International commission for dalit right also known as ICDR organized a social dialogue at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington DC on January 7th, 2011. Approximately 60 people who were mostly human right activists, journalists and various professionals attended the programs. The program, which was sponsored by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council USDA, was moderated by ICDR’s senior advisor Farook Sait. Mr. Sait introduced one of the key note speaker Honorable Edward Avalos (Undersecretary of USDA). Similarly ICDR’s another advisor Dr. Damber Kumar Gurung welcomed Nepali Ambassador to US his Excellency Dr. Shanker Sharma and introduced as the second key note speaker of the program. ICDR’s President Mr. DB Sagar Bishwakarma outlined the program and gave brief introduction of caste based discrimination of different parts of the world; Buruku people in Japan, certain tribes in Africa and Dalits in south east region.
The program’s purpose was also to honor certain people and organizations who have relentlessly worked to fight the caste based discrimination in the South East Asia. Dr. Steve Folmar facilitated the honoring program. The recipients of the awards are as follows
– ICDR’s community service and advocacy award: the American University’s Global and Community- based Learning Center.
– ICDR’s dalit right advocacy award: Dr. Ana Steele and Dalit Freedom Network
– ICDR’s Humanitarian award: NASO Community, Nepali Diaspora Organization, USA
– ICDR’s Humanitarian Award: Dr. Ambedkar NRI Association, Indian Diaspora Organization, Baltimore, USA.
Shortly after the distribution of awards the program shifted to the key note speaking.
On his key note speech, Honorable Edward Avalos disclosed that he is half Mexican and half American Indian who had been the victim of segregation despite the US constitution guaranteeing equal right to its citizen. He also said that the US Department of Agriculture was established by President Abraham Lincoln and they call it people’s department. Since its formation, USDA has been working to reduce the racial discrimination and barriers. He also reminded everyone the part of speech president Barack Obama delivered during his recent India Visit- “We believe that no matter whom you are or where you come from, every person can fulfill their God-given potential.” Lastly, he said US has done a lot in term of freedom and equality but she still has long way to go, because many African American, Hispanic and many other minorities are still behind. He thanked IDCR for inviting him as a key note speaker and wishes them all the best for their future mission.
Another key note speaker His Excellency Dr. Shanker Sharma thanked IDCR for its hard work against the caste discrimination in Nepal. Dr. Sharma highlighted the research and the inclusive development program the Nepali government did under his leadership when he was a vice chairman of national planning commission. He cited the main source of social exclusion in Nepal as unequal gender right, unequal inheritance law, male dominant society, caste and ethnic discrimination, geographic exclusion and poverty among all Nepali. His study found some improvement in the poverty reduction; from 42 % in 1977 to 31 % in 2000. Interesting finding of the research is 2/3rd of the social exclusion can be attributed to the endowment whereas 1/3 of the discrimination is a result general attitude of the people. According to him rapid growth of FM radios in Nepal has also made more people aware of their rights. He said the education and awareness campaign to be the most important cure of social exclusion. Also on his highlight were Nepali government’s incentive programs like special scholarship to the backwards people, cash prize to go to school and nutritional supplies to the malnourished people.
After the key note presentation there was a short session of questions and answers. Lastly Mr. Sait thanked everyone for their participation. Mr. DB Biswakarma said ICDR will have more program in the coming days.
Originally published at NepalDalitInfo, on January 10, 2011. Shared with permission.