile the peace they are now holding on to.
People can be called as politicians only by fighting with the absurdity of society. Fundamental standpoint of the politics is to extend the hand of relief to people who are suffering the most.
Our first dinner at the Coffee Shop after our surprisingly on time flight from Western Nepal was absolutely magical. We arrived at the door of what the hotel manager liked to call, â€œour second home, home away from home,â€ which definitely felt this way when we greeted the Annapurna employees with smiles from ear to ear. At dinner we are felt fresh, new and fabulous. Regardless of what the meaning might be behind such feelings, we felt grateful and good.
At the dinner we had the honor to speak with two Nepalese men who shared a lot of wisdom and words on what we had seen and studied the past week and a half. Our friends sat on opposite sides of the table and let us bombard them with questions, contradictions and excitement. Something we discussed has stayed with me. During a complicated conversation about the VDCs, accountability and corruption this was said, â€œWe must accommodate the power in order to influence.â€ We know the system will always be functioning therefore how to you work within it and use it for good. This is complicated and it connects to much of our privileges as researchers and intellectuals. We often feel guilt and remorse for our complicit role in the problem yet we must use our role to contribute and make change. Therefore, privilege must not be rejected. And this question of how we adapt and accommodate and where do we draw the lines.
The two-week J-Term course ended with dinner on Monday night. Our friends, both Nepali and internationals, who had helped and supported us in this course, joined us for a final evening of fun in Kathmandu.Â As we waited for our food to arrive, the students made a brief presentation on what we identified as â€œchallengesâ€ to building peace at all levels – the top,Â mid and grassroots â€“ in Nepal. I thought they did a great job! How much had we learnt in two weeks!
While all of our audience was very receptive of our views and experiences, a Nepali friend made the statement that we needed to highlight the positive in order to motivate Nepalis to building peace. His point was that there was a lot of good work being done by individuals and smaller organizations. He reminded us that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
His statements clearly discomforted the students. I mean, lets be real here â€“ tell a bunch of Americans that they are not being positive and see the shock register on their faces. We are a culture of highlighting and even glorifying simple achievements. How could we have turned the â€œcriticizersâ€?
We met a few organizations which ran extraordinary programs during the countryâ€™s current turbulent transitional period and the students did discuss these in their presentation.Â Â Peacebuilding however, as an umbrella term for a variety of programs from institutionalizing democracy to delivering basic human needs, is a long-term process with changes taking place slowly and often subject to the agendas and commitments of peacebuilding actors. Challenges are not the same as â€œCriticismsâ€. Â And highlighting some of the challenges, such as structural and systemic imbalances, in fact supports the good and often vain efforts of those without the power.
We have a lot of reflecting to do when we return to Monterey.Â We will ALWAYS admit to the limitations of our research and will humbly accept all additional information that comes our way. We do have a lot of questions at the end of this trip and so in a way, we recognize that our research is only beginning. Â But, we need to draw â€œourâ€ conclusions from everything that we have seen and heard in two weeks. Yes, two weeks only but they were our experiences and as outsiders there is the chance that we saw and heard things that insiders do not or cannot perceive. Â And we hope to share our analysis with a wide variety of audience who we hope will provide critical feedback.
While we all deserve a pat on the back every now and then, I strongly believe that peacebuilding actors do a HUGE disservice to their countries when they emphasize on the â€œfeel goodâ€ feeling. Â Challenging the Challenges to Peacebuiliding is key. If not, the proverbial tunnel that ultimately leads to light will only keep getting longer.
The excitement has begun! We are getting ready for another field courseâ€¦this time to Nepal! The students have been selected (12 from MIIS and 2 from Middlebury), the host organization identified (Peace Brigades International), tickets have been purchased, visas are being sought and engaging conversations taking place in many forums. We are not fully ready but we are ready to embark on the journey.
This is my third time leading a J-Term course (blogs.miis.edu/peacebuilding). The first, in 2009, was to Cambodia and the second one was to Sierra Leone in 2010. I guess you could say that I am now somewhat experienced in leading field courses and dealing with group dynamics. Lots of lessons learned that I hope to apply to this group and this course making it a more enriching experience for all.
- Â 2012 Nepal Group (Missing Kaori)
MIIS Nepal Group
Nepal is a land of contrasts. It has seen violent conflict, much disparity, divisions and sufferings. It is a country that is struggling to bring peace to its citizens. Nepal has an interesting history and stories of legendary courage and resilience of its people. It is also rich in cultural heritage and natural beauty. Oh, the Himalyas! We want to see, hear, experience and learn about every aspect of Nepal.
We hope you will follow us on this blog, as we document every step of our journey.
Postscript: The header picture for this blog is Buddha’s eyes painted in red, white, blue, black and orange on Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.