Genderscaping the Jungle: Psychological Insights from Matriarchal Tharu Society from the Terai Region of Nepal
The Terai region of Nepal is home to several ethnic groups which differ culturally and linguistically. Tharu people are an ethnic group inhabiting the lowlands and inner Terai valleys of Nepal well as in the Terai plains on the Nepal-India border. Tharu translates to the people of the forest as they literally are. They had preferred to stay in isolation from modernization and have ushered on traditional sustenance methods. Tharu people have successfully managed to carve a unique niche for themselves in the country. Their community is thriving amidst the multiethnic and multicultural Nepalese society, maintaining their ages old traditions and customs. Although Tharu people have remarkably worked upon their mainstreaming but their public rhetoric often has the undertones of their inheritance and identity. Consequentially, the development of ethnic consciousness among the community has harnessed itself irrespective of the geopolitics. Tharus have been largely irrelevant to the bureaucratic and administrative development in Nepal and in the due course have suffered socio-cultural alienation. The marginalization of community has reinstated ethnic consciousness among the members of the Tharu community.
Because of the conservation drives and flourishing tourism hotspots, forests have largely been declared as restricted area and this has posed a great challenge before the members of Tharu community. Most of the members have chosen to migrate and mainstream, while many have been in conflict with the authorities for their traditional practices of hunting and farming. This has made the community suffer irreparable cultural losses which no compensatory act would suffice. Due to limited access to mainstream resources for professional growth and development, there has been a nominal representation of Tharu youths in the employment diasporas. As youth of any community holds great significance, it somehow becomes their responsibility to provide their community a better approach to life. Living in seclusion, away from their peer groups poses several challenges before them, and they are often found to be having low self-esteem because of their educational backwardness and humble socio-economic statuses.
Tharus have been a matriarchal society ever since came into the known realms and women have occupied the places of prominence all across. These traditions are enshrined in their belief of being the descendants of Rajasthani queens who fled to the Himalayan foothills when their kingdoms were under siege. Rizvi & Kidwai (2017) have reported the aspirations of Tharu students hailing from the Terai region of Nepal and India, opining that girl students have shown more enthusiasm towards higher education and skill training programs. This supports the assumption of active gender roles among the members of the community even after having faced cultural vulnerabilities. This research paper aims at assessing the gender roles in context of the matriarchal traditions of Tharu community of Nepal and explores psychological attributes of matriarchy. This research reflects significantly upon self-esteem and psychological well-being of male and female graduates of Tharu community. Data was collected through psychological questionnaires from 100 (50 male & 50 female) Tharu graduates and analyzed through SPSS 22.0. Results showed both significant and non-significant relationships between the variables.
Keywords: Tharu Community, Education, Employment, Matriarchy, Gender