2018 DASJ Awardee

Saraswati Nepali

Activist, Politician

Saraswati Nepali

Activist, Politician

Born in a Dalit family in the Far Western Nepal, Saraswati has been an outspoken leader in the field of social justice and human rights for Dalits and other marginalized communities. She has played a particularly important role in the struggles for land rights, education, and access to justice for Dalits in the Far West. From 2008 to 2011, she was the coordinator of the Land Rights Forum that led the struggle shift the paradigm of landlessness for Dalit communities. As a result of that campaign, 37 families received two ropanis of land each, with full titles and land ownership certificates.


In 2007, during the 'carcass boycott campaign,' a movement against the forced labour imposed on Dalits to dispose of animal dead bodies, Sarawati played a leadership role in nationalizing the issue and ensuring justice for the victims. The same year, under Saraswati's leadership, Baitadi District was declared free of bonded labor. She also worked as the District Coordinator of the Local Peace Committee from 2009 to 2011, making her the first female District Coordinator of a Local Peace Committee in Nepal.


In the face of continued police refusal to register complaints about human rights violations against Dalit victims, Saraswati waged a long legal campaign advocating for equal treatment under the law irrespective of caste. Her years of fighting made a difference: in a particularly horrifying case in Baitadi where a 54-year-old teacher had repeatedly raped a 14-year-old mentally ill Dalit girl and forced her to have an abortion, the perpetrator was brought to justice and sentenced to 11 years in prison—a rare verdict in Nepal. She was one of the leaders of the third organized Shaileshwari temple entry efforts in Doti district in September 2007, and was injured in the surrounding struggles.


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