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Recognizing the role of indigenous women’s knowledge
Women of the World Virtual Nepal 2020, an online events series, became a platform to understand the condition of indigenous women in the current scenario and how indigenous knowledge and skills can help get international recognition.
As part of its women and girls program, the British Council in partnership with The WOW Foundation, UK, in organizing WOW Virtual Nepal 2020, a series of online events held between August and October 2020.
As part of the festival, a virtual live talk program was organized in two sessions on August 9 on the topic "Indigenous Women and Empowerment" moderated by media personality Malvika Subba.
In the first session, Subba talked to Chini Maya Majhi, Chairperson of National Indigenous Women’s Federation (NIWF) and the South Asia Focal Person for Network of Indigenous Women in Asia (NIWA). Majhi has been working for the rights of the indigenous women of Nepal about why the nature-based lifestyle and culture of indigenous communities in Nepal is integral to women’s empowerment.
In the event, Majhi gave insights on how indigenous people and nature are interrelated and at present time how the state has been dominating indigenous people in the name of law. She stated, “Even though the constitution has the provision to protect the land and culture of indigenous people, still in the name of nature's preservation most of the indigenous lands have been turned into conservation sectors, which has led in domination of indigenous people from the state."
The session became an eye opener where she talked about the incident that took place in Shrawn 3 in Chitwan. According to her 7 people, two women included went to pick ghogi (species of snail) for the celebration of the festival but the army men beat them ruthlessly where one youth got killed. After the incident, with the compensation of Rs 10,000 the matter was kept quiet. She questioned, “Does the state have the right to kill people? And the law itself is flawed where the natural resources are banned to use by indigenous people. There is a strong connection with nature and indigenous people. They have been using the natural resources in a sustainable way."
Moreover, she argued that making local alcohol is an indigenous skill that most of the indigenous women know and the government imports international brands of alcohol; but destroys local alcohol. "Our government needs to understand that it's knowledge and should be industrialized with proper branding and quality maintenance. Moreover, the knowledge about herbs is shared orally and it is time that we document this knowledge , which is possessed by indigenous women not men."
She added that the government agrees to follow international law related to indigenous people but fails to implement them and there has been injustice toward them. Another case of Chepang is one such case of injustice, where they had been living there since 2007 BS and they have been utilizing the natural resources. “Their houses were burnt and corn fields were destroyed using elephants and this is wrong."
According to her, the main challenge is the law and there should be discourse regarding the implementation of the already existing laws, which is in the benefit of the state and people.
Meanwhile, in the second session Subba talked to Kalpana Limbu (Younghang) a Dhaka fabric entrepreneur and an advocate for the preservation of indigenous knowledge and skill; regarding the history of Dhaka fabrics in Nepal.
Next online event is going to be held on August 14 on the topic “Social Issues in Personal Stories: An Intergenerational Conversation”.