A wooden gavel is pictured from above, resting on a light grey marble surface.

Educating Dalit Lawyers

Introducing Phase 1 of the Caste Equality Project

Launching Summer 2022

Educating Dalit Lawyers (or EDL) is an enriched law school scholarship program designed especially for graduating high schoolers from Nepal’s Dalit community, formerly known as the “untouchable” castes.

These bright young scholars have grown up watching their communities and families experiencing caste-based discrimination and injustice. From their earliest days, they’ve heard damaging messages about themselves, and have endured small and large acts of systemic oppression. Each knows countless stories of violence, neglect, and exploitation of people just like them.

But this rising generation of young people is eager to push back—and NYF is determined to empower them to do so!

We’re combining our successful experience with Empowering Freed Kamlaris and our strong reputation as a committed scholarship provider to support young Dalit students hoping to become human rights lawyers.

Students in this program will receive:

  • Full-ride scholarship support as they pursue Nepal’s 5-year Bachelor of Legislative Law, or LLB, degree (the degree required to become a lawyer in Nepal) in some of Nepal’s best colleges;
  • Accommodation and food stipends;
  • Extracurricular opportunities including fieldwork and participation in human rights programs;
  • Mentorship opportunities with successful human rights lawyers;
  • Leadership training;
  • Opportunities to observe Nepal’s legal system in action;
  • Introductions to legislators and other Nepali leaders;
  • Internship placement support.

Support will continue as students prepare for and sit for the Nepali Bar Exam.

(Update: August 3rd, 2022)

The student selection process is finally complete! 22 students have been selected and placed in hostels in Kathmandu to prepare for the law school entrance examination. Our hope is that at least 15 of these students will score enough to be eligible to enter into law school. On August 2nd, NYF held an orientation and introduction program at Olgapuri Village. We’re so excited to get started!

22 selected students attend the Educating Dalit Lawyers orientation ceremony. Som Paneru (NYF President) speaks at the Educating Dalit Lawyers orientation ceremony.

 

(Update: July 8th, 2022)

This program is in the application assessment phase. We have received over 100 applications from hopeful students from all seven of Nepal’s provinces. Our applicants have come from a strong mix of male and female candidates, with individuals coming from a wide variety of Dalit subcastes.

An assessment committee is now working through these applications. The committee is comprised of two NYF staff members, two Dignity Initiative members, and one unaffiliated education member, using a strict method of determining who our scholarship recipients will be. We are deeply committed to ensuring we balance all factors as equitably as possible as we make our selections, bearing in mind the unique strengths, challenges, triumphs, obstacles, and aptitudes of each candidate.

Our team will select 20 students who will come to Kathmandu to prepare to take Nepal’s rigorous law school entrance exam. The top 15 students will receive the full scholarship.

We do not yet have photos or stories to share for this program. We look forward to sharing more later in the summer and in the fall!

Educating Dalit Lawyers is just the beginning of a larger project that has been in the making since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Learn more about our ambitious Caste Equality Project here!

Dignity Initiative

 

NYF is launching Educating Dalit Lawyers in partnership with Dignity Initiative, a Dalit-led NGO based in Kathmandu.

Dignity Initiative is devoted to advocating for the rights of the Dalit community through research, activism, policy advocacy, youth empowerment as well as critical engagement in public debate. The organization prides itself on providing Dalit Rights groups with appropriate data, evidence, and policy insights on key issues related to the Dalits.

Dignity Initiative was established by Dalit academics, researchers, writers and activists. The team is inclusive in terms of gender and caste/region within Dalit community.

 

Your Support

 

NYF is currently raising funds in support of Educating Dalit Lawyers. One year of support for each student in this program costs approximately $4,000. To support these determined students, please donate now!

When asked “Where would you like your gift to have the most impact?”, write “Educating Dalit Lawyers.”

 

Learn More

 

If you’d like to learn more about the court cases currently inspiring the Dalit Rights Movement, here are a few English-language resources to help you get started.

Please note that the stories below are only a few of the highest-profile cases—those receiving sufficient media coverage to be translated for publication in English. They represent a small fraction of the incidents of violence and discrimination faced by Nepal’s Dalit communities.

These are the kinds of cases our young law students are hoping to tackle in Nepal’s courts.

 

Rupa Sunar vs. Saraswati Pradhan: In Kathmandu in 2021, journalist Rupa Sunar was approved for an apartment, but the offer allegedly fell through when landlady Saraswati Pradhan learned Sunar belongs to a Dalit caste. This case is working its way through Nepal’s courts.

The Rakum West Massacre, 23 May 2020: Be warned, coverage of this crime is graphic and difficult to read. In a hilly region of Nepal, 21-year-old Nabaraj BK (a Dalit) and his 17-year-old girlfriend (from a higher caste) planned to elope against her family’s wishes. The groom’s 18-person wedding procession was ambushed on the way to the bride’s home in a nearby town. Survivors from this attack report that the bride’s entire village participated. When the police arrived on the scene, the 12 seriously-injured members of the wedding procession were arrested and interrogated. None of their attackers were detained or questioned. Only when members of Nabaraj BK’s village arrived to search for their loved ones did the police acknowledge the severity of the incident. Six young men (four of them Dalits) had been stoned to death and thrown in a river, including Nabaraj BK. There is evidence of an attempted cover-up by local police. Only after external pressure from the surrounding areas, and at the endless insistence of the families of those murdered, did the police begin an investigation. The incident was investigated by an external team sent by the national government. Thirty-four people have had charges filed against them, including members of the would-be bride’s family and elected village leaders. As of mid-2022, these cases are working their way through the courts.

Caste Based Discrimination Sees No Decline: Reflections on caste-based violence before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dalit Killings Spark Outrage: Be warned, this article discusses graphic violence, including cases involving children. A Nepali journalist discusses high-profile cases involving casteist violence and speaks of the intersections with the Black Lives Matter movement amid the nationwide lockdowns.