Asia Pacific People’s Power Convention Leads Dialogues on Social Justice, Achievements, and Global Climate Challenges

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The Asia Pacific People’s Power Convention, an impactful two-day gathering organised by ActionAid Nepal, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke | ActionAid Denmark, and ActionAid Association (India), successfully concluded in Kathmandu on December 5th. The Convention drew influential social movement leaders and civil society organisations from Nepal, India, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, establishing itself as a crucial platform for addressing pressing regional issues.

As the Convention unfolded, its resonance with the Indian context became increasingly evident. In a nation marked by rich cultural diversity, the convention celebrated commendable achievements in dismantling discrimination based on caste, class, and gender. Sujeeta Mathema, Executive Director for ActionAid Nepal, underscored the transformative power of diversity, emphasising its pivotal role in steering positive change through collective discussions—a sentiment particularly relevant to India’s multicultural landscape.

Former Deputy Mayor Krishni Devi Tharu, in the inaugural session, acknowledged significant strides made in combating the Kamiaya and Kamalari systems, traditional bonded labour systems prevalent in the western Terai region of Nepal. This achievement resonates deeply with India, where similar challenges persist, highlighting the convention’s relevance to ongoing efforts for social upliftment and rehabilitation in regions facing precarious conditions.

Dipali Sharma, Director Organisational Effectiveness and Programmes, ActionAid Association (India), spoke about the significance of organising the convention in the Global South, emphasising the need to address women’s subjugation, end patriarchy, and resolve crises in urban and rural areas through the concerted support of social movements. This resonates strongly with India’s socio-cultural landscape, where gender disparities and rural-urban divides continue to be focal points of societal discourse.

Global concerns took centre stage, particularly addressed by Manoj Bhatta, Member Secretary, Social Welfare Council, Nepal. He stressed the urgent requirement for funds to flow to the Global South, underscoring its critical importance in the context of climate change and the persistent impacts of colonialism.

The Honourable Chairperson of the National Dalit Commission, Devraj Bishwokarma, shared his own experiences of facing discrimination as well as Dalit communities across the country. Later in the day, Timothy Whyte, Secretary General, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke | ActionAid Denmark spoke about the learning he received from his working with the anti-bonded labour movement in Nepal for the past few decades.

The convention’s second day showcased engaging panel discussions on women’s agency, land rights, refugee challenges, and the evolving workforce landscape. Participants from diverse countries shared invaluable experiences, shedding light on the urgent need for collaborative efforts to address shared challenges.

Heera Jangpangi, a women’s rights activist from India, and Judy Pasimio, Coordinator of Lilak and a women’s rights advocate shared their experience working in the women’s rights sector, advocating for uplifting women from restrictions placed on them in society.

The Land Rights panel addressed challenges in different countries, with Clarissa Mendosa, Social Justice Campaign, Philippines, emphasising the political questions surrounding sustainable agriculture. Ramesh Sharma, Ekta Parishad, India, highlighted the ongoing struggles of the homeless in Bangladesh, climate refugees in Cambodia, and landless households in India.

In the Women’s Agency panel, Sari Wijaya, National Chairperson of the Indonesian Youth Struggle Front, highlighted struggles with child marriage, unequal education, and workplace safety in Indonesia. Bhagwati Adhikari, Executive Director, Sangat, NMES, Nepal, emphasised the need to move beyond women’s empowerment to discussions on women’s relationships with society for true equality.

Sinchai Rupaojeen, Vice President, P-Move, Thailand, and Jagat Deuja, Executive Director, Community Self-Reliance Centre, Nepal, shed further light on the issues of reclaiming the commons.

The Refugee Challenges session spotlighted issues arising from the army coup in Myanmar, displacement in Bangladesh, and the challenges faced by Nepalese migrants. The Changing Contours of the World of Work panel explored improvements in Nepal’s labour conditions, challenges faced by small farmers in Thailand, and the complexities of the informal sector in Bangladesh. Santanu Barthakur an advocate from India; Dirgha Taj Sigdel from ActionAid Myanmar, and Manju Gurung from Paurkahi, Nepal, also shared their valuable insights during this session.

Concluding on a resounding note, the Convention witnessed a collective pledge for ongoing discussions and the establishment of a hub for social movements across the Asia Pacific Region. Indian participants affirmed their commitment to collaborative action, extending their global reach to other countries and regions, with a shared vision of advocating for sustainable futures grounded in the principles of social and ecological justice.

The Asia Pacific People’s Power Convention has not only catalysed dialogues on social justice but has also ignited a spark of hope for a more inclusive and equitable future, resonating profoundly with the aspirations and challenges faced by the diverse population of India.