'Democratic Dialogue' continues with greater public interest
26 year old Renu Gupta and her colleague Raghunath Das are meeting with people from different Terai communities, including communities such as the Yadav, Chaudhary and Mushahar (marginalized and backward communities) for grassroots public opinion collection at Bindi Village Development Committee of Dhanusa District.
Even in the scorching May sun, the local people are seen engaged in offering their thoughts and recommendations during this day-long orientation on the eleven CA Committee reports of the new Constitution. The two facilitators work well in coordinating the presentations and dialogues. While one is seen answering queries, another one is jotting down the questions from the community for submission and recommendation to the CA Secretariat.
According to the Social Development Path (SODEP), a local NGO partner of UNDP Support to Participatory Constitution Building in Nepal (SPCBN), a total of 23 dialogues have taken place so far in 23 Village Development Committees (VDCs) of Dhanusa District over the past one and a half month. SODEP has formed and trained seventeen teams of one male and one female facilitator like Renu and Raghunath to conduct Democracy Dialogues throughout the VDCs of Dhanusa.
Upon hearing Raghunath's brief orientation on the highlights of the Committee reports on Distribution of Natural Resources, Financial Rights and Revenues, Gorakh Chaudhary, a former government official and the participant of the programme said that the local resources should be utilized through the consumer groups because "they know the best."
Similarly, another participant Sabnam Khatun, district member of the Nepal Sadbhawana Party said that there should be special provisions for women who become widows at a young age and for women from traditionally marginalized group, such as the Musahars and Praja.
Sashi Baran Chaudhary, a schoolteacher asked how the new constitution would address the gap in education being offered in private and government schools.
SPCBN Civil Society and Outreach team works with 18 NGOs to conduct the 'Democracy Dialogues'. Initiated in January 2009 during the first phase of the Constituent Assembly (CA) public consultation, the programme continues to actively educate the public and collect public opinion on the CA Committee reports.
Mukunda Sharma, Spokesperson of Constituent Assembly Secretariat said, "suggestions collected by the SPCBN-UNDP through various NGOs will be provided to 601-members by classifying the suggestions under various thematic committees. The suggestions will be discussed further during the 11 thematic workshops to analyze how it will be incorporated in the first draft. These suggestions will help the CA members to understand people's expectations." He further added, "this is the best way to include the voices of the people in the new Constitution."