Nepal information
Social Life
Dalit Organisation in Karnali: Empowerment to exercise rights
Nepal Information
Explore Nepal
Capacity development Dalit Organisation in Karnali, Nepal: Empowerment to exercise rights

In the last one decade, since democracy was restored following the People's Movement in 1990, Dalits, together with other excluded groups, got empowered for their rights following the introduction of laws that banned discrimination against any castes. However, challenges remain how to steer up social change especially among the higher castes. Dalits themselves formed their own organizations and established national networks to claim their rights. These organizations are playing significant roles for social justice through awareness raising, media campaigns and advocacy mostly at national level. But, such activities have not yet brought much changes at grassroots levels especially in remote areas like the Karnali, where feudalistic structures still determine the relationships between the different groups in society.

Low caste Dalit communities are still neglected and discriminated against in Nepalese society

Rights-Based Approach (RBA) is an integral part of the working principles of SNV Nepal which promotes inclusive governance.

The applications of RBA brings new dimensions to address Social Inclusion and Gender Equity (SIGE) as power relations between rights holders and duty bearers become the focus of attention.

SNV Nepal identified Dalit organizations as important Rights-holder Organizations (RHOs) to claim their rights towards duty bearers which include government line agencies and District Development Committee (DDC).

SNV Nepal's Mid-West Portfolio has been providing advisory services on Organizational Development (OD) to Dalit organizations based in Karnali since mid 2006. In December, 2006 members of these Dalit organizations participated in a workshop on advocacy in Nepalgunj. The training aimed to create understanding that effective lobby and advocacy entails more than the well-known parades and sit-ins. SNV is supporting these Dalit leaders to strongly promote the Dalit Agenda at all levels, but with clear advocacy strategies, stakeholder analysis, data to support their arguments, etc.

1. Context Analysis

Dalit is a term referring to the people falling into the lowest hierarchy among the Hindu cast groups. Dalits are not a homogenous group but are from different occupational groups sharing certain characteristics such as religious and social stigmatization, being called as 'untouchables', poor economic condition and low political participation. At village level this discrimination also comes forward in Dalit not having access to public water taps, no access to temples, bonded labour, etc. The caste discrimination and social exclusion of the Dalits has already been highlighted by different stakeholders. Every political party has included the issue of Dalits in their political agenda but when it comes to exercise their rights in daily life, there is virtually little or no result, except for some tokenism here and there. Caste discrimination is rampant and Dalits are excluded from their participation in the development sector and governance. Exclusion is also one of the root causes of the 10 year Maoist insurgency, which just recently has come to an end. Nepal will have to make strong progress in inclusion of marginalised groups in all social, economical and political processes, if it doesn't want the conflict to resurge in the coming 5-10 years.

Feudalistic structures seem even more resistant in the Karnali than elsewhere, probably because of its remoteness: motorable roads have still not entered this region, and for some parts the nearest road head is a 5-7 days walk.

The government has already introduced special economic and inclusion packages for the Dalits but there seems to be no implementation. During the 2006-2007 budget speech in July 2006year, the government introduced an employment package for the Karnali but this has yet to be implemented. All the Dalit activists agree that the main problem is lack of enough presence of the Dalit representatives in the government - whether at the local or central level. The stereotyped justification of the high caste leaders is that there are not enough capable Dalit leaders but 'opportunities are there for them always.' In the last 15 years, not a single Dalit leader has been able to become a minister. So far only one managed to become parliament member. There are demands for proportional representation of the Dalits in the government of the 'New Nepal' especially from the Karnali region where more than 15% of the population is Dalit.

In the past, SNV worked mostly with the duty bearers like the government line agencies, private sector or NGOs engaged in service delivery while very little attention was given to rights holders who claim their rights to get services. SNV now tries to strike a balance between duty bearers and right holders as key components to ensure inclusive society and smooth service delivery: focussing both on training and empowering the excluded communities but also sensitising those who are involved in causing exclusion (empowerment versus mainstreaming social inclusion).

Key Strategic Clients and their Role

Nearly all the leaders of the Dalit NGOs are the so-called "first generation literate", and have a role-model to perform for their own communities as well as that they are the first in their communities who are empowered by education to engage with duty bearers. The key selected clients are DWO-Dolpa, Dolpa Center for Dalit Empowerment, DWO-Jumla, KDCDC-Jumla, NNDSWO-Jumla, Dalit Uthaan Samaaj-Kalikot, Dalit Women Empowerment Center-Kalikot, NNDSWO-Mugu, Upekshit Samudaya Jagaran Nepal and Garib Thatha Upechit Kalyan-Humla.

Together with SNV, they have selected Education For All (EFA), as a fruitful issue for advocacy and lobby. The government of Nepal has strongly committed itself to realise the EFA goals, while donors have already established various programmes. The right-holders organisations will promote school enrolment from within their communities, while at the same time make use of data from the government education monitoring system to show where the schools, school management committees, the district education office and EFA programmes have to make extra efforts to achieve EFA, including increasing in the number of Dalit teachers, both men and women; improvements needed in child friendly teaching methods; and banning discrimination within the class room, etc. Also efforts will be made to increase the reliability of the data, and provide data about the non-school going children, something which is completely missing in the government monitoring system.

Other potential advocacy issues, although equally relevant, are much more sensitive, like inter-caste marriage, access to temples, bonded labour, etc., while there are hardly any supportive organisations and programmes on these issues. Small successes in education will boost the confidence of these Dalit groups to venture into more difficult areas of discrimination and exclusion. Also several of the traditional believes, especially related to women and menstruation or inter-caste marriage, are still so strong, that even the Dalit leaders are not convinced themselves to take it up as a topic for advocacy and lobby.

SNV is also trying to link these district based organisations more actively to the Dalit NGO Federation of Nepal (DNF), to establish a common agenda and to make stronger claims to national level agencies and policy makers.


Many of their organisations' members are hardly educated so these leaders stand for great challenges: their communities are looking up to them, while most of their organisations themselves are still too weak to actually deliver. Many of them are still in the infancy stage: one year they might have some short term funding, then a year later they are without.

Also the network of Dalit NGOs needs major strengthening, as one cannot expect the network to be much stronger than its members. A strong network and a common agenda and even timeline are necessary to form a force to which others will listen to, even on district level, let alone higher up.

2. Goal of assignment/ client agreement

More than 15 years of development activities in Nepal have not lead to a much better social and economic position for the Dalit in Nepal. In stead of continuing with just more of the same, SNV Nepal aims to strengthen the capacities of local Dalit organisations through a rights-based approach. In this way, these organisations should be empowered, either to claim the rights for the communities they represent or to help those communities to stand up themselves. Education For All has been chosen as the entry point, for organisations to learn how to lobby and advocate for structural changes, while at the same time to be able to deliver results at village level.
In other assignments, complementary to this assignment, SNV Nepal is working with the local Karnali government agencies to actually provide their services in a more inclusive manner.

SNV Advisory Support and Main activities

With most of the Dalit NGOs, SNV is going through an organisational development process, which goes through the different stages of orientation on organisational development, confirming commitment to the process, diagnosing its own weaknesses and strengths and exploring how improvements can be made. It is very similar to the client intake process (primary process of SNV), but here this process is viewed as already a major component of the capacity strengthening itself.

It is followed by the development of a capacity building plan. According to the different development plans, different trainings have been given in different districts, including proposal and report writing, good governance, social inclusion, accounting, leadership, etc. The district advisors backstop the whole process and keep the NGOs motivated to use their capacity plan to also get support from others on topics which SNV can't provide advice or training. A more formal review and update of their plans will happen in a few month time.

The regional training on advocacy and RBA, was one of the outcomes, and was the first time that all Karnali Dalit NGOs, from 5 different districts, could actually sit together, exchange and strengthen their network and determine their priorities.

A next important step is to build a coherent programme out of these first steps, which will include the necessary fundraising work. SNV has taken the initiative, but it now aims to connect there organisations with a Nepali resource organisation in education advocacy and organisational development. Not only are SNV's advisory capacities limited, it is also in line with the new corporate strategy.

June to October 2006, involved the client intake of the above mentioned Dalit NGOs, including the formulation of capacity building plans with each of them. September to December 2006 involved the organisation of training, both by local trainers as well as trainers flown in from more developed parts of Nepal, and the regular backstopping and advice on the spot by our district based advisors.
2007 will include a review of the capacity building plans of each of the organisations, further implementation of the remaining activities mentioned in the plans, including training and feedback, and hopefully an EFA monitoring programme to lobby for inclusive education.

3. Results of assignment:

a) Output:
- Output client assessment: above satisfactory
- Output SNV assessment: Above satisfactory
They appreciated the advisory services but looking for funds to organise training and such activities in the field for wider mass.

b) Outcome:
- Outcome indicator 1(Training on education policy, report writing): satisfactory
- Outcome indicator 2 (advocacy) : satisfactory
Training were highly appreciated and they even organised some such training themselves but they feel that advocacy is not enough. They don't want political parties to capitalise on the issues of Dalit (just to get more votes) but them to join in the fight for their rights and give them equal opportunities.

c) Effect/impact of the assignment

Although SNV sees the above as a start to a longer term process, already a few results can be seen:

The Dalit NGOs have started writing proposals more actively to apply for funds available at district level.
In the advocacy training, the NGOs from each district already committed themselves to engaging with district level education stakeholders, to strongly promote the enrolment of Dalit boys and girls to be a major focus within the EFA activities. Several NGOs, who were first viewing each other as competitors, are now working together on this.
For the first time one of the Karnali Dalit NGO leaders has become board member in the regional Dalit NGO Federation, a small step towards a strong network with inclusion of Karnali Dalit NGOs.
Participants have come to understand that just claiming for more scholarships will not structurally improve the situation of Dalits. It is just one example of how these young people are learning about RBA and authentic participation.

More concrete impact within EFA, will be determined how successful the resource organisation, and Dalit NGO's can fundraise with support from SNV.

4. Critical success moments

As this set of activities just started in mid-2006, it will take more time to actually show successes. Critical factors of success will come forward out of the reviews of the capacity building plans. Nevertheless, Two success factors can already be highlighted:

1) SNV has advisors at district level, who are in regular contact with the clients and can give regular feedback, motivation, etc.
2) Because of their network, our district advisors can easily link clients with new programmes, initiatives and new developments.

5. Lessons learned

People really appreciated the step-wise process of SNV's organisational development process: they feel they are the centre and are not just receiving because that's the way it was written in the programme document.

Although all Dalit NGOs agree on the importance of Education For All, the issue of Dalit rights has been monopolized by the political participation within the upcoming Constituent Assembly. This is not an easy area for SNV, as an international organisation, to engage in.

Participants naturally tended towards needs-based implementation of projects: provide us funds and will deliver to our members. The first two days of training was therefore very important: it basically emphasised that just like in the last 15 years, more money will not change anything for the Dalit. Participants should really be convinced otherwise a rights based approach will end up being implemented like any other project.

The district-based advisors need more follow-up from the regional level to keep organisational development processes with their partner NGOs alive: with all the visits of missions, new programmes, etc. organisational development can slowly degrade to being a second priority among the many tasks they have to fulfil.

The development of an integrated package of organisational development and advocacy within education must be the next step, otherwise what should be something with a 3 year vision, ends up being a collection of separate assignments, less well integrated and more prone to the internal changes within SNV.

Chaya BK, Dalit from Kalikot: "We hope that with more capacity building training, we will be able to address our concerns more effectively from the village to the national level."

6. Recommendations for learning and follow-up:

Within SNV Nepal, we are trying to create parallel processes: SNV Kathmandu office is supporting with a general MoU with the Dalit NGO Federation central office, while each of the regional portfolios has started similar processes. Our Social Inclusion advisor in Kathmandu is forming the coordination channel between the different portfolios. Of course each portfolio area has its own geographical characteristics, so each programme in the end will look somewhat different.

Now we have started searching for funds, we realize that donors and organizations are very interested in the Karnali, Dalit NGOs and our step-wise approach. But we still have to concretize their interest into a joint programme which combines organizational development and monitoring of Education for All. Also we have shared our approach and our ambitions with existing EFA programmes, and they see a clear role for the DNGOs to contribute where school enrolment is lowest, especially in those clusters where more Dalit live. All this sharing takes place mostly through face-to-face meetings.

Source: SNV 2007

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Women, Dalit and Ethnic Groups
Hindu Religion Dalit Liberation Front of Nepal (Unified)

Externe Links
Netherlands Development Organisation SNV