Press Conference on WHRIA Pilot Test Findings - Addressing Gendered Impacts of Development Projects

On 30th May 2024, National Indigenous Women Forum(NIWF) in collaboration with Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) conducted a press release on the findings of "Women Human Rights Impact Assessment (WHRIA) Pilot Test: Addressing Gendered Impacts of Development Projects". “The Sunkoshi river is connected to our identity and existence; if the hydropower project destroys the river, our existence, identity – language, rituals, culture – will be destroyed as well.” This was the resounding call of the Women from Kunauri and Bhatauli Communities who lamented the life-changing impacts of the Sunkoshi hydropower dam. Indigenous Communities are facing the threats of forced displacement and the subsequent loss of livelihoods, potential discrimination in enjoyment of economic and social rights, and the disruption to the beliefs and practice of cultural rituals and traditions that are essential rights of the Majhi Indigenous Peoples. Women will also face additional struggle of fending for their family.

“What is the point of land if there is no river?” said Mamta Mahji, a Woman leader in the Community. “Our rituals and rites are intimately connected to the Sunkoshi river. It is our life, it is for the celebration of birth, marriage, and death. How can we honour our ancestors if we lose our river?”

“The current global model of development, which hinges on the indiscriminate use and conversion of the rich natural resources, is detrimental to Indigenous, rural Women,” said Eloisa Delos Reyes Programme Officer of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development. “Losing their access to forest and rivers that they have long been conserving and sustainably using will exacerbate the crises the Women are facing, and will double on women’s ability to sustain their livelihood and enjoy their economic and social rights, and furthering climate impacts.”

“Indigenous Peoples, including Majhi, are solutions, not problems to accelerating the climate crisis. Hence, there is an urgency to save Indigenous Peoples like Majhi to save our planet, Mother Earth. Therefore, we call upon the Nepal government, specially the Department of Electricity Development (DoED), business companies, national and international investors, and international development partners to meaningfully comply with the UNDRIP, ILO Convention No. 169, CEDAW GR. No. 39 and other international human rights,” said Yasso Kanti Bhattachan, Vice-chairperson of NIWF.