SO FAR FROM HOME: NEPALI MIGRANTS TELL THEIR STORIES
Voices of women workers from the informal sector
Location: Nepal Art Council, Babarmahal, Kathmnadu, Nepal
The official opening of the audio and visual exhibition ‘So Far From Home: Nepali Migrants Tell Their Stories’ began with opening remarks by Christian Wolff, Regional Programme Officer, DanChurchAids (DCA); Kanak Mani Dixit, Chair, Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange; Dr. Renu Adhikari, Chairperson WOREC, NAWHRD; CP Mainali, Honorary Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare; and David Smith, Regional Representative, DCA. on 8th December, 2015 at the Nepal Art Council, Babarmahal, Kathmandu. The guests and participants actively observed the exhibition during walkthrough session which was then followed by a series of three panel discussions which were intended to highlight main social, policy, and advocacy issues of relevance in the context of the exhibition’s themes and the work of migrants’ rights organisations in the region.
The first panel discussion was titled “Migration, Lives & Livelihoods” that took its cues from the theme of the exhibition as well as from partners’ experiences in working with women migrants in the region, the panel addressed the social and economic impacts of migration from the perspective of migrants. Panellists discussed the socio-economic conditions giving rise to migration, the impact of migration at individual, household, and country level, and migrants’ – especially women migrants’ – experiences of migration and its significance in their lives. Based on this sharing, the group also looked at recent developments and remaining gaps in migration-related policies in sending and receiving countries.
The second panel discussion “Women & Work” looked into the issue of women’s work as straddling the personal and political space throughout the region. The fact that women’s work continues to be considered “personal” work is at the heart of discriminatory social and legal practices in both sending and receiving countries, including the non-recognition of domestic work as work, the resulting exploitation of domestic workers, and their lack of access to justice, be it through trafficking or other frameworks. Panellists observed critically at the persistence of such norms throughout the migration cycle, how they are reflected in personal and institutional practice, and how change could be effected. Thus, the panel focused on highlighting the continuum of discrimination experienced by migrating and non-migrating women alike, and on the need to talk about ‘safety, security, dignity’ both within the national and overseas context.
The last panel on “Media & Migrants” discussed the role of the media in portraying migrants in sending and receiving countries, and its potential for influencing the public discourse on migration, as well as influencing policy makers, and acting as a watchdog against human rights abuses, government inefficiencies and corruption, and the role of the private sector in migration. Panellists reflected on the shrinking space for civil society – how is it affecting freedom of speech and the ability to report on migrants’ rights violations? Which methodologies do journalists have to adopt in order to cope? Which topics are discussable in the mainstream media vs the alternative media and social media? What is the capacity on rights-based reporting throughout the region? Is there sufficient exchange between journalists and CSOs in different countries?
The three day audio and visual exhibition on migrants’ voices showcased the stories of amazing Nepali women migrants in India from 8th to 10th December.
The project was implemented by The Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange, a unit of The Southasia Trust, in the context of DanChurchAid’s (DCA) Migrants’ Rights Programme in South and Southeast Asia, with implementation support from WOREC and POURAKHI, and with funding support from DCA and Stichting Rotterdam. The Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya, Kathmandu provided curatorial support.