Engaging a Globalizing World Narrating and Reflecting on Stories of Local People
Part A – Local Person’s Story
Stage 1- Framing the narrative
Dilkumari Shreshta is an illiterate village woman from a mountain village. Her parents had a strong belief that girls should not be educated. They are meant for the work in the house and in the field. She has three brothers and one sister. All her brothers are educated and doing business. Her sister and she are illiterate. Her sister is married with three well-educated children. Dilkumari is unmarried.
Dilkumari said, “Before I came to Kathmandu, I was illiterate. I could not read or write, so scared to speak to people, so shy, if someone told me anything I cried, and I needed a companion to go from place to place.” After coming to Kathmandu, she met many people, other illiterate women and attended training for women. After a few months at the Women’s Center, she said she was a different person with a lot of self-confidence. She was able to accept herself as a human being with many gifts and qualities. She said, “I got a chance to read and write, to speak in front of a group which made me self-confident and courageous. It also helped me to take up any work without fear and do it well. I am a different person today for I can read and understand, can be a part of a discussion, can listen and understand others in their pain and struggle, joys and celebrations and be with them. I can now talk to any one, attend any meetings and discussions, can go anywhere alone, teach others the skills I have learned. There is a desire in me to serve others with determination and dedication. I understand that others also have problems. As women, we should form a group and should go forward with conviction to get our rights as human beings. I am able to guide my brothers and parents to make decisions.” Because of globalization she is able to communicate better with her family members.
2. Catherine Thapa is a housewife in Kathmandu. She was a working woman before she got married and she had to give up her job in order to take care of the children. Since she is not an earning member of the family, she feels dependent now for everything. She has to ask for money from her husband and it is hard. This is the situation of all women in Nepal. In every way they are dependent on the men. Women in Nepali society are second class citizens and have no identity of their own. A woman is always known as somebody’s daughter, sister, wife or mother. A Hindu woman in Nepalese society is always expected to regard her husband as her god.
When Catherine was working, she had money, was independent and self confident. With the globalization and advances of technology she said she is able to communicate with her husband when he is away and with other members of the family. There are meetings of housewives where they share their problems and struggles which help her as a support group to ease her tensions and pains. She is forced to be updated with information in order to help her children in their education. When her children demand the latest things to match the things of their friends, she is forced to make decisions that hurt her children at times. It is hard to bring up the children with Christian values in a growing consumerism.
Stage 2: Understanding what has changed
1. What has changed in their basic pattern of consumption of goods and services?
Changes include: new patterns and designs of dresses; the need for more and more luxury items; food patterns including the consumption of more and more fast foods which then lead to more malnutrition, vitamin deficiency and sickness. Dilkumari says, “The way I dress is different now and I need more money to buy the clothing. I feel if there is money we can buy anything especially goods made in foreign countries. Since I started earning money, I feel that I am somebody and I do not have to be dependent on anyone and I can take care of my needs. There is also a tendency to imitate others and my wants are more to match the lifestyle of town people”.
Services have increased. There is a greater need for domestic workers, more communication methods, better means of transportation to reach places more easily and faster, more clinics and health care facilities. More educational facilities with unaffordable fees have increased in the towns.
The villages of Nepal are the same now without any roads or transportation facilities, health facilities and communication facilities. People in the villages have become poorer.
2. How have relationships within the family and community changed? New relationships?
It is obvious that the family and the community provide the environment within which socialization occurs. Women internalize social and religious values and attitudes. The nature of culture imposed on women is defined by the needs of others. Such are the female values passed on by philosophers, religion, myths, literature, mass media, and science in Nepal. The whole culture, education, customs, language, dress etc is guided by the traditional values, which are never in favor of women. Rules and social structures are set up by men to suite their own purposes. Male supremacy is drummed into women by all educational and socialization processes from the time they are born to the time they die.
The family is also affected by the indirect consequences of the internationalization of trade and investment. Members of the family are under pressure to follow the transfers of their company, and thus have to commute, travel or even emigrate.
Families are also affected with the demands of performance and productivity leaving wage earners less and less time with their families.
There is more individualism among and between family members. Family ties and collaboration are disintegrating. Because self-discipline is waning, children resist discipline. At this time there is more interest in connecting with the internet than with connecting with other people. Though there are fewer children in Nepali families, the children are demanding more and more things in order to keep up with their well-to-do friends.
3. How has their interaction with institutions changed?
There is a lot of advanced technology to which an ordinary village person does not have access. So there are a lot of instances of depression and suicides. Children make more demands on their parents. There is a lot of unhealthy competition and indifference towards the institutions. Everyone “wants more” and easy way of life, education, power and money. Many social and economic institutions, which sustain the market, have developed overtime to reinforce the collective interest of men. This has generated fertile land for the arbitrary violence and discrimination against women. There are more people in the towns and goods and services have increased in cost.
4. Has the person been required to migrate? Has the person been affected by the migration of others?
Because of the insurgency of the country, young people and men from the villages have migrated to towns and outside the country, leaving the women, children and the old people. Globalization also has made the people send their children abroad for better education in order to compete for jobs in changing technology. There is also migration from the villages to the towns in search of better jobs and facilities. As a result, there is an increase in the flesh trade of women and girls, massage parlors and hotels have come up with more job opportunities for women and girls as dancers. This has helped to increase the number of drug addicts and people with HIV/AIDS, T.B. and other illnesses resulting from overpopulation in the cities.
5. Has their means of producing a living for themselves and their family or community changed?
Agriculture is the traditional occupation in this country but today the younger generation is not interested in agriculture and life in the villages with traditional jobs. They receive education and search for jobs in the towns and abroad. As a result there is a lot of migration, trafficking of women, children and drugs have become means of money-making today. In the villages people have started income generation programs like vegetable gardening, raising of goats, bee keeping, poultry etc. Women have started savings groups and use their saved money for income-generating programs. Women’s lack of economic power has perpetrated social inequality in the communities.
6. How consistent or inconsistent with their spiritual values are these changes? Has their religious practices been effected?
Nepal is the only Hindu country in the world. The Nepalese Constitution incorporates the spirit of Hinduism in its very preamble. The socio-political and economic life of Nepal is guided by the Hindu culture and tradition, most of which is translated into the formal laws, rules and regulations. Not only in Nepal, but in the social life of all, Hindus throughout the world are governed by these norms and values. Hindu religion sanctions and advocates the universality of marriage. According to the law, the ideal marriageable age is even before puberty. Based on a patriarchal system, Hinduism stresses rituals. The patriarchal system defines women as absolutely pure and good or as an evil to be guarded against; woman are defined as being inferior or subordinate to men.
The people of the villages are still very traditional in their rituals and practices. In the towns the practices have changed and the younger generations go to the Temples for worship only on special days. Other days they are busy with TV programs and outings.
A Hindu woman is expected to regard her husband as her god. A woman is the property of her husband and he has the right to her body whenever he pleases. A Hindu widow is still socially discriminated against and regarded as an ill woman. She is forbidden to remarry and must refrain from wearing colored cloths and ornaments. Besides wife battering, sexual harassment and rape, punishing women as witches forced prostitution, intimidation with physical harm and polygamy are common patterns of violence against women in Nepal.
Stage 3: Evaluation of the Impact of these changes on local people
1. These people face the changes in different ways. By undergoing training, contact with others, sharing with like-minded people and groups, by discerning and reflecting before making decisions help them to deal with the changes. Since there are limited sources of income, the families or persons have to plan and prioritize their needs. People who are not able to make choices or plans become poorer by imitating others and living up to the expectations of others. .
2. The culture has completely changed in the towns and cities. People have become more westernized in their dress, food habits, life style, family life, social gatherings etc. With the growth of telecommunications, they are more exposed to what is happening outside the country. There is also greater possibility to communicate with their people outside and get better education and jobs. The facility in moving today from place to place, and the speed and multiplicity of cultural exchanges represent an opportunity for people to open themselves to cultures which would have been unknown. These days many women take an active part in politics. Thus, they have a role in shaping the future of the country. These cultural exchanges could create closer links between people and thus increase the solidarity within the human community. The traditional culture is still intact in the villages.
3. My companions see the following as signs of hope :
· Education of girls and more job opportunities for women both within and outside the country.
· There is better connectedness with members of the family through telecommunications and travel facilities. Interconnectedness and unity among the people has increased.
· Their children will be able to cope with the changing situation with better education.
· Through awareness programs and value-based educational programs, the future generation can face many challenges.
· Education and empowerment of women especially about their legal rights give them backbone to fight against injustice and for their rightful place in this fast changing society.
· Organized power of women can work miracles and transform their families and society
· They become the powerhouse to enable the women to come in touch with their inner strength and courage which is hidden in them and thus build a just society.
· Women will live as human beings with love, dignity and respect with womanliness – gentleness, kindness, endurance, graciousness, compassion etc.
· Income generation programs and saving schemes enable women with economic power to think, decide and act for themselves.
Stage 4: Reflection of the local person’s experiences
1. How do they feel about these changes?
The local people feel that these changes are good for the women of Nepal because women of this country are victims of discrimination, domestic violence, and traditional cultural and social practices. There is also regression of women’s human rights and it is manifested in the increased trafficking of women. The women who played a major role in the economic sector were always invisible as an organized force. Women have no individual identities. Nepal receives one of the lowest scores on the status of women in the world. This score is based on indicators of health, marriage and children, education, employment social equality and political participation. Women are the victims of physical violence in the work place, as they have to work relatively harder than the men as slaves without proper food and medical care, though production in the absence of women’s participation is beyond imagination. Women are the basis of all work operations but remain invisible. Women are the ones who go to bed with half filled or empty stomachs. If the women’s contribution to the economy is recognized she will receive respect as an equal partner.
2. Are they at peace within themselves with the current situation and their role in it or are they struggling within themselves
As they look at it as a whole, they are at peace and happy with themselves and their role as a housewife and an animator with all the changes. Yet there is a fear within as to whether they will be able to face the changing situations and demands of a changing society. There is a lot of competition now. The male perception of women underscores the extent to which women’s contributions to society have been ignored and downplayed in modern times. Despite rapid changes in the socio-economic structure of the family, sex stereotypes will persist unless they are counteracted. Beginning with the family unit itself, equal rights and responsibilities require that sex stereotypes be banished from labor legislation, thereby enabling women to integrate work and family – a step that will encourage men to share the household burden.
Hinduism is based on a patriarchal system and defines women as being either inferior or subordinate to men. They do not know how to bring about a change in these. They are struggling with it and hope for a change in the mentality of men
Part B: Missionary’s I Part B: Missionary’s Insights and Views
STAGE 1: Insights
In stage one, you are given the opportunity to reflect on how the changes that the local person has recalled affected you personally.
1. Are there any insights you would like to share as a result of accompanying the person(s) in telling their story?
The illiterate woman is an empowered woman today. She has a lot of self-confidence and courage to face any situation. She manages a hostel for women with women who are older than she is. She is very honest and can be trusted with anything. As I continue to help her, I see her as open to learn more. As I see the growth in her I am encouraged to go on with my work with women and feel that it is useful. There is that hope that change can be brought into illiterate women’s life with awareness training. I see the change in every trainee who go through the training that we have.
It is always the poor, women and children who suffer always. There is always a concern about their future. There are more migrant workers in the town than before, more refugees, victims of tourism, victims of insurgency – more widows and orphans.
There is no stability in the country with the political leaders and so no human rights. The village people live in a culture of silence even now. There is a growing importance of the military in running the country; a military that supports the state not the good of the people. All forms of corruption have become a way of life. Human rights violations and non-interference consumerism which leads to buying things in order to impress people.
2. How have global changes affected your approach to mission?
The global changes have brought about the feeling of oneness and unity of the whole human race as one.
· This has helped me to make my trainees understand the need for unity without any type of discrimination of caste, creed or nationality when they live here in the hostel. Discrimination of all type is a part of this society.
· Promotion of human rights. Easier to make women understand that they are human beings and they have certain rights to protect them and help them to live as human beings.
· Holistic approach – charity and integral human development of Church as one body – communion of communities in protection of human rights and for the promotion of human dignity with greater commitment.
· For the suffering people of Asia, Nepal – Jesus as the suffering servant – readiness to face the challenges of pain and suffering that make us credible witnesses to justice and peace.
· All religious groups coming together to share their insights from their faiths in order to work together for the common good of all as we are called to promote Christian compassion.
· We are called for more of transparency and accountability, and respect for the marginalized
· There is the resistance to the hierarchy of the caste system and dictatorships.
3. How consistent or inconsistent with your spiritual values are these changes?
Consistent with the values of unity, human respect and dignity, equality, compassion and forgiveness. Inconsistent with individualism, competition, richer becoming richer not having value of sharing and the poor becoming poorer.
4. Are you at peace within yourself with the current mission situation and your role in it? Yes and no.
Yes, my role as an educator, giving the values of human respect and dignity, equality, love, forgiveness, compassion, sharing, selfless service. For people here can not understand how we can be in service to others without any benefit for self.
No, I am not at peace with the changed values of consumerism, competition, profits, selfishness, individualism, and fundamentalism. It is very hard to be an agent of change.
STAGE 2: Imagining the future of mission
In stage two, using these given assumptions
· that Globalization has had an effect on local cultures and the worldwide community;
· that new areas of missionary endeavors* are advocated by Church documents. *Redemptoris Missio draws explicit attention to six areas or environments of mission: mega-cities, youth, migrants and refugees, the mass media, the new areas such as peace and care for the environment;
· that missionary endeavors are most fruitful when there is an integration of the key elements of mission: proclamation, witness, dialogue, spirituality and prayer, reconciliation and social transformation.
1. Imagine how you would shape the future of missionary activities.
There is more of imitation of western culture in dress, food and other choices with advanced economy, communication and information technology and travel facilities. The local culture is limited to the villages where education and other facilities have not reached. In the villages, the social and cultural practices are very strong and traditional even now. So,
– help to keep up the culture of the country that is helpful for all the people
– need to respond to the needs of the exploited children, migrant workers and their families, refugees, widows and victimized women, broken families, guidance and value education for the youth, empowerment of women with more of legal education etc.
2. Imagine what kind of advice you would give to someone entering the field of mission today.
– Someone entering mission today needs to develop a balance between heart and head functioning. Ability to live and work in harmony with the co-workers and collaborators.
– Need to integrate with the key elements of mission – proclamation of good news, witness, prayer, dialogue and reconciliation.
– Competitiveness and solidarity cannot co-exist. Our solidarity becomes effective, basic human needs would be protected and fostered. We have to stress that the human person is at the centre of all concerns for development.
Teresa Madassery, SCN