By Ankit Khanal
The pandemic has affected the world on a wide scale and in different ways – GDL members have had to cancel projects, put them on hold for the time being or reorganise them. In order to ensure that the work of GDL members can continue, especially in civil society organisations that support vulnerable groups or other groups in need, the GDL has promoted projects through the Solidarity Fund. What has become of it, who has taken part in it and how has it helped?
This is the fourth article in our Solidarity Fund blog series, where we will publish reports on the blog at irregular intervals. You can also take a look at the first entry, where Camila Comide shares her experiences at the Gender Alliance and illustrates why gender is much more than just women’s rights, the second entry, where GDL member Benon Kayemba provides insights into his solar light project to improve security and provide lighting for children in Uganda, and the third contribution by Elsa Marie D’Silva and Supreet K’Singh, who created a safe space within a SafeCircle for victims of domestic violence in India to be heard and supported with the help of our Solidarity Fund.
Inspired by the Solidarity Driven Call, GDL member Ankit Khanal and his organisation Community Solution Initiatives Nepal (CSI) hosted a workshop dedicated to the rights of the LGBTI community in Nepal to bring its ideas and visions into the mainstream. The CSI is a community of lawyers, activists and researchers who believe that the law can be a powerful tool in breaking the cycle of marginalisation and advancing social justice.
On 19 February, I hosted a workshop session for 34 civil society activists and advocates in Dhangadhi (in the far west province of Nepal) focusing on the issues of LGBTI, human rights, transparency, accountability, good governance and women’s rights.
Hosting this workshop in a smaller city was important, as issues affecting LGBTI communities are even more pressing outside Nepal’s big cities. In the capital Kathmandu, various initiatives are in place to protect the rights of LGBTI communities. But in rural areas there is very little recognition of the issues. Hence, it was deemed important that awareness of this issue be raised in that area among a wide array of stakeholders, including local governments, media houses and civil society organisations.
During the event I collaborated with numerous relevant stakeholders in the region. Saroj Bista, director at CSI Nepal, coordinated locally with the partner organisations, including the Blue Diamond Society, which has been promoting the issues of LGBTI communities in Nepal, and the Rural Development and Research Centre (RDRC), which works in the areas of media, press, human rights and governance. RDRC members shared their expertise regarding the role of the media in mainstreaming the rights of LGBTI communities throughout the workshop.
At first we assumed that the event would quickly consolidate the wide array of stakeholders into a network. However, since the event only spanned one day, it was a challenge to cover every aspect as well as to develop concrete networking documentation in this short time. Most challenging was the search for local expertise. It was a difficult task to identify local experts in the subject matter. Moreover, conducting the event outside Kathmandu made coordinating with the local bodies and identifying issues strenuous.
The 34 participants, with overwhelming involvement by stakeholders, including members of the LGBTI communities, local governments, journalists and human rights actors in the region, played an active role in the event, and we were able to discuss regional challenges and look at future ways to protect the rights of LGBTI communities.
Various speakers have called for greater advocacy for marginalised communities, including LGBTI, to enjoy the fundamental civil rights enshrined in the constitution. At the workshop ‘Rights of LGBT Community’ organised by Community Solution Initiatives, participants, mainly representing LGBTI communities from the far west province, shared a vision and a commitment to lend support to other LGBTI communities and strengthen public awareness.
“It is crucial that gender minorities be treated equally if we are to see positive changes in society.” – Anonymous participant of the workshop
Governance activists echoed the need to address the problems faced by minorities and disadvantaged communities, including LGBTI, in order to enable them to assert and enjoy their human rights.
“The LGBTI population in the entire far west must be large. Past efforts resulted in LGBTIs being able to obtain citizenship certificates. It is, however, unfortunate to see no participation and no representative from the community in any of the 126 administrative units in the entire far west region. We highly encourage you to maintain an accurate database of the LGBTI community in the region, make sure they all register for their voter ID and submit candidacies in local-level elections so that civil and political rights can be better promoted.” – Anonymous participant of the workshop
Participants also highlighted the need to put further efforts into mainstreaming the participation of the LGBTI community in the governance process at local level.
“Media can play an important role in ensuring the social security of the LGBTI. It is important that the issues that LGBTI communities have been going through are given an appropriate place in reporting.” – Anonymous participant of the workshop
If we have the opportunity to continue our work, we would very much like to plan for a series of events in all seven provinces of Nepal. We would plan the sessions to accommodate several other aspects (good governance, roles of local governments, participation of LGBTI communities in the budget planning process at local level, legal and policy reform to protect rights of LGBTI communities).
I believe that we were able to touch on only a few of many important issues affecting LGBTI communities. It would be great to have at least a two-day event to be able to focus on the topic in more detail.
In the end, the event was successful in sensitising local governments who bear primary responsibility for guaranteeing equal rights for every person, irrespective of their gender and sexual identity. The Deputy Mayor of Dhangadhi Sub-Metropolitan City expressed a commitment to raising the issue in local government programmes.
In light of the achievements of the workshop, we will continue to consolidate relationships between the participants, with the goal of using this network to help them continue their collaboration and support each other far beyond the end of the workshop.
For further information you can check out the published article about the workshop on the Nepal24Hours website here.
About the author:
Ankit Khanal is a Political Affairs expert who has vast experience with various international organisations, INGO’s and NGO’s, including the United Nations and the European Union at the national and international level, focusing on promoting human rights, peacebuilding, women’s empowerment, good governance and violence prevention.
Published on December 16, 2021.