Before democracy of 1990, there was no as such environment to execute the activities of CSOs. There was not environment for political parties and social sectors. Some initiatives were however taken only on charity based. In Nepal there were two phases before 1990 and after 1950 and 60. After 1950, there was the conception that social sector is all about charity. These were not related to human rights and child rights. The relief measure or welfare approach was there at that time. After 1970, the approach was shifted to development which might be the international phenomena. At that time most of the government office names had “development” in the middle of their names like Education Development, Agriculture Development and others. That had impacted mostly the issue of women as 1975 was the international year of women. The Women in Development (WID) approach was introduced through which a lot of study happened to figure out status of women. The child rights concerns were raised before 1990 in Nepal as there was the organization CWIN established even before the Convention on Child Rights, 1989. Before 1990 social sector was not at citizen’s sphere as there was the presence of Her Majesty as patron and other royal family members.
After democracy in 1990, the interim government formed in Nepal. At that time there was an act named “Association Registration and Control Act” and that basically acted to control rather than registration. And, the civil society lobbied with the Ministry of Law to amend the existing law. The Minister was positive but still this act is existed in the name of “Association Registration Act”. Our current constitution is highly broad but the act seems not that much changed to be compatible with the current constitution of Nepal.
From human rights perspectives, besides civil and political rights, our constitution has ensured broad aspects of economic, social and cultural rights and from child rights perspectives; our constitution is relatively more progressive in the world. It is undoubtedly the major contribution of CSOs to bring child rights and human rights issues meaningfully in the fundamental rights of the constitution. It might be because that we have built our constitution lately and we became successful to incorporate each of the aspects of child rights in our constitution.
The major achievements gained in child rights sector are:
- Contributed from South Asian level to bring Convention on Child Rights, 1989
- There were not defined rights of child in human rights. So, defined child rights came into existence.
- There was not children act in Nepal. However, there were some provisions for children like if we talk about child labour there were some provisions in Factory and Factory Workers Act; if we talk about welfare some provisions were mentioned in Muluki Ain; if we talk about child trafficking, some provisions were mentioned in Jui Masne Bachne Ain (Muluki Ain). So, concrete provisions were not there for children, women and disabled children. However, after the restoration of democracy in 1990, in the sector of children, massive changed happened which is because of the meaningful role and continuous efforts of CSOs.
- In the interim period, Nepal signed and ratified 11 human rights conventions at once including child rights convention. For its realization, CSOs role was crucial.
- Brought comprehensive Children Act in 1992.
- Brought child rights regulations in 1995.
- Establishment of Center Child Welfare Board and District Child Welfare Committee in 75 districts.
- Massive campaigns on child rights like Global Education Campaign; National Education Campaign (Right to education, quality education, access to education etc); awareness on child health issues; social security of children (government commitments on block grants to girl child, disabled child and others)
- Brought Child Labour Act in 1998. For which global campaign for child labour was initiated and Nepal played active role.
- During conflict period, talked with Maoist to regularize education of children. School as Zone of Peace (SZOP) and Class as Zone of Peace (CZOP) campaigns initiated.
- Derived the concept of networking for ensuring the rights of children. Networks like NCEA (National Campaign for Education); CZOP and SZOP during conflict period; National Child Protection Forum for social security; Consortium on Child Participation for the promotion of child participation.
- Started to talk with government for child friendly governance and MoFALD brought child friendly local governance framework and we are regularly working to make child friendly governance at grassroots level.
- In child rights sector, first intervention then incorporation and now inbuilt system has been developed due to the contribution of CSOs.
- Initially, CSOs contributed to the government international reports meaningfully where government had to submit the reports in treaties bodies.
“Especially in child rights sector, there was high collaboration with the government sector”, believes Gauri Pradhan. In CZOP Ministry of Education involved; in Child Friendly Governance MoFALD involved; in Child Labour, Ministry of Labour involved; and in child abuse, child protection and child social security, Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare involved.
“Besides in democratic movements of 2006, there was apathetic interest of people towards political parties and their leaders. When then King Gyandra took over, civil society members like Devendra Raj Pandey, Daman Nath Dhungana, Padma Ratna Tuladhar led to organize the campaigns on the request of senior most leaders (Girija Prasad Koirala, Madhav Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai etc.) and day to day such programs/campaigns turned to the massive campaigns in Nepal, which resulted overthrown of King Gyandra and brought the republic country”, shared Gauri Pradhan.
In Nepal, Human Rights Commission establishment is also because of the engagement of CSOs claimed by Gauri Pradhan, Activist. Constitutionally, there was the provision of Human Rights Commission so CSOs advocated establishing the Commission for that they were detained but afterwards Human Rights Commission Established in Nepal.
Our major challenges in human rights and child rights are how to transfer the commitment into implementation. We have ratified and signed different conventions and the domestication process of such conventions have been started. Some of the national plan of actions were made but not became successful completely in Nepal like Master Plan of Child Labour (2004-14) and after 2014 other master plan has come into existence. It is effective in formal sector to some extent but child labour is more in informal sector. Now the local government has to monitor such informal sector child labour and for that CSOs can also play role to facilitate local government. So, the constitution of Nepal, CFLG, local governments are some of the opportunities for CSOs to contribute in coming days.
The major contribution of CSOs in Nepal is awareness rising in each and every sector. It has always contributed in the development of Nepal because CSOs are older than state as believed by Gauri Pradhan. In building democratic institutions, bringing conceptual clarity on human rights issues, creating a space for dialogue on human rights and child rights issues, to train political leaders and cadres on emerging issues of human rights and rights based approach, and bringing conceptual clarity on human rights to the bureaucratic system including police, these COSs role (soft role) has contributed a lot. We CSOs have opportunity now in the changed context of federal structure that how to lead civil campaigns in restructured model of country; how to lead the human rights campaigns in changed structure; how to cope with the structural problems; how to make the built system systematic etc. In ensuring educational rights of children, a lot of initiatives were taken by the CSOs of Nepal.
(The author is a Ph.D Scholar of Kathmandu University, School of Education)