Finding ways to be socially included
November 2010; The higher secondary school of Ekdara Bela village in Mahottari district where the marginalised Dom community (categorized as Dalits) resides has seen increased enrollment of students this year. Earlier the parents were reluctant to send their children to school because the Dalit children were discriminated as they were considered untouchables; secondly they had no money to buy uniform and books.
The support extended by the UNDP Livelihood Recovery for Peace (LRP) project through the facilitators for formation of community organisation and to build awareness about their rights has brought a great change in the lives of these illiterate and marginalized rural women and children.
'Too poor to fill our stomach, I was not sending my children to school as it required a uniform. But the Peace and Livelihood Facilitators (PALs) came to us and informed us that the District Administration Office provides Rs.350 to every Dalit child studying in grade 1-8. We all went to the school and claimed our share. These days both my children go to school wearing the uniform,' says Purani Devi Mallik, happily. The Mahottari District Administration Office (DAO) has allocated Rs. 11.31 million for 28,277 Dalit children this fiscal year under the Dalit Children's Scholarship Programme.
According to the class teacher, 'Earlier we had to worry because there weren't enough students in the primary classes and now there are just too many. We are struggling to find more teachers and get more space.'
The facilitators and youth volunteers regularly visit the vulnerable, excluded and poorest communities in the programme area and orient them on the importance of maintaining peace and harmony within the community. The communities have also been oriented on the importance of education, good health, sanitation, women's rights and getting access to basic services provided by the Government.
During this first year of project intervention, 284 community groups have already been formed in Mahottari and Sarlahi districts.
Women community organisations have played an instrumental role in bringing about peace in the community. They are raising their voices against social malpractices like alcoholism and gender based violence.
The Doms were earlier engaged in making bamboo products for their livelihood which was not doing too well as the plastic products took their market. With the support of the project, the Doms see pig rearing as an enterprising venture. Brimming with excitement, Nathuni Mallik says, 'Our group is getting Rs. 2,70,000 to start pig rearing this November.'
The Dom community hopes that with economic prosperity, gradually they too will find a place within the society and will be treated equally.
The LRP project plays an important role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and for consolidating peace. Tensions at play in Nepal's terai threaten Nepal's peace process and obstruct poverty alleviation. LRP is making an important contribution to overcoming these tensions by directing resources to areas previously neglected by the state and developmetn initiatives and to the area's many Dalit and other deprived communities who own little or no land and suffer social exclusion. It is alos importantly helping to build social harmony and cohesion among the people of terai and hill origin and helping to overcome the area's high youth employment.