Empowering Dalit and Indigenous Women and Girls in Nepal: Insights from CSW68
National Indigenous Women Forum (NIWF) and the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) recently joined forces to host a  panel discussion titled "Advancing Gender Equality and Empowerment of Dalit and Indigenous Women and Girls in Nepal" during the Sixty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, United States.

The event, which convened esteemed panelists and dignitaries, including Honorable Radhika Tamang, Member of the Bagmati Provincial Assembly, and Mr. Suman Raj Aryal, General Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Children, and Senior Citizen of Nepal, aimed to shed light on the challenges faced by Dalit and Indigenous women and girls in Nepal and catalyze actionable change.

Dr. Rabina G Rasaily, Executive Director of FEDO Nepal, expertly moderated the discussion, guiding conversations among panelists Yasso Kanti Bhattachan, Vice-Chairperson of NIWF - Nepal; Durga Sob, Founder President of FEDO Nepal; Queen Bisseng, UN Programme Specialist for Africa for GFOD; and Sushmita Lama, Indigenous Women Programme Coordinator at the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact Foundation (AIPP).

Key topics explored included advocating for policy reforms to address gender-based violence and discrimination within marginalized communities, promoting inclusive representation in decision-making processes, ensuring equitable access to resources for empowerment, and fostering collaborative partnerships to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

The event underscored the urgent need to elevate the voices of Dalit and Indigenous women and girls, who often face intersecting forms of discrimination based on ethnicity, caste, socioeconomic status, and cultural background. By centering their perspectives in policy discussions and interventions, policymakers can develop more targeted and effective strategies to address their unique needs and challenges.

One significant challenge highlighted during the discussion is the criminalization of traditional skills and practices of Indigenous Women and Girls, leading to their displacement from ancestral lands and further marginalization within their communities. This suppression of Indigenous knowledge perpetuates cycles of poverty and disempowerment among these women and girls.

Moreover, it is crucial to recognize that women are not a homogenous group; rather, they encompass diverse experiences and identities. Acknowledging this heterogeneity is essential for designing inclusive policies and programs that cater to the specific needs of marginalized women and girls, including those from Indigenous and Dalit communities.

Despite these challenges, grassroots movements and community organizations have emerged as key actors in amplifying the voices of marginalized women and girls. By mobilizing communities and advocating for systemic change, these grassroots initiatives play a vital role in empowering Indigenous and Dalit women and girls to claim their rights and shape a more inclusive and equitable society in Nepal.

In conclusion, the panel discussion served as a beacon of hope and progress, highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts to advance gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls, particularly those from marginalized communities. By centering their voices and experiences, we can collectively work towards a future where every woman and girl in Nepal has the opportunity to thrive and realize her full potential.