Hri’s audio visual exhibition carries the voices of women back to the places from where they set out on long journeys to seek better prospects. Smita Magar reports.
‘I am overwhelmed to see and listen to the stories of our sisters who have gone for foreign employment in India through this audio and visual exhibition. I am thankful to the organisers.’ – Sanju Shah, Chairperson, Women, Peace, Research and Development Center (WPRDC), Morang
‘The work is worthy of applause. It is a must for us to create awareness in village levels through such programs. I give my word to always assist in such partnerships.’ – Bishwo Parajuli, Youth Mobilisation Nepal, Hattimuda.
‘The exhibition is very effective because unlike other exhibitions, here, even illiterate persons can come and listen to the stories and get the message.’ – Debaka Dhungel, Birtanagar
The audio and visual exhibition ‘So Far From Home’ garnered praise in Biratnagar for its unique style of telling the stories of Nepali migrant women workers in different parts of India. The exhibition was organised by HRI Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange with its local partner Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC), Biratnagar on the occasion of ‘International Migrants Day’ from 18th to 19th December at the District development Committee Hall of Morang, Devkota Marg, Biratnagar, Nepal.
On the first day of the exhibition, a panel discussion was held, chaired of Mausam Rai, Project Coordinator of WOREC, Biratnagar. The panellists included Nabaraj Sapkota, Acting Chief of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Biratnagar; Dr. Shirumaya Tumbahangphe of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD); Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Yogendra Singh Thapa of District Police Office, Morang; Ved Raj Paudel, reporter of Kantipur, Sunsari; Durga Prasad Thapa, Vice President of Manpower Business Association (MBA), Advocate Narayan Prasad Dahal; and Shova Bajgain of WOREC Nepal. The discussion was focused on creating awareness at the grass-roots level about overseas employment.
Nabaraj Sapkota pointed out the challenges of overseas employment due to the unfavourable situation and complex systems in the country of origin, the country of transition and the country of destination. He expressed concerns for migrant workers in the informal sector as they are more vulnerable. Dr. Tumbahangphe provided a feminist perspective on the issue while pointing out how men are also suffering due to changing socio-cultural family dynamics. She suggested that counselling services for returnees and their family members should be set up. Kantipur’s Sunsari based reporter Poudel added, ‘Overseas employment is changing our society as a whole. Remittance may be entering the country but this is shaking the socio-cultural foundation of the society.’
Poudel also spoke about the role of media in information sharing, connecting migrant workers in need with embassies and concerned authorities in foreign countries. Meanwhile, DSP Thapa described the police’s pro-active role in border area of Morang to prevent human trafficking. While President of MBA, Durga Prasad Thapa pointed out the practical problems in the ‘free visa free ticket’ scheme of the government. ‘Unskilled labour means exploitation is likely, so, the government has to work towards sending only trained persons,’ he added. In the same discussion, advocate Dahal spoke about laws governing overseas employment and government assistance for returnees.
The panel discussion was followed by an active question and answer session where participants which mostly consisted of migrant returnees and organisations working on the issue expressed their grievances and concerns. There was a heated discussion on ‘free visa free ticket’ scheme of the government.
The exhibition attracted hundreds of people from all walks of life. Well known parliamentarian Dr. Shekhar Koirala observed and was impressed with the exhibition’s audio-visual approach to the issue. Other politicians, high school students, youths, government officials, commoners frequented exhibition; waiting for their turn in listening to 30 women’s stories displayed at the hall.
The day before the exhibition, press meet was held to inform journalists, local media and concerned organisations about exhibition. Prabin Poudel, Managing Director of Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya(MPP) shared details about the exhibition, its technical and logistic aspects.
The project was implemented by The Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange in the context of DanChurchAid’s (DCA) Migrants’ Rights Programme in South and Southeast Asia, with implementation support from WOREC, POURAKHI, and Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya (MPP) with funding support from DCA and Stichting Rotterdam. For more details visit www.migrantsvoices.org
Research and interviews were conducted by Sarita Ramamoorthy and Laxmi Murthy, who also took the photographs. Nivida Lamichhane translated the material from Nepali into English. The exhibition was curated by the Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange with the Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya, the panels were designed by Dibesh Man Maskey.
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