October 25th marked 6 months since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. And instead of a country on the mend and rebuilding, Nepal is at a standstill. A new constitution was introduced almost two months ago, one that took 7 years to put forth. While some saw this as a moment of progress and stability, many still saw the continuation of patriarchal rule and discrimination against marginalized ethnic communities. Those living in the southern plains bordering India refused to be silenced again. Unrest and violent protests have led to more than 45 deaths and a closure of the trade routes with India. This has now led to massive shortages of petrol and cooking gas, along with food, medicine, and other daily needs fulfilled by trade with India. There is also the general accusation of an unofficial blockade being enforced by India themselves as a result of their dissatisfaction with Nepal’s new constitution.
Life in Kathmandu has resulted in a severe decrease in public transportation, petrol queues lasting for days, a black market with gouged petrol and gas prices, sharp increases in the cost of vegetables, scarcity of medication, and an overall sense of confusion. Flights are being canceled and tourists are rethinking their travel plans. The fear of an economic downfall post earthquake is now looking even bleaker as the financial loss due to the blockade has now risen above the loss from the earthquake.
Yet the real problem lies in the villages that were devastated by the earthquake, those still desperately waiting for much needed aid. Organizations helping those areas are now stuck in the capital with no petrol to reach them. After the earthquake there was a race to beat the rains of the monsoon and provide some type of temporary shelter. Now the winter is quickly approaching, and what should have been a much easier task at hand is turning disastrous and possibly deadly.
While the people of Nepal sit in the shadow of this misfortune there still have been glimpses of hope and moments for much needed smiles and laughter. Nepal’s main festival season kicked off in September with Gai Jatra. Traditionally a day of celebrating the lives of those who passed away that year, it has also been adopted and reinvented by the LGBTI community as its own version of a gay pride parade. Everyone takes to the streets decked out in their finest attire and celebrates who they are without the inhibitions that Nepali society usually puts on them. Nepal’s biggest festival, Dashain, recently came to an end after 10 days of rituals and celebrations. And while many struggled to find buses to make it back home to their villages due to the petrol shortage, most made the best of the situation and found reasons to smile. This past week we enjoyed the final days of the festival Tihar, where candles were lit by many with prayers of hope and prosperity to fill the days ahead.
In the world of Makeup 2 Makeup things are pretty much back to normal for the family. Being lucky with no injuries or major losses among the group, everyone counted their blessings and got back to work. M2M’s collaboration with a local LGBTI non-profit, Mitini, was a great success in setting up a community kitchen post earthquake. We cannot thank you enough for your support! Not only did it feed hungry stomachs, but it presented a beautiful opportunity for the LGBTI community to interact with their neighbors by lending a much needed helping hand. M2M also sponsored a grant proposal workshop for local LGBTI organizations, resulting in the creation of
a possible LGBTI community center, the Rainbow Room! We’ll keep you updated!
Many of the schools that Makeup 2 Makeup works with were amazing in getting up and running again fairly soon after the quake, bringing a sense of normalcy back to the participants. Apekshya found herself successfully completing another level of English language courses at English For All, and is getting ready to tackle the next. Madhu was back at the sewing machine at the S.E.A. design school, where she completed two more specialized sewing courses and is eagerly waiting for the advanced design course to begin this December. Watch out fashion world, this girl has got some talent! And soon enough we began to see the always lovely Anjali once again grace the covers of fashion magazines and strut her stuff on the catwalks of Kathmandu. M2M has also welcomed a new participant named Honey, who is excited to get started after the holiday season.
There was also excitement for many participants about the new constitution, hailed by many in the LGBTI community as a great achievement with the rights of gender and sexual minorities being afforded constitutional protections. Nepal’s constitution now stands as the third in the world to include explicit rights and protections for LGBTI people. While this is a great step forward there is still much work to be done. Civil and criminal codes are still extremely regressive and threaten to negate constitutional guarantees. And while on paper Nepal is presented as a very progressive country for LGBTI rights, the social norms and levels of acceptance have not caught up to legal precedents. The struggle continues but the community is determined to continue the fight.
There is still a sense of hope here in Nepal. Many of us are still holding out that there can be some positive growth after such devastation. Here at Makeup 2 Makeup we are continuing to source new opportunities for training programs in areas such as business and computers skills, culinary courses, and the ever popular hair and makeup. ‘Rebuilding Better’ became a motto shortly after the earthquake, realizing that changes are necessary in order for Nepal to succeed. While it may appear that the politicians turned a deaf ear, not all of us have forgotten. We here at M2M hope to be a small part of that movement.