Improvements to the provision and access to security and justice in Nepal will only be effective if there is a strong demand for change from the Nepali people. This demand needs to come from the grassroots, as well as from the higher levels. Civil society can play a key role in driving this demand for change, by advocating for improvements in both policy and practice at local, regional and national levels. The more civil society raises a collective voice from across Nepal, the more decision-makers are likely to listen.
International Alert, together with our partners Antenna Foundation Nepal (AFN), Equal Access Nepal (EAN), Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), Institute of Human Rights Communication Nepal (IHRICON) and Saferworld, is implementing a project entitled “Enabling Civil Society to Contribute to the Democratic Reform of the Justice and Security Sector in Nepal”. This 30-month long project, funded by the Danish Government, operates in seven districts of Nepal (Banke, Jumla, Kailali, Nawalparasi, Siraha, Sunsari and Kathmandu) with the aim to strengthen the capacity of civil society to inform and influence justice and security sector policies and practices.
To contribute towards this aim, small grants have been provided to civil society organisations and individuals to support innovative advocacy initiatives that give a voice to people at grassroots level to call for improved security and justice provision and practice.
These initiatives were aimed at raising awareness on security and justice issues amongst some of the poorest and most marginalised groups in Nepal - such as the Mukta Kamaiya (freed bonded-labourers), the Badi (a caste-based community whose occupation was prostitution in the past), victims of domestic violence, and conflict- and flood-affected communities – rarely reached by such programmes. The initiatives have directly benefited over 600 people across six districts in Nepal.
A local mediator who participated in an activity in the Siraha district said: ‘the event was very helpful for us as we got the knowledge and skills to understand the difference between “civil” and “criminal” cases, and we understood that all criminal cases should be referred to the formal judiciaries, the police and the court. In the past we used to resolve even the criminal cases through mediation‘. A person who watched a street drama performance in the Banke district commented: ‘The performance was very useful. I learned about where to report cases of domestic violence and what’s the punishment faced by the perpetrators. I did not know this before‘. He further added: ’Before this initiative, I didn’t even know that beating your wife and children is also considered domestic violence’.
Another person who participated in a street drama performed for a community of freed bonded-labourers in the Banke district affirmed: ’People take our children saying they will send them to school to study, but in fact they never send the children to school. They just keep them at home and use them as child labour. Now I know this is a form of domestic violence and I will not send my children to live in other people’s houses anymore’.
The project will now use the lessons learnt from these initiatives to inform our national-level advocacy work aimed at strengthening the provision of security and justice in Nepal. A national conference bringing project participants from around the country together with policy-makers will take place in July and will provide local civil society representatives with the opportunity to voice their concerns directly to national level decision-makers.