The Power of Knowledge

There is a beautiful view of the Annapurna Range from the village of Fujel. The village also boasts an important Shiva temple and during major Hindu holidays it attracts a good number of pilgrims, who come to do “puja”.

Many of Fujel’s residents are Dalits and for centuries, people of so-called higher castes have forbidden them to enter the temple. Although Dalits are also Hindu, they are prevented from practicing their religion in local temples, because they perceive Dalits as impure.

In part as a result of Nepal’s 10-year civil war and the pervasive call for social justice, many Dalits are now less submissive to these clear violations of their civil rights. Social change is in the air, yet when a group of Dalit men sought to enter the Fujel temple along with everyone else they were met with violence and left with broken bones.

EDWON has worked with Dalit women in Fujel for years and now has 11 groups in that area. In response to the violence, some of them decided to act. Phunu Pariyar a respected Dalit leader understands social action. She organized a number of women, who, dressed in their finest lined up in front of the temple. Prepared for the worst, but with quiet determination, the women entered the temple one by one bearing their gifts of flowers and tikka powder. To everyone’s surprise, no one lifted a hand, as they completed their worship and quietly went home.

Since that spring day, Dalits worship in the Fujel temple along with everyone else. This is because it is generally known, that these particular women, members of EDWON groups, are knowledgeable about their rights– as women and as Dalits. The traditionalists, who used violence to preserve the status quo, were quite aware that their actions are illegal. But now, thanks to EDWON they comply with the law.

EDWON’s women are introduced to concepts of human rights in their early literacy training and through discussions at group meetings. In addition, EDWON holds community wide workshops where women learn how to lodge a complaint if their rights are violated.

EDWON held such a workshop for the women in Fujel in 2009 at the local school. It was a highly visible affair and many non-Dalit community members participated, too. We are proud of the women’s actions that day, and of the entire community for letting the women show them how to live together in harmony.

Since that spring day, Dalits worship in the Fujel temple along with everyone else. This is because it is generally known, that these particular women, members of EDWON groups, are knowledgeable about their rights– as women and as Dalits. The traditionalists, who used violence to preserve the status quo, were quite aware that their actions are illegal. But now, thanks to EDWON they comply with the law.

EDWON’s women are introduced to concepts of human rights in their early literacy training and through discussions at group meetings. In addition, EDWON holds community wide workshops where women learn how to lodge a complaint if their rights are violated.>

EDWON held such a workshop for the women in Fujel in 2009 at the local school. It was a highly visible affair and many non-Dalit community members participated, too. We are proud of the women’s actions that day, and of the entire community for letting the women show them how to live together in harmony.

http://www.edwon.org.  Nepal