Saturday, March 20, 2010

Girija Koirala: Half A Century Of Struggle For Democracy

Washington Post: Nepal Leader Who Helped End King's Rule Dies At 86

Half A Century Of Struggle For Democracy

Girija Koirala spent much of his adult life struggling for democracy in Nepal. Most of that half century was spent in the political wilderness, away from the country. Almost a decade of that was spent in jail. He was in power several times after 1990, most recently leading the government that came into power after the April 2006 revolution.

Much work remains in Nepal. There is the issue of internal democracy in his party, the issue of corruption in Nepali politics at large, the issue of federalism, as yet unachieved, the issue of equality for DaMaJaMa, far from achieved. The country does not have its new constitution yet. But the basics of democracy have been laid out. And Girija Koirala made major contributions to those foundation stones. Within the framework of democracy, work on the rest of the issues can be done.

Personal Moments

I had a phone conversation with Girija Koirala when the king was in power. I blogged about it. And for the past few years this blog was the first result when you googled up his name. I don't know if that is still true since this blog is not as active as it used to be, but I relished that number one status for this blog.

December 17, 2005: Phone Talk With Girija Koirala: Meeting History Itself

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gopal Siwakoti, Kunda Dixit At The New School

March 9th
Lang Center
55 West 13th St.
The New School

India China Institute and the Asia Society
a special afternoon discussion

The Challenges of Nepal's Peace Process:
Transitional Justice Amidst a Culture of Impunity?

Featuring, Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti of INHURED, and renowned journalist Kunda Dixit. Each of whom will offer their perspectives and insights on issues surrounding the stalled and contested peace process in Nepal.

Dr. Gopal Krishna Siwakoti is the president of the International Institute for Human Rights, Environment and Development (INHURED), the first Nepali organization to enjoy Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He also holds the position as the International Advisor of the Hague Appeal for Peace. A former political prisoner and torture survivor, Dr. Siwakoti has since become one of the most prominent advocates of human rights in Nepal.

Kunda Dixit is one of the most well known journalists working in Nepal today. He serves as the publisher of the Nepali Times and is also a co-publisher at Himalmedia. He has also authored several books. Among them, a trilogy on the conflict in Nepal - A People War, Never Again, and People After War - highlights the challenges facing media in post-war reconciliation.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Adhikaar: International Women's Day

Adhikaar: International Women's Day: Photos

Adhikaar organized a near day long event yesterday at The Chian Federation in Astoria. I was glad to be on the panel. A few days before I had sent a brief bio to Narbada Chhetri upon request. Notice the third person.
Paramendra Bhagat is president of the digital democracy organization Hamro Nepal. The organization sends daily email to more than 8,000 Nepalis across the world. Paramendra worked full time for Nepal's democracy and social justice movements for more than two years, the only Nepali in America to do so. He was also one of Barack Obama's earliest supporters in New York City. He is one of the top 100 people in New York City on Twitter. He is a tech entrepreneur. His company wants to bring hundreds of millions of new people online. Internet access is the voting right for this 21st century, as he puts it.
Below is a summary of my talk.

Globalization And Nepali Women: Challenges And Opportunities

Globalization means what happens in Nepal affects America and what happens in America affects Nepal. The 19 days of the April Revolution 2006 in Nepal shook New York City.

Women are the single largest group on earth.

Nepal is the poorest country outside of Africa. It is that country that gave the world the April Revolution 2006. The provision in Nepal to have one third of the parliament female by law is something America could learn from.

I want to mention five points.

  1. Sexism exists. 
  2. Sexism is not just a women's problem. 
  3. Local is global, and global is local.
  4. Leadership matters, organizing is key. 
  5. There is hope. 

(1) Sexism Exists

A lot of Nepali men get defensive when you bring up women's rights. They claim they worship goddesses like Durga and Kali. Why do you accuse them of sexism? That defensiveness gets in the way of progress. But there is no denying sexism, domestic violence, and human trafficking.

(2) Sexism Is A Problem For Both Men And Women

Martin Luther King built a coalition of both blacks and whites when he fought for voting rights for blacks in America more than half a century ago. That same spirit has to be applied in the struggle against sexism. Men also need to pitch in. That also applies to the larger DaMaJaMa issues, Dalit, Madhesi, Janajati, Mahila. We have to engage in issue-based activism so that people regardless of their background can participate in the struggle.

(3) Local, Global

Hillary's speech in 1995 in Beijing shook the world and still echoes today. She said, women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights.

The Maoist army in Nepal is 40% female. I have always been against political violence, but those of us who are so, when we build our companies, colleges and schools, why don't we make sure they are at least 40% female? Why don't we do better than the Maoists of Nepal?

Bidya Bhandari is Defense Minister today. I got to meet her in NYC a year or two back when she was not minister. I thanked her for her leadership role on the 1/3rd provision for women thing. We have to institutionalize that in Nepal and then teach America and countries like America to do the same.

(4) Leadership, Organizing

I was reading through the program for the day. My favorite item is one that says Guest Speakers From Nepal. I am really looking forward to it.

Progress does not just happen. If you women leaders who are doing grassroots work in Nepal were to stop doing what you are doing, there is not going to be progress. People like me would like to support you, but you are going to have to lead the way.

(5) Hope

The facts on sexism, domestic violence and human trafficking are depressing. The reality is bleak. But we can not let that pull us down. We have to objectively study the reality, and prepare a gameplan of action, and we have to organize, and take action. It is very important to be hopeful and optimistic. That is how we will create a better future.

Nepalese Women In New York Celebrated 100th International Women's Day
Nepali Jana samparka Samiti New York Women Celebrated Women's Day
Nepalese Women At UN Commission On The Status Of Women (CSW) At The UN Headquarters In New York

I noticed there was not a single Madhesi woman in the room. The Dalit, Janajati and Mahila movements in Nepal remind us the fundamental divide in Nepal is the Pahadi-Madhesi divide.

Adhikaar: International Women's Day: Photos