DEMANDING A ‘JUST RECOVERY’ FROM BELOW: THE ROLE OF GRASSROOTS ACCOUNTABILITY ACTIVISM IN SAFEGUARDING LABOUR MIGRANTS’ RIGHTS IN THE PANDEMIC ERA

DEMANDING A ‘JUST RECOVERY’ FROM BELOW: THE ROLE OF GRASSROOTS ACCOUNTABILITY ACTIVISM IN SAFEGUARDING LABOUR MIGRANTS’ RIGHTS IN THE PANDEMIC ERA

PROJECT PURPOSE

What are the opportunities and limitations for grassroots accountability activism to assert the political potentials for a ‘just recovery’ for labour migrants in post-Covid Nepal? We seek to examine this overarching question. Using Covid-19 disaster as a site of political possibility, the research draws on the perspectives and experiences of labour migrants, youth activists and volunteers to understand the potential of grassroots activism in challenging intersecting inequalities facing labour migrants in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis in Nepal. The political possibilities and challenges of youth-led, bottom-up activism is being investigated in terms of its ability to construct alternative narratives of care and justice, and forge newer alliances to hold the State accountable to the voices of the returnee Nepali migrants.

THROUGH THIS RESEARCH, WE INTEND TO:

Contribute to an improved understanding of the overlapping nature of Covid-19 induced inequalities facing labour migrants in Nepal;

Document the struggles and experiences of labour migrants in claiming their rights and entitlements vis-a-via the State;

Capture the experiences and struggles of local activists in promoting the rights and welfare of labour migrants, and to hold the State authorities accountable.

THE WORK:

The study is built on one of the project Co-PIs, Dr Nimesh Dhungana’s longitudinal research engagement with Accountability Lab (AL). In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, AL launched the ‘Coronavirus Civic Acts Campaign (CCC)’, with a professed goal to help document and alleviate various forms of disadvantages facing returnee migrants and other marginalised communities. The study, drawing on a mix of data sources, and with a strong focus on knowledge exchange and dissemination, examines the assumptions, aims and activities underpinning the AL’s campaign, CCC.

THE STUDY AIMS TO DRAW ON THE FOLLOWING DATA SOURCES:

Narrative and in-depth interviews: Narrative interviews will be conducted with 20-25 returnee migrants of various socio-economic characteristics. The interviews aim to uncover the migrants’ understanding of rights and entitlements, their setbacks, and ‘successes’ in securing routine and pandemic-specific government services from local authorities. The interviews will also focus on their experiences of engaging and collaborating with the grassroots activists in claiming their rights.

In addition, in-depth interviews will also be conducted with 20-25 activists who are part of the Accountability Lab’s CCC campaign. Interviews will focus on understanding ‘how’ the campaign is organised and implemented, its areas of accomplishments and struggles in promoting the returnee migrants’ ability to claim improved welfare provisions.

Participant observation: The project will involve and train local researchers in Nepal’s two districts to conduct participant observation of the unfolding of various activities at the local level, including community-level ‘public hearings’ involving local migrants and authorities.

Knowledge Exchange and Participatory Workshops/Meetings: The project will organise regular meetings and workshops with the campaigners, with the aim to reflect on their ‘activism in action’, promote dialogue and feedback, and foster ways of making their activism evidence-driven. One mini-conference will be held at LSE at the end of the project, to help bring the study’s insights to the international audience.

THE ACTIVITIES:

A two-day project workshop was held at the Accountability Lab’s office in Kathmandu (May 10 & May 16, 2023). The aim was to jointly reflect on the findings and challenges of the research, and to further consolidate the concept and practice of scholar-activist partnership as part of the broader vision to understand and improve the prospect of just recovery from Covid-19 in Nepal.

Project PI, Dr Nimesh Dhungana, presents the ongoing research findings at the United Kingdom Alliance for Disaster Research (UKADR) conference’s health and disaster risk reduction session, University of Edinburgh, December 7-8, 2022. The presentation stressed the need to bring further dialogue and collaboration between health and disaster researchers.

The project team members presented their research at the Development Studies Association Conference, University College London, July 6-8, 2022

Project Co-PI, Mr Narayan Adhikari talks about their ongoing activism at the People Versus Inequality podcast

Project PI, Dr Nimesh Dhungana, presents the research at the Hum-Gov Seminar Series, within the International Institute of Social Studies, January 19, 2022

The project team Prekkshya Bimali and Dr. Sanjay Sharma presented the excerpt of the research titled Disaster as a Catalyst for Injustice: Experiences of Nepali Foreign Labor Migrants during COVID-19 at The Annual Kathmandu Conference Nepal and the Himalaya 2023, on July 26-28, 2023

PROJECT MEMBERS:

DR. NIMESH DHUNGANA

Lead Investigator

Dr Nimesh Dhungana is a Lecturer in Disasters and Global Health at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), the University of Manchester. As an interdisciplinary development and disaster researcher, his research is concerned with the interplay between disasters, development and democratic politics. Nimesh was a post-doctoral fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Nimesh’s PhD research, which he completed in 2019 from the LSE’s Department of Methodology, uses a mix of qualitative interviews and ethnographic evidence, to show the potential and limitations of citizen-led participatory and accountability in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. Nimesh has long-standing research and practical engagements with youth activists and civil society actors in Nepal. He will oversee the substantive and technical aspects of the project, in close cooperation with other project partners and collaborators.

KRIPA BASNYAT

Co-Investigator

Kripa Basnyat is an intersectional feminist with more than 11 years of experience working in care economy and migration, peacebuilding and reconciliation, women’s economic and socio-cultural rights, collective feminist movement building, among others. As the Co-Founder of Reclaiming Narratives, an intersectional feminist collective in Nepal, Kripa will support in conceptualising and implementing the research in Nepal. Kripa has long-standing research and activist experiences working with feminist human rights orgnaisations, international development organisations, regional networks, academic institution and UN agencies in South Asia, East Africa and UK. She is currently the National Project Coordinator in the International Labour Organisation in Nepal and looks into promoting decent employment for women through inclusive growth policies and investments in care. Kripa is a former Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity (AFSEE). She hold an M.Sc in Inequalities and Social Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

NARAYAN ADHIKARI

Co-Investigator of Practice

Dr Nimesh Dhungana is a Lecturer in Disasters and Global Health at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), the University of Manchester. As an interdisciplinary development and disaster researcher, his research is concerned with the interplay between disasters, development and democratic politics. Nimesh was a post-doctoral fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Nimesh’s PhD research, which he completed in 2019 from the LSE’s Department of Methodology, uses a mix of qualitative interviews and ethnographic evidence, to show the potential and limitations of citizen-led participatory and accountability in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. Nimesh has long-standing research and practical engagements with youth activists and civil society actors in Nepal. He will oversee the substantive and technical aspects of the project, in close cooperation with other project partners and collaborators.

DR. FLORA CORNISH

Co-Investigator

Dr Flora Cornish is Associate Professor in the Department of Methodology, LSE. She is a community psychologist researching the role of grassroots agency in responding to crises, using qualitative and participatory methods, and using knowledge exchange to redistribute power among academic, activist and professional spaces and voices. She brings to this project her research leadership in understanding and supporting community agency in response to health crises in the global South. Her recent work, in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster in London, highlights the ‘staying power’ of communities, and their leadership in demanding change, a key concern of the current project. She is co-founder of the After Disasters Network, a network of disaster professionals and academics working towards community-focused, sustainable disaster recovery. The Network is hosted by the Institute of Hazards, Risk and Resilience at Durham University, where Dr Cornish is Professor in Practice.

SANJAY SHARMA

Research Consultant

Sanjay Sharma has a PhD from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, National University of Singapore (NUS). His doctoral research offers a gender critique of the militarisation and transnational migration of Gurkha soldier families. He uses “alternative methodologies” as his research tools that he developed during Covid-19 that include virtual and visual ethnography, social media engagements, and online and on-site archives. His research interests include feminist historiography, decolonial thought, Marxist literature, and colonial migrations.

PREKKSHYA BIMALI

Research Officer

Prekkshya Bimali has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health and is currently studying Masters in Conflict Peace and Developmental Studies. As she is passionate about working closely with the communities on the ground she gained a lot of experience through volunteering, research before her engagement with the Accountability Lab Nepal. At Accountability Lab Nepal she works as the program officer and is responsible for gender specific programs. She is interested in gender, health governance, and accountability.