|David Daai on route to Madi|
We chose Madi.
Madi is indeed remote. Most of the route to Madi is a semi-paved, semi-graveled, always potholed road that is jarring and teeth-rattling. Even the Nepalis call the road bad (and they’re remarkably tolerant of tough terrain!).
The last 10 kilometers of this poor excuse for a road takes travelers through the beautiful Chitwan jungle. I wanted to stop and listen to the sounds of said jungle, but I was told that those sounds were made by wild elephants, rhinos, sloth bears and tigers — none of which take kindly to visitors.
Until recently, the only way to access to Madi was through and into a shallow river. There was
access during the monsoon when the shallow stream became a rushing torrent.
Fortunately, a bridge has been built over the Rapti River that will allow year-round
access for vehicles and motorcycles and trucks carrying Madi’s goods and
produce to and from the once insular community.
Madi is a little piece of Nepal surrounded on three sides by India. One has to travel north over that river to stay in Nepal, and how Nepal managed to keep that little chunk of land for itself and away from powerful India is beyond me because Madi is absolutely beautiful. It’s peaceful and serene, with fertile fields stretching as far as the eye can see. When I was there, those fields were green with vegetables and mustard plant and wheat. Madi is primarily farmland. There are few roads and only one lodge. There are few buildings over one story high. There is no electricity, but there are friendly, kind and warm-hearted Nepali people who rarely see people like me in their district!
So while Madi is a perfect place for growing things, it is not such a good place for advancing the lives of women. That’s why we went there, down that bumpy road, at only minor expense to my back and behind.
Last year, Raj (WELNepal’s coordinator) and I visited Madi to meet the local women’s groups. We were honored with garlands and red tikkas on our foreheads and festooned with flowers.
|Women of the Dalit (untouchable) caste|
This year, every group of women met us with the same ritual. I like the garlands; I don't mind carrying around the bag of flowers that I am presented with (it's not good manners to leave flower offerings behind); but I'd rather not have red powder smeared all over my forehead. The powder goes everywhere and as a man with white hair, I eventually wind up with pink highlights.
Our budget limited us to 10 literacy classes in Madi. A literacy class should be no more than 30 students, but in the village of Nayapiparia, more than 50 women showed up to register for the class. Knowing from past experience that it would be too hard to decide which 25 or 30 women would not be able to learn to read and write this year, I quickly relented and budgeted for two classes.
Two of the classes will be for the women of the Dalit (or untouchable) caste. A photo of one of those classes is shown above. The women tell me that they will be able to study after working in the fields for land owners. Their salary of 200 rupees a day (a little over $2) is much needed to put food on the table.
The coordinator for our classes in Madi will be Sita Sharma (left). Sita is a member of the Tri-Sakti women's group, a group formed to work for the advancement of the lives of women in Madi. But our true "ace in the hole" for this project is Sabita Bahal (right). Sabita is a past president of the Tri-Sakti women's group and a former member of the Nepali parliament. She is a much respected and honored person in Madi. Since she was the impetus for bringing WELNepal to Madi we're confident our literacy classes will be successful.