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Despite Being One Of South Asia’s Oldest Kingdoms, Why Is Nepal So Far Behind?

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From 1960-2016, India’s GDP has risen from $36.5 billion to $2.2 Trillion. That means that the Indian economy has grown by 55.5 times in 56 years. Whereas Nepal’s economy from 1960- 2016 has increased from $0.5 billion to $21.14 billion, meaning the economy has grown by just 21 times. India’s economy went from the billions to the trillions and Nepal economy is still in the billions.

India got independence from British Raj in 1947 and Nepal got independence from Nepali family regime known as Rana in 1951, which is just 4 years afterwards. Now, India is the world’s 7th largest economy by GDP and Nepal is the 108th largest economy by GDP in 2016. Interestingly, Bangladesh, which was founded in 1971, had the GDP per capita $1358.78 in 2016, compared to Nepal which has just $729.

Many of us don’t know that Nepal is one of the oldest nation-states in South Asia. India and Nepal share a similar culture: both are Hindu dominant states, with strong cultural, linguistic, and family ties, and a similar political and governmental structure. Nepal and India share an open and porous border of 1751 kms. The open border should be the key to explosive economic growth, but Nepal hasn’t managed yet to grab the juice from it.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, and it is a member of the Least Developed Countries (LDC), whereas India is a member of BRICS and G-20 – the world’s exclusive economic powerhouse clubs. Why is Nepal poor? The answer is difficult. Even Robinson and Acemoglu don’t have the perfect answer as to why nations fail in their magnum opus, “Why Nations Fail“.

The three series of Punic wars (264 BC-146 BC) made Romans at the epicentre of global power after overthrowing Carthage. The rise of Rome gave European history a new turning point. The rise of the Holy Roman Empire in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire pushed Europe into darkness; this darkness was lightened by the Renaissance in the 1300s to 1500s. From 1600-1800, the ‘Great Divergence made Europe into the zenith of human civilization, surpassing the Mughals of India, Qing Dynasty of China, Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan, Joseon Kingdom of Korea, and Ottoman Turkey. From 1800-1990, the decolonized and third world countries boomed via globalization and interconnected technology and information.

Europeans mitigated the Malthusian Trap via innovation to grow surplus food, and maintained their population growth, subsidised to boost the economic revolution. The savings and investments were increased in the new mode of redistribution of wealth in European society, in the backdrop of the dismantling of collectivist institutions, giving rise to the individualism.

Individualism, the free market, free mobility of European intellectuals from London to Florence, and the age of exploration made the Western countries the wealthiest in the 19th century. The discovery of America in the 15th Century, its official formation in 1776, rise to being an economic power in the 1870s, becoming the largest economy in the world in the last decade of 19th century, and becoming the world’s superpower in 1945 – this is the miraculous rise of the United States. The US rose from the isolated New World to a superpower in just 400 years. Nepal has a history of more than 3000 years and she only came into the global scene after the 1950s. Nepal before 1950 was a highly exclusive society with an extreme feudalist pattern. Nepal’s landlocked nature, between India and China, made it always stay on the verge of a strategy for survival.  Leo E. Rose’s famous book, “Nepal’s Strategy for Survival”, accounts the fear of being succeeded or annexed by her giant neighbours. Nepal’s survival even today is questionable, with the changing global order and fear of newly emerging powers after the farewell of the British Raj from India in 1947.

China, which is Nepal’s northern neighbour, has another story. It is the world’s second-largest economy by GDP as of 2016. Nepal is thus bordered by the 7th and 2nd largest economies of the world. The Nepali are unaware of Richard Baldwin’s ‘Great Convergence’ taking place in a world where the economic magnet is shifting from West to East, i.e. at the doorstep of the New Delhi and Beijing. After 1990 and especially after the dot-com bubble in the US, the technology transfer and outsourcing of jobs have already made Bangalore the IT hub of South Asia. Even in Nepal, major Silicon Valley-based companies are outsourcing to the notable companies like DeerWalk Services, Verisk Analytics, Geospatial Systems, Serving Minds, and Yomari Inc. The Computer Association of Nepal says that BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) in Nepal is estimated to have an annual turnover of more than ₹5 billion ($4,87,34,850).

Do Nepalis living abroad know about this new seismic shift in the world order, especially the ‘great convergence’ of the fourth phase of technology? Who is responsible for taking action, then: the Nepali diaspora in the west and India, or the Nepali labourers in the Middle East, or the corrupt Nepali leaders residing in Nepal? Let us think!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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