Over twenty years of working in this field of social justice philanthropy in Nepal, I continue to be struck by the resilience of the local communities, their home-grown leaderships, and the way they innovate and improvise to sustain and nurture each other as far as it is possible! During a recent visit to several districts of the far-west Nepal, visiting with Tewa grantees and women activists, I was blown away when this was reaffirmed for me yet one more time!
It is also the month of the SAARC meeting in Nepal. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who continues to reign political center stage in this region, and his heads of States colleagues will be here. Overnight roads are black topped, plants stand-up, and road fronts are patched and painted. But here as the winter sets in, many citizens continue to struggle for life’s basics, like warm clothes on their backs, or food in their stomachs. Asking for little from their States, they labour, smile, and walk in dignity that is both remarkable and humbling. State contradictions and schizophrenia is now impossible to fathom or comprehend, and for now I think I will leave it at that and return to my topic of interest.
In Nepal, as community philanthropies manifest in both formal and informal ways to address and hold safety nets to those impacted by violence against women, the emerging cold waves in the Tarai belts, and children’s education in far flung districts, it is worth recalling how much these safety nets continue to hold in place marginalized communities. So many who could otherwise be lost depend on these perpetually self-inventing initiatives taken by individuals or groups who hold themselves accountable and responsible without the asking. While those who glide on these super smooth roads, and have taken on the formal responsibilities, fail despite living off all our backs!
I personally feel that these community philanthropic initiatives taken in response, or with a long-term vision, cannot be imposed. Yes, they can be further supported or nurtured through timely and well-intentioned partnerships. But it is well worth to remember and be mindful that we are not hijacking them or snuffing them off in the names of “partnerships” which are or can be less worthy.
Rita is the founder of Nagarik Aawaz, an initiative for conflict transformation and peace building in Nepal, where she previously founded and led Tewa – Nepal Women’s Fund.