New hope for the "outcasts" in Chitwan 

The "Back to Life" team decided as early as 2010 to bring about another project as part of the "sustainable aid for self-help" program in Nepal. The tiny Himalayan State with its 30 million inhabitants, located between the two emerging superpowers China and India, is not only one of the poorest countries in Asia, but unfortunately the world. Around two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line, which is categorized by living on less than $2USD a day.

The project area


The base of the project is the completely impoverished region of southern Nepal, namely in the Chitwan district in the Terai. Dalits live here in the most part, i.e. "untouchables" from the lowest social caste as well as "casteless persons" and ethnic minorities. They are all "outcasts", "impure by birth", discriminated against because of their origin and forced to perform the lowest and most impure work - such as rubbish collection, street sweeping, load carrying, toilet and drain cleaning.


 

The "untouchables"

The inhabitants of our project villages in Nepal are socially excluded and belong to the poorest social class of the country. Access to education is refused to them mostly due to economic reasons but also due to social restrictions. Their labour is systematically exploited. They are not even granted clinics and medical care in some areas. In addition, they sadly cannot make use of the village well because the general population believes that Dalits or casteless persons are capable of decontaminating the water. 90 percent of the "outcast" women live below the poverty line and do not know how they can feed their children. The translated meaning of Dalit is "oppressed people".

As the living conditions in the woods and the mountains of Nepal increasingly deteriorated over the years, the work for the people dried up, the food became scarcer and famine broke out, the Dalit families - who were already deprived - had to relocate to the fertile Terai area ("moist land").

Even casteless indigenous peoples, former tribals, settled in the hills. Only a few years beforehand they lived in the woods. Yet when it was declared a National Park and hunting was prohibited, the tribals had to find a new livelihood, but were educated in nothing as they previously lived far away from civilization. Both population groups, Dalits and tribals, have partially settled in our project area as of only a generation ago and live there together as "outcasts" of the Nepalese society.


 

The current living situation

The state awarded leaseholds to some families for relocation, but the "outcasts" didn't stand a chance because the plots of land allocated to each family turned out to be very small. This is why most men must work as day labourers in the quarry or in road construction, often far from home. However such earnings cannot even cover the costs of the day-to-day staples in many families such as rice, oil, flour and salt. Thus, the women and children have a lot more responsibility than just cultivating the fields and rice harvesting, they have to also act as day labourers themselves, tending to the fields of wealthy landowners.

The "outcasts" even have official rights on paper, resp. in legal texts. There is, for example, quota systems for all jobs in the civil service, which guarantee jobs should they apply. But theoretical claims and actual reality are two different worlds apart. This is because the "outcasts" lack the necessary education because it is simply denied to them, and as a consequence of this they do not have the understanding and awareness to understand official rights and claim them in practise. Not a single one of them can apply for such positions without the appropriate qualifications. Therefore the outcasts and their children must first of all have the chance of a school education, something that is generally impossible for most families without outside help.

Nepalprojekte - Situation in ChitwanNepalprojekte - Situation in Chitwan

 

The social position of women and girls

In Nepal, school education involves considerable costs for families, fees amounting to a considerable sum for books, school bags, stationery, school uniforms, shoes and extra tuition. This is a financial burden simply not possible for some, especially poorer families, and even more so with several children of school age.

Women and girls in the villages traditionally have a very weak social position and therefore often have no chance of regular education on their own. Therefore it is mostly boys that get the opportunity of receiving a full education. The girls are almost always at a disadvantage. They have to cooperate in the household and in agriculture during childhood, because the situation with the low household income means workers are needed urgently. In addition, many girls still get married (far too) young, often in childhood. Almost half of all 15- to 19-year-old girls are married women and mothers. The life expectancy of Dalit women in Chitwan is about 10 years below the national average.


 

The effects of a better education

Hardly any another initiative has such positive and lasting effects for the development of society than the promotion of female education:

• The maternal and infant mortality rate decreases empirically, the longer mothers are in school.

• Educated women tend to marry later, have fewer children and are able to care for them substantially better through the information and education they received, such as in health care and disease control

• Education strengthens their self-confidence and thus the role of women. An extensive education gives them the opportunity to comprehend children's and women's rights and to take advantage of them. School education protects girls against child labour

• Future opportunities and job possibilities go hand in hand with the level of education one receives.

The education of girls and future mothers can change an entire region in a substantially positive manner. More versatile regional development thus arises because women have a very natural given interest in their children's education, hygiene and health care.

The local significance of schooled and educated people, especially women, can hardly be rated highly enough in the initiative, accelerating the development of the impoverished population of Nepal. Therefore the battle against illiteracy is one of the main objectives of Nepal and therefore reason enough for "Back to Life" to help the people in the very poor areas locally.


The poverty of these outcast families, the necessary cooperation of children in the household and in the fields, the resulting costs for attending school as well as long walks, often lasting for hours on uneven and steep terrain to the few schools make any hope for a better life in the future extremely restricted. They will always remain second class citizens without education, awareness and information.

The only real chance to break out of this hopelessness and permanently establish a life worth living as equal citizens is through education. Here is where we come in. We want to help those who are the most deprived of these chances together as a unit: The families and young girls of the "outcasts", since it is these girls that will pass their knowledge on to future generations.