2018 DASJ Award
Announcement press release
Darnal Award for Social Justice for 2018 will go to activist Sarswati Nepali from Baitadi. The Darnal Award Selection Committee has decided to award her to recognize and honor her exemplary contributions towards social justice for the Dalit community. She will be honored with five lakh rupees and a citation at an international ceremony on August 15, 2018.
Along with Ms. Nepali, the Darnal Award Selection Committee has decided to also recognize five additional social justice activists – Kalawati Bhand from Dadeldhura, Arun Sada from Siraha, Parbati Kumari Bishunke from Dailekh, Dilip Gandharva from Bardia, and Dr. Rup Chandra Bishwakarma from Bajura.
Born in a Dalit family in the Far-Western Nepal, Ms. Nepali has been making important contributions in the field of social justice and human rights for Dalits and other marginalized communities. Especially, she has played important leadership role in the struggles for land rights, education, journalism and access to justice for Dalits. From 2008 to 2011, she was the coordinator of the Land Rights Forum that led the struggle to get land for landless Dalit. As a result of that campaign led by the Forum, 37 families received two ropanis of land per family, along with the land ownership certificate.
Under Ms. Nepali’s leadership, Baitadi district was announced to be bonded labor free district on March 21, 2007. Soon after that in 2008, Nepal government declared the end of bonded labor. Additionally, in 2007, during the carcass boycott campaign, she played a leadership role in nationalizing the issue and getting justice to the victims. Ms. Nepali also worked as the District Coordinator of the Local Peace Committee from 2009 to 2011. She was the first female District Coordinator of Local Peace Committee in Nepal.
In the context of continued police refusal to even agree to register complaints about human rights violations against Dalit community, she waged a long legal campaign. In the case where a 54 year old teacher had repeatedly raped and forced abortion on a 14 year old mentally unstable Dalit girl in Dashrathchand Municipality in Baitadi, the perpetrator was 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, during which she was injured.
Darnal Award is an international award that honors inspirational and exemplary efforts by ordinary people to change the society established in memory of visionary social justice leader Suvash Darnal. The Sarita Pariyar Trust Fund, in collaboration with Jagaran Media Center, has been honoring young Dalit leaders under 40 years every two years on the anniversary of Suvash Darnal’s death on August 15th. Additionally, an international discussion series on “Politics of Dignity and Equity: Dalits in Nepal ” has been organized every year.
Last year, to mark August 15th, the Darnal Award Steering Committee organized the sixth session of the international discussion series, a two-day discussion session titled “When Questions Create History,” to bring together experience knowledge and capacity of the Dalit community in Western and Far-Western Nepal in Kalikasthan, Achham. The series will take place this year as well.
In the Nepali society rife with stratified discrimination based on caste, we have a long and difficult road ahead of us to ensure inclusive democracy and social justice. Knowledge production and dissemination is very important for our struggle for justice. By honoring the ability, strength, and pride inherent in ordinary oppressed people and creating a new narrative about the Dalit community, the Darnal Award for Social Justice creates a bridge of support and collaboration among individuals, organizations, and movements doing new and inspirational work for social justice.