Nepal’s migration economy has had a huge impact. What has been your embassy’s involvement?
I remember 10 years ago the government refused to accept migration as a fact. Now it is fully understood that it is a reality and it needs to be addressed. A lot depends on migrants who contribute to the development of this country. Our aim is to support positive migration but also to help the government mitigate the negative aspects.
The Migration Information Centres we have set up are the best initiative in our 30 years of development cooperation. They have helped people learn of the risks of migration, and their rights, and helped them to contact the right people in case of emergencies. We also give skills training to help them earn better, and to inform them about the cultural context of where they are going. We also have financial-literacy trainings. And what I appreciate is psycho-social counselling for victims and family members. Some of the women migrants really suffer because their family think they are not ‘honourable’ any more.
Read also: The lottery of migration, Editorial
The Swiss embassy has been working a lot on gender and social inclusion. What can Nepal do to achieve better inclusivity?
Let me start by telling you that I am the first woman to head this office in 60 years. Even in Switzerland we are not where we want to be. It is a long process, it entails powerful people letting go, and for others to take over. Swiss laws are not as complex as Nepal’s, but we do have different languages, cultures and religions. It is about diversity.
I would say this country has very progressive election laws: the President and Vice President need to be of different genders, and so do the mayors and deputy mayors. I think that is fantastic, exceptional and will have an impact on gender and inclusion. Compulsory Dalit representation at the local level will have a powerful effect too.
We have always said the root causes of the conflict were exclusion and poverty. It is important that those excluded due to gender or caste gain from development, including in the workforce. It is now our duty to support elected women and representatives of marginalised groups.
Read also: Nepal’s great income divide, Ramesh Kumar