By Emma Fingler, MAGG Graduate (2018)
The third and final stage of Nepal’s historic elections took place during the first week of December and proved to be quite eventful. Not only were these the first municipal level elections in around 20 years, but this election also ushered in a new era of Nepali politics, including a federal system. In the weeks leading up to the election, there were steadily increasing reports of IEDs, in tandem with a number of demonstrations across the country. Thankfully, few people were hurt. Even so, it remained quite a shock when I arrived home one day to find that there had been an explosion in the park beside my apartment. I was reminded of how truly lucky I am to have grown up somewhere like Canada, where I’ve never had to fear an explosion behind my home or unrest during election periods. Even with some violence, the elections progressed and a majority of seats are now filled by Left Alliance members, an alliance that is composed of two parties: The United Marxist-Leninist and the Maoist Centre, both communist parties. The next steps for Nepal will be to get the provincial and municipal offices fully running and to reorganize the staff, a process that will likely take at least a year.
Coupled with the election period, the holiday season and end of year deadlines made it a scramble to get as much as possible done early in the month. One of the major projects the Common Feedback Project was working on the past few months was a joint advocacy report with the Housing Recovery and Reconstruction Platform (HRRP). The final product (available here), ‘Clearing Away the Rubble: Moving Beyond Blockages to Reconstruction Progress’, included data compiled from the surveys, case studies and recommendations. A second report published this month was a survey that was completed in the nine least developed districts of Nepal. One of the sections that stood out for me, was the findings on cultural practices, such as Chhaupadi. Chhaupadi is a tradition of prohibiting women and girls from community spaces and homes when they are on their periods, for fear of a taboo. There are not only health repercussions, as an unknown number of women die every year from snake bites and smoke inhalation in the tiny huts they are forced to stay in at night, but also have major effects on education and empowerment. With this practice, girls are banned from attending school four days a month, severely affecting their ability to learn. This report helps to raise awareness to issues like Chhaupadi and other harmful practices that continue to this day. The CFP team also worked on an additional flood report, our second since the August 2017 flood, and prepared for the next round of both flood and earthquake surveys that will take place in the New Year.
In addition to working with CFP, I took a second trip to Janakpur in the Central Terai. This three-day trip was to conduct a series of meetings with the five Field Liaison Officers who are stationed in flood affected districts. The meetings reviewed the work completed so far and added additional work, including a winter preparedness update, flood gap analysis and a 4W matrix. In addition to the meetings, we visited Janakpur’s most famous landmark’s again and also a center that sells art created by vulnerable and marginalized women. My two purchases, both paintings produced on mud paper, are now waiting to be framed and hung in my living room upon my arrival home.
The end of the month finished early for me, as my fiancé arrived in Nepal! We visited all the major landmarks and must-see areas of Kathmandu, took a relaxing four-day trip out of the city to Nagarkot and celebrated Christmas and New Years with a lovely group of friends. Kathmandu at Christmas was never something I imagined, but a place is truly made better by the people in it, making this an unforgettable holiday season.