Picture:Â Hira Bhandari interviews one of the conflict victims in Kanchanpur.
Conflict victims and their families are sharing and broadcasting stories of their war experiences
January 20, 2017: Sarita Thapa was only 11 when her father was disappeared by theÂ army, the same day Congress politician Govinda Poudel was killed byÂ the Maoists in Bardiya. For 17 years, Thapa was carrying the weight of her fatherâ€™s loss in her heartÂ until she met others like her while working to get stories of conflictÂ survivors.
â€œWhen I compare my pain with them I see how similar our problemsÂ are. I forget my own pain,â€ said Thapa, now 28.Â Thapa is part of The Story Kitchen (TSK) which has been training 19Â others like her to collect, record and prepare radio reports of the victimsÂ of the conflict and their relatives. There are reporters each in Jumla,Â Kalikot, Rukum, Rolpa, Surkhet, Dang, Bardiya, Banke, Kailali andÂ Kanchanpur.
A selection of 26 programs by the group has already been broadcast onÂ Radio Nepal, and syndicated through FM stations around the country.
â€œWe read Nepalâ€™s history and it is always about what the men haveÂ done, we wanted to present the womenâ€™s narrative, to look at major events inÂ history from a womanâ€™s perspective,â€ said TSKâ€™s Jaya Luitel.â€¨In the last five years, the Kitchen has documented stories of Nepalâ€™sÂ conflict told from the perspective of women. Last month, theÂ organisation was presented the Tomorrowâ€™s Peace Builder award byÂ Peace Direct based in London.
The reporters are given recorders and trained to conduct interviewsÂ and approach victims with sensitivity prior to being sent to the field. A member of the National Alliance of Women Human Rights DefendersÂ serves as a coordinator in each district, and the reporters sayÂ journalism has boosted their confidence.
â€œIt has changed how society views me, now they talk to me in a muchÂ respectable tone,â€ said Hira Bhandari (pic, above) who is working in Kanchanpur.Â Bhandariâ€™s husband along with her nephew and five others from the district were killedÂ during the conflict.
The women do not just report, their radio documentation is alsoÂ valuable testimony for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. InÂ Bardiya, Thapa has single-handedly collected 500 complaints and sentÂ them to Kathmandu. Having already served as an active member in theÂ Conflict Victims’ Common Platform (CVCP),Thapa says that theÂ women find it easier to talk to her because she too is a victim.
Many have trusted her with their war experiences, some of them ofÂ torture and rape, which they havenâ€™t registered with officials who areÂ mostly men.
â€œFor women social justice is important, and even more important now isÂ to tell them that it was not their fault,â€ explained Luitel.
TSK is supported by the United Nations Trust Fund to End ViolenceÂ against Women and the Governance Facility, and hopes to extend itsÂ work.
Said Bhandari from Kanchanpur: â€œI donâ€™t know if I am qualified to be aÂ radio reporter, but I really wish to work in this field in the future.â€
Listen as conflict victims narrate their war experiences.
ByÂ Smriti Basnet