Just Recovery

Demanding a “just recovery” from below: The role of grassroots accountability activism to safeguard labour migrants’ rights in the pandemic era.

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

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