Chetana focuses on the promotion of human rights and peace in the mid-western Dang region of Nepal, but also recognises the importance of economic uplift in averting future conflict. It therefore also supports local people in income generation schemes, by providing training in income generation and skill development, and providing subsidies to run entrepreneurial projects. The organisation has also formed rehabilitation groups of conflict victims to help reduce the impacts of the conflict.
Income Generation Programme
In Nepal, the traditional bonded labour (Kamaiya) of the Tharu group was recently abolished. But the government still struggles to provide for former bonded labourers. Many of those promised land and housing have lived in miserable conditions since being ‘freed’, especially in districts such as Dang where the old system was common.
The Chetana Club believes that poverty and violations of basic human rights were a major cause of recent conflict in Nepal. This initiative therefore aimed to empower former bonded labourers, increasing their awareness of their rights and their economic independence. It focused on women because they are particularly vulnerable, and there were very few other organisations working with them.
The Chetana Club formed 8 groups of twenty to twenty five women, and offered them training in various skills (eg selling cosmetics, tailoring, knitting, or farming). Each group was loaned 30-40,000 rupees (430-580 US$) to start a business, and the Club also provided loans to some individuals. The Club helped the groups establish cooperatives, running these for a year before handing over the management.
Human Rights Programme
In the recent conflict, Maoist groups recruited a large number of bonded labourers; Tharu and Kamaiya people living in the lower western belt of Nepal. While the government has recently abolished the bonded labour system, it has been unable to provide the shelter and housing it promised, resulting in miserable conditions for Tharu people, turning many towards violence to express their grievances. The Chetana Club designed this project to encourage Tharu people to demand their rights by peaceful means.
8 groups of twenty-twenty five women were formed under the Chetana Club’s Income Generation Programme. In the Human Rights Programme, the Club asked each of these to choose a facilitator. These 8 women received training in human rights, the peace agreement and the local peace process, and then returned to their groups to share what they had learnt. They arranged several discussion events between the groups and with other Tharu people.