Dr. Sara Parker Brings Nepali Women “Dignity Without Danger”
CGCT Advisor Dr. Sara Parker committed to a lifetime of advocating for the needs of rural Nepalis when she first arrived in Nepal from her home in the UK more than 30 years ago. She returned to live and teach in Chandra’s birthplace Sikles in 1992 when the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) was being launched. Inspired by ACAP’s focus on local participation and the centrality of education in empowering communities, she has fostered participatory collaborative action and research in Nepal ever since.
Her latest research project “Dignity Without Danger” connects three universities to six NGO partners and explores the diversity of beliefs and practices related to menstruation in Nepal. It follows on previous research that highlights the need for greater understanding of Nepal’s social and cultural diversity and encourages a wide-reaching approach to addressing the harmful practices associated with menstruating in Nepal.
One such practice known as chhaupadi encompasses a range of beliefs about women while they are menstruating: that they should not see the sun, should not touch males or certain plants, or should not attend religious sites or festivals. In some cases, they are banished from their homes during their monthly periods. These practices have been in place for hundreds of years in Nepal as well as in parts of India and Bangladesh.
As part of the Dignity Without Danger (DWD) project, researchers conducted ethnographic research in Nepal’s seven provinces, interviewing males and females of all ages, including religious leaders, health workers and teachers to gain insight into local beliefs and practices. Local artists gathered stories and made safe spaces for women to speak about their menstruation experiences. Public murals are being created to illustrate menstrual rituals. You’ll find more about Nepali women’s experiences at the online collection of stories “Breaking the Silence.” Dignity Without Danger is also developing an educational toolkit in collaboration with Global Action Nepal.
In 2018 the project launched with a film made by young women and girls in Kanchanpur and in December 2021 two films made by older women will be shown at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF). Sara and her team have interviewed menstrual activists in Nepal who will be featured in an online book.
From her beginning in Sikles, Dr. Parker’s work now reaches across Nepal. She returns to Sikles regularly and led the creation of a photo-journal book – supported by CGCT with your help – documenting Sikles life and Gurung traditions through the eyes and voices of community members empowered with cameras. A second edition of “Our Village, Our Lives” will be available soon.
CGCT Advisor Dr. Sara Parker is Reader in Development Studies, Liverpool John Moores University and currently leads “Dignity Without Danger” research project in Nepal.