The Madheshi Women’s National Conference – Part I: The Context

October 21, 2008 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment

The Madheshi Women’s National Conference – Part I: The Context

09/04/07

Before launching into the conference, here’s a little background to explain what “Madheshi” is, as well as some of the other relevant political circumstances that play into the current situation.

Though it is a relatively small country Nepal’s physical and social make up is incredibly complicated and diverse. Nepal’s population and geography are divided into 3 bands that stretch horizontally across the country. Moving from south to north the zones are: the Terai (“plains” in Nepali) – often designates as “inner and outer Terai”, the Hills, and the Mountains. Currently the majority of the political unrest and violence is in the Terai, while the historic and current governing center of the country is the Kathmandu Valley, located in the Hill area. The Mountains are very sparsely populated, provided the greatest overall challenges for infrastructure development, and minimally figure into the current political situation.

THE YELLOW AND GREEN SHOW THE OUTER AND INNER TERAI, THE RED ILLUSTRATES THE HILLS, AND THE WHITE INDICATES THE MOUNTAIN REGION (http://www.nfpa.org.np/images/nepal_map.jpg)

The underlying cause of the violence in the Terai is the tension that exists between the people from the Hills (Pahadi) who have historically ruled and dominated Nepal and the “Madheshi” people from the Terai (Madhesh means “plains” in Hindi) who have been (and are) discriminated against and intentionally excluded from power. Madheshis are mostly comprised of indigenous groups and people of Indian ancestry who migrated to Nepal and have lived here for as many as 6 generations. These people have been prevented from having citizenship, owning land, and even having the right to speak in their own mother-tounges. These insults have been heightened by the lack of infrastructure, disproportionately low development money spent in the Terai, and government-sponsored settlements several decades ago that kick many people off of their land and forced many to become bonded-laborers.

In April of 2006 a “Peoples Movement” developed as millions of people poured into the streets of Kathmandu and municipal centers around the country for 19 days calling for the elimination of the monarchy and the reinstatement of a democratic government which could more successfully help to end the 10-year conflict with the Maoists. A democratic government was re-instated and in November 2006 a peace agreement was signed with the Maoists to end the civil war. One of the main requirements of the peace agreement was that elections would be held in June 2007 to elect a body charged with writing a new Constitution (they have already been postponed until November 2007, and this date continues to be questionable).

Unfortunately, throughout the process of establishing the interim government to prepare the country for these elections, Madheshis continued to be neglected – both by the ruling Pahadi majority and by the Maoists who had assured their many Madheshi supporters that they would address their needs as part of a ceasefire agreement. Thus In January 2007 a “Madheshi Movement” erupted throughout the Terai – ironically driven by several armed groups led by dissatisfied former Maoists.

This movement has been dominated by men. And though the violence and struggle in the region has significantly affected the lives of women, they have had little to no voice surrounding these events.

For an excellent in-depth resource to the Madheshi Conflict, check out International Crisis Group’s: Nepal’s Troubled Terai Region at: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4941

source::http://www.advocacynet.org/blogs/index.php/2007/09/04/the_madheshi_women_s_national_conference_1?blog=78

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Madheshi Women’s Advocacy Forum: Initial Successes and Challenges The Madheshi Women’s National Conference – Part II: The Conference (aka: “The Women Leaders Are Found!”)

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