I remember the first time I voted. It was seven years
ago and I was so excited as I travelled 12 hours by bus at night and then
walked two hours to my home district to cast my vote.

Nepal's historic elections of 2008 saw the abolition of
the centuries-old monarchy and for young Nepalis like me, we hoped it would
mark the beginning of a more peaceful and prosperous time for our country.

five years later, our excitement turned to despair when Nepal’s constitution
assembly was dissolved without agreeing a new constitution.

This November, we're heading to the polls again and
despite such disappointment, I still find myself looking forward to casting my
ballot.  And two remarkable women I spoke
to recently have made me value my chance to vote all the more.  

Marginalised voices

60-year-old Supari Badi and
20-year-old Mina Nepali live in the small town of Mangalsen in the remote far
west of Nepal. Both widows, they belong to the Dalit community, one of the most marginalised groups in

I spoke to Supari and Mina
after another woman from their community called Mangala BK brought them to take
part in the radio programme Sudoor Sawal. (In Nepali, sudoor
means 'far' and sawal, 'questions'.)

The debate show brings
together officials and leaders together to answer questions from a local
audience. The programme is broadcast on local station Radio Ramorashan where
BBC Media Action has been training producers and running workshops.

We had approached Mangala BK
to help us with recruiting women from her community, who are often very
reluctant to speak in public. 

Mangala BK taking part in Sudoor Sawal. Supari and Mina are sitting behind her.

The Sudoor Sawal programme that week was about how
people could register their names on Nepal’s electoral roll so they can vote in
the upcoming elections.

Not only were Supari and Mina's names not registered on
the electoral roll but they also didn’t have the citizenship certificate that
you need to register to vote. What's more, without the certificate, they
couldn’t claim the monthly allowance that’s available to widows in Nepal.

They had visited their government office more than three
times to get the certificate but on each occasion, they were either asked to
return with their husbands or told they hadn’t brought the
correct documents.

Supari and Mina's problems were bigger than not being
able to vote in the next election: without the allowance, they were going
hungry every day. 

Access to services

On that programme’s panel was the Acting Chief District
Officer and Supari and Mina found themselves for the first time talking to
someone who held the power to give them citizenship.

After the programme, Acting CDO Krishna Giri said, "They
were women who have never had access to government services. I promised in the
recording of the programme that I would support them to get citizenship as soon
as possible so that they could get their names registered in the voter list."

And he has stood by his word. Hopefully the allowance
Supari and Mina are now going to receive will help them to better make ends
meet – and they’ll be able to vote in the next election.

Country-wide response

The story doesn’t end with Radio Ramorashan.

Another of our partner stations, Dinesh FM in the far
west of the country, recruited an election officer to be on the panel for the
recording of the version of the debate show which is called Sajha Manch
(Common Forum).

For a few hours that day, the election officer even set
up his own office in the station so people could register there. In the days
after the broadcast, more than three times the usual amount of people came to
register their names on the roll.

This idea of setting up a mini election office was also
taken up by the national version of our debate programme Sajha Sawal
which is broadcast on primetime TV as well as national radio.

One of the audience members – a man called Rudra Pun –
travelled from the west of Nepal to take part in the show, which recorded that
week on location in a restaurant in Kathmandu.

"I went
to election office in Lalitpur three times," he said. "Every time I went, there
happened to be a strike [called by a political party not taking part in
the election]. Afterwards I was busy so could not get my name registered."

the programme, Rudra had his photo taken and details recorded to register his
name – as did the waiters in the restaurant! 


the final word must be Mina’s.

the Sudoor Sawal recording finished in Manglasen, she told me in a happy
and excited voice, “When I came to know about the importance of the election
and my vote through Sudoor Sawal, I so much wanted to be a part of the

After she got the citizenship she said, “Previously I was hopeless.
I did not expect I would get citizenship and get my name registered on the
voter list."

will be the first time she'll cast her vote. And I've no doubt she’ll be as
excited as I was seven years ago.


Related links

BBC Media Action's work in Nepal

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