In harmony with nature
“This is a very good platform,” said Biswakarma, content even after missing the first position, “The subject matter set for this competition is quite apt, too. We all need to understand that the absence of forests means extinction of our existence.” As for handing over leadership roles to women, the major theme of the competition, he opined, “Women should definitely be promoted to decision-making levels. With their sensitivity and gentleness, they will add a new dimension to conservation.”
The competition was part of Hariyo Ban’s campaign for the 103rd International Women’s Day, under the theme of ‘Amplifying unheard voices of women’s leadership in conservation and climate change.’ The campaign was directly aligned with Hariyo Ban’s goal to reduce impacts of climate change and threats to biodiversity in Nepal, highlighting the work of local women who have been selflessly working to conserve and restore forests, and yet who are often not adequately empowered to do this. Auditions were held in six districts of Chitwan Annapurna Landscape (CHAL). The two participants from each district chosen from this audition competed one more time in Pokhara before one winner each was selected from the poem and song category.
The winners for CHAL were Basanta Subedi from Kaski and Uday Nepali from Mustang, both of whom managed to articulate the innate relationship between women leadership and conservation. Nepali, who traveled a long way from his mountain district, focused on the need of women leaders in every sphere of life. “No effort is too small to raise awareness about women leadership, and I could not let such a chance go. I truly believe that only when we men speak out and cooperate with women can they voice their problems. Besides, women are the ones relegated to the home and hearth, they are the ones who have to deal with problems such as depleting water sources and fuel, which is why they need to be at the forefront to decide about the best use of natural resources.”
Two days later, a similar scenario of bonhomie laced with competition occurred in Chitwan, where seventeen contestants gathered. Just like in CHAL, these contestants had been selected from districts in the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL). Their songs and poems spoke of the pain women faced due to declining natural resources, the courage they showed in conserving their biodiversity, and the challenges they encounter each day in their endeavors. The hopeful voices mesmerized one and all, and the final choice of the judges – Jayananda Joshi ‘Paramhamsa’ for his rousing poetry and Ritu Lama for her mellifluous song – were appreciated by all present. Speaking out about the message of her song, Ritu explained eloquently, “My point is that women are as capable of doing things that men are, it is only the rights and official positions that they lack. But even this is not deterring women, as they are personally carrying out their quest to save forests and wildlife. This is because it is especially women who bear the brunt of environmental crises.”
The issues highlighted in the songs and poems have raised awareness and understanding of women’s hopes and struggles for their forests. When the overall winner, Ritu Lama, was finally announced on March 8, 2013 at an International Women’s Day Hariyo Ban event judged by seven eminent judges, she expressed elation at the chance to have the songs and poems recorded and played back through national and local media. This process will not only highlight conservation issues that are pertinent to the region, but should also inspire men and women to join hands together for conservation and a better future. The campaign, which focused on raising voices from the local to the national level on best practices and challenges faced by women active in natural resource management through their inspiring stories via song and poetry, came to an inspiring end with a young female winner who is passionate about changing the world for the better through her words and actions. Thanks to all the competitors for their inspiring work!
By Richa Bhattarai, Communications Associate, Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal
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Disclaimer: The Hariyo Ban Program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the responsibility of WWF and its consortium partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.