In collaboration with the honorable Judge Sharada Shrestha, former member of the Supreme Court and first female Chief Justice of Nepal, Friends of Nepal-New Jersey is working to initiate a vocational training program focused on the needs of incarcerated women in Kathmandu.
Shrestha, the heart and hands behind this program, shared with me the troubling motivators behind her idea. Though women carry a great deal of responsibility in Nepal, gender inequality poses an immovable obstacle. Women are generally denied legal access to ownership, so in the event that they are convicted of a crime, their assets are seized and property reallocated. Furthermore, women in Nepal rarely return home once they have been marked as criminal. With this dark history of social and familial excommunication, many don’t even try to return in the first place and consider the prison-house their new home.
After stepping down from her position within the Supreme Court, Shrestha devised a plan that would help women to gain practical skills while still in prison. Her vision includes implementing three varieties of skill-based trainings that female prisoners could elect to take based on the length of their sentence and dedication to learning a new trade.
While awaiting the formal government approval to implement this program, much has to be done. Together with the talented and motivated Silvi Joshi, I will be writing an article that delivers several of the individual stories of women who live in the prison-house where this program is soon to start. Several preliminary interviews have already been conducted which paint a broad picture of the harsh conditions, social and legal challenges these women face.
What can someone like you do to help these women gain access to resources that will enable them to reclaim productive roles within society? In the coming weeks, we will be finalizing the proposed budget for this program and will be able to start allocating funds towards its necessary components. There will be a need for purchasing looms and weaving materials as well as supplies for running a beautician training. More to come.