Suku Mijar was born into the dalit caste in Nepal. In the eyes of society, that makes her an untouchable, an outcast.
A report from the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner shares that at least 250 million people worldwide suffer from “appalling and dehumanizing discrimination based on caste and similar systems of inherited status.”* For Mijar and other dalits, that means significant and even violent violations of human rights, civil and political rights, social and cultural participation, and reduced access to economic opportunities.
In Mijar’s very remote dalit village, poverty’s oppression puts young and old alike at risk of exploitation and deeper suffering. Mijar and her husband were unable to earn or grow enough to feed their family on a daily basis. Anything other than daily survival was out of reach.
The Biblical Command
Psalm 82 opens with “God presides over heaven’s court” (NLT). It is while presiding as heavenly judge that God issues the following command: “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people” (Ps. 82:3, NLT).
Through a partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and with donors’ support, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Canada, is able to follow this command. Considering all the hardships and difficulties faced by the community members in Mijar’s village, ADRA’s FOSTER-II project reached out to form a group to ensure economic opportunities by improving animal husbandry and establishing access to savings and loans.
Mijar joined the Goat Rearing Farmers Group, where she received training on best care and practices for healthy, productive goats. She received two goats from the project to get started with her own herd.
She also joined a savings and loans group in which she began saving 50 Nepalese rupees a month. Being a member of the savings and loans group made life a bit easier for Mijar, as she could gain access to loans from the group when she needed them.
“I did not have money to buy goats, but after being a member of the group, I am able to access a loan and increase the herd size,” Mijar said. With the loan, she purchased five more goats. “I am also aware of improved goat rearing practices now with the technical assistance from the project.”
The two goats given to her by the project each gave birth to a kid. According to the rules of the project, Mijar has passed those kids on to other community members to assist with their own herds.
Mijar now has high hopes for her future — an outlook not many dalits can currently claim. “I am now confident that I can get a good return from goat rearing. I am happy about the future of my family, especially for my children. I am so thankful to the project for bringing all these changes to my life.”
ADRA’s work of ensuring economic opportunity not only lifts families out of poverty but also rescues them from its life-threatening dangers. “Thank you for making it possible for our church, through ADRA, to ensure justice for the poor and to uphold the rights of the oppressed and destitute in places as far-flung and remote as a dalit community in rural Nepal,” ADRA leaders said.
The original version of this story appeared in the January 2023 issue of Canadian Adventist Messenger.
*United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, “Caste Systems Violate Human Rights and Dignity of Millions Worldwide—New UN Expert Report,” March 21, 2016, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2016/03/caste-systems-violate-human-rights-and-dignity-millions-worldwide-new-un.