From ‘Failed Development’ to ‘Inclusive Development’?: Views of Janajati and Dalit Women
For more than a half-century, “developing the country” has been the national credo set by the Nepal state. In time, this credo has come to be embraced by almost every citizen in every corner of the country across cultural and social diversity, different economic standings, and political convictions, but it was coupled with the bitter recognition that the project fell far short of achieving its goals. Many people lagged behind and remained excluded economically as well as on social, cultural, or political terms, or perceived the state of affairs as such. Since the turn of the century, the call for “inclusion” has dominated the public discourse to recast the trajectory of Nepal’s “failed development.” Diverse groups of people experiencing deprivation and exclusion – ethnic, caste, regional, or gendered minorities, as well as the vast layer of working-class men and women, among others – have been raising their voice for “inclusion,” part of which translated into some drastic, seemingly irreversible, changes on the political scene.
The paper is an attempt to observe the changes this developmental practice has brought about on the ground in Nepal from the viewpoint of “inclusion.” Has this practice made Nepali society more “inclusive” or “exclusive”? Has the “development” changed its course to become more “inclusive” in response to the massive call for it? Given the diversity in Nepali society and the diverse trajectories in which different communities engage in “development,” the paper explores the question with a special focus on two particular groups positioned at the intersections of multi-layered exclusion: the groups marginalized in terms of caste or ethnicity as well as gender, that is, Janajati and Dalit women.
The discussion will proceed as follows: After identifying statistical as well as discursive profiles of Janajati and Dalit women from the present literature, we go on to outline the possible variations in the way these groups engage with “development” in order to verify their relatively “excluded” status in the developmental order of the country. Then we turn to examine the momentum for “inclusion,” that has predominantly revolved around the issue of representation, especially in electoral politics, through institutionalizing the reservation system in the last couple of decades. In the course of the discussion, we will get to the better position to have views of Janajati and Dalit women in terms of their status of “inclusion”.