Inside USD

IPJ Continues Work in Nepal

Monday, December 17, 2007

“The journey was from the hot, low lying Western Terrai up through the King’s wild animal preserve in the lower hills and on into Humla, a remote region in the Himalayas that lies on Tibet’s doorstep, and then back again to the Central region and the capital.  When Shanghai-la c/o Yeti airlines landed on the short, dusty tabletop field with its life-sustaining cargo and six passengers, we knew we were not in Kansas anymore, and we opened a truly important door for our understanding and work.”

 This is no passage from an adventure novel or part of the script from an Indiana Jones movie. It’s the astounding path two members of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice took recently to reach their final destination – Nepal. 
 
 Dee Aker, IPJ deputy director, and Laura Taylor, a program officer, traveled from a remote western area of Nepal, to central villages and small towns and then back to the capital in Kathmadu Valley as part of the Nepal Project. The IPJ staff has worked with Nepal since the institute’s inauguration in 2001. Between 2003 and 2006, the IPJ made ten trips to Nepal to work with different individuals seeking skills and means for them to play a role in ending Nepal’s increasingly violent conflict.
 
“Many times, the IPJ acts as a conduit, opening new channels of communication and connection, weaving a stronger social fabric for constructive peacemaking in Nepal,” Taylor said in a presentation on campus upon their return.
     
The goal of the project is to work with local and national leaders in their struggle to construct a stable peace with justice in Nepal during a democratic transition. The IPJ provides skills and training in mediation, negotiations, and conflict resolution to leaders, women and youth in Nepal. During their recent trip, Aker and Taylor worked with district and village-level community organizations to conduct conflict resolution and peace building training in rural and historically isolated areas. They partnered with a community development organization in Humla to implement the IPJ’s Peace Radio Project and established listening groups to build awareness about human rights and social-political developments in the country.
     
Aker and Taylor acknowledge that change won’t happen in Nepal overnight, but feel that a long-standing relationship with the small country will make a difference over time.  They witnessed signs of destruction and turmoil during the trip throughout the country, but amid that violence, they also saw a vision for peace. They took the time to speak with local business owners and citizens who were open with their frustration and “surprised that anyone was actually interested in what they were saying,” Aker said.
     
“In most cases these citizens asked us to carry their words back to Kathmandu and political leaders,” Aker added.  “In others they simply voiced the anguish of those who feel they are caught in the tide of events over which they have no power.  The woman stall keeper said it was safe to go to town now, but no opportunities yet existed; other women spoke of the fact their children had gone to India to get jobs, and the family was simply eating less to get by.”
     
They witnessed a breakthrough during a regional meeting where they showed a screening of Reversing the Ripples of War, the 2005 Women PeaceMakers film, which documents four women peacemakers and their take on certain issues. Those stories gave some attendees hope that, although they often feel isolated, they can make a difference in their country as well.
     

The IPJ will continue to seek funds to resume working in Nepal. For more information, go to http://peace.sandiego.edu/programs/nepal.html.
     
     
     

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