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At least the Maoists won’t be taking power – a global perspective

August 22, 2010 – 12:18 pm19 Comments

A Maoist demonstration in Nepal

By Keren Tuch

Whilst I detest listening to our leaders belittling one another in an act of political sabotage, the optimist in me is grateful that I live in a democracy with freedom of speech.  Whilst I may not be happy with the choice of leaders I have to choose from to rule our country, the optimist in me is thankful that I know chaos and anarchy will not rule the streets.

After spending time in Nepal volunteering and learning with Tevel B’Tzedek, I began to appreciate what it is like to live in a place of political instability.  Streets and livelihoods are paralysed by unpredictable daily strikes (check this link out to find out how many strikes there were this week http://www.nepalbandh.com/).  Foreign aid is poured into the country yet the citizens don’t appear to see a rupee.  The roads remain harrowing and potholed for those villages lucky enough to use one and maternal health remains imperiously dangerous for rural dwellers.

For hundreds of years, Nepal was governed by a constitutional monarchy until May 2008 when it became a democratic republic with the Maoist party elected as rulers. Nepal’s democracy is in its infancy with an abundance of problems. For example two prime ministers resigning in two years (although one might argue that it’s better than a prime minister being overthrown!).  Nepal’s role of prime minister has been vacant since June 30 2010 and Nepal is currently arguing over a suitable candidate.

With the establishment of the republic, it was agreed that the Nepali congress would rewrite the constitution within two year.  Two years has now passed, and there is no new constitution due to internal squabbling and selfishness of parties. The political situation in Nepal is descending into political absurdness and is crippling its people from moving forward.

After returning from a six month trip in Nepal, I can’t quieten the small internal voice which espouses that our lifestyle is indulgent and materialistic.   No longer do l I look in the pantry and think there is nothing to eat.  No longer will I look in my wardrobe and think I have nothing to wear.

I also try and put politics in perspective. Health and education are very real and important matters.  But I also know that whoever gets into power, all students in Australia will have access to a school which has books and trained teachers which students can attend instead of reaping crops in their family plot.   I also know that an Australian woman will have access to antenatal care and make the appropriate choice to deliver her baby by natural method or caesarean section.  Of course we should always strive to be better and continuously improve the well being of its citizens (and asylum seekers), but sometimes it is refreshing and important to look at a global picture.  Or maybe that’s just the optimist in me.

Jewish Aid and AUJS are now offering an opportunity for people to experience life in Nepal, give of themselves and gain perspective in return.  I was fortunate enough to lead the program last year and will be doing so again this year because I saw the power this program has to strengthen one’s humanistic values and Jewish identity for life. The program is five weeks long and involves living with a Nepalese family in a remote village and helping out in the community.

Volunteer Nepal will run from 20 Dec 2010 – 23 Jan 2011.  Applications close end of August. Please contact Gary (gary AT jewishaid.org.au) or Leora (ip AT aujs.com.au) for more details.

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