This article first appeared on ACT-member Felm’s website
“My mother, father and grandfather were victims of the Haliya practice, working as bonded laborers in other people’s lands.
Because of this, I have been involved in the Haliya and Dalit movement from an early age to end the pain of my family and of the whole freed Haliya society. 97 percent of freed-Haliyas are from the Dalit group; the so-called lower caste and untouchable minority of Nepal.
My name is Laxmi Kumari Luhar, and I am 31 years old. I live in Baghphata of Bhimdatta Municipality in Kanchanpur District, Farwestern Nepal. I am married to my husband who also comes from the Haliya and Dalit community.
“My parents were compelled to work without earning nothing else than just enough to feed their children”
My parents were compelled to work without earning nothing else than just enough to feed their children and sustain a living in on their farm. This is why, as a member of the Dalit and Haliya family, I joined the Haliya campaign 12 years ago. For a decade, I have been fighting against the Haliya system in the society and all forms of discrimination against Dalits.
I started my career as a Haliya facilitator, organizing and empowering Haliya families to fight against discrimination. Currently, I am working as a data collector for the Haliya Federation(RMHSF-N).
Different forms of discrimination against Haliyas and Dalits in the society continue to exist. I have identified people who are still working under the old Haliya practice and filed their cases to the authorities. As a result, these complainants were freed from slavery, and they also received land and financial support as compensation. My family has also received a class A Haliya identity card, which entails our family for financial support in house construction and land purchase. This kind of support is crucial for people who have always worked on other people’s lands and owned no land of their own.
Photo: Rastriya Mukta Haliya Samaj Federation Nepal (RMHSF-N)
“Complainants were freed from slavery, and they also received compensation”
The state has not been able to bring enough Dalit and Haliya friendly policies and programs. Many freed Haliyas are not yet to get different opportunities to increase their own income and employment. The government of Nepal has declared the release of Haliyas, but still not all freed Haliyas have been identified and provided these rehabilitation packages by the state.
The records of many freed Haliyas have been missing because they were not well informed about the data collection, and many of them were out of country as seasonal laborers in India and other countries.
What makes me particularly sad is that Haliya women are still suffering from double and triple pain of Haliya labor and caste untouchability. Social empowerment and inclusion of Haliya and Dalit women has not been achieved, and they face multiple discrimination*.
“I want to see an end to discrimination and labor exploitation of Haliya women”
I still remember the discrimination caused by my landlord while as a young girl I was working both in the house and field of the landlord with my mother and father. I have also suffered the pain of not being allowed to fetch water in public water taps, just because I am a Dalit.
I am happy to know that the ADHICAR project is starting in my home municipality. I think the project will further help in solving the problems of the freed Haliyas. I also hope that the project will play an instrumental role to amplify the voices, choices and rights of the freed Haliya, women and people with disabilities.
It is the responsibility of the state to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of Haliya women. We need to make Haliya women more aware of their own rights. I want to see an end to discrimination and labor exploitation of Haliya women, I want to see a harmonious and just society.”
A consortium of four Nepali and European organisations are implementing a new European Union funded project in the Farwestern parts of Nepal. The consortium includes Rastriya Mukta Haliya Samaj Federation Nepal (RMHSF-N), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation Nepal (CAHURAST), and Felm. With the support of the European Union, the consortium is partnering up to combat discrimination of freed Haliyas, particularly persons with disabilities and women, who face the double burden of discrimination.
* Read more about multiple discrimination from a Joint Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review (2020) by The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Finish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (Felm), FinnChurch Aid (FCA), Samari Utthan Sewa (SUS), Rastriya Mukta Haliya Samaj Federation Nepal(RMHSF-N), Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation (CAHURAST), and theLutheran Community Welfare Society (LCWS), Joint Submission number 29.
This article has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this text are the sole responsibility of the project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.