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Barpak Conference 2016: “We feel you have come here to help us move forward”

Written by Prasen Khati

“This is the first national conference organised in our village. We feel you have come to share our grief and help us move forward. We so much appreciate you coming here.”

That was the message of the people of Barpak, the epicentre of the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, when Oxfam and its four partners organised the Barpak Conference and released its policy document Building Back Right here exactly a year after the devastating earthquake, on April 25, 2016.

The countdown to the Conference to commemorate one year on of the 2015 earthquake began about a month ago.

When the day finally arrived the excitement was quite palpable among the participants which included eminent civil society members, members of parliament and media representatives who travelled the eleven hour journey from Kathmandu.

However, as we started to get closer to our destination that initial excitement was met with the harsh realities of life in rural Nepal, particularly the absence of a proper road in tortuous terrain. While being thrown around in our vehicles for hours on end, our sympathy with the Barpak survivors grew and we understood why it had been such a challenging operation to provide relief to remote communities such as these.  We eventually arrived at Barpak, all fifty of us, after travelling for about eleven hours, shaken and covered in dust. We managed to strike a rapport with the locals when we joined a candle vigil in the evening to honour and remember those who had lost their lives.

Oxfam and its partners organised the Barpak conference at the epicentre by using the same symbol as a metaphor, turning it an epicentre of commitment to rebuild Nepal.  The conference facilitated a dialogue between political representatives (six Members of Parliament and the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Development Committee) as well as civil society representatives with the local communities, represented by around four hundred, to learn and understand their grievances and the way forward.

It was a very strong commitment from all those who travelled from Kathmandu, the national capital, to participate in the convention in a far flung area, a fact that was also recognized by the local communities. The conferences ended with a Barpak Declaration committing to speed up reconstruction efforts and to rebuild Nepal in an inclusive, transparent, accountable manner where the rights of the survivors are upheld so that they can live a life of dignity.

As I was alighting from a slate covered stairs, typical of the place, I met up with Dan Maya Gurung, the owner of the guesthouse we were staying. On that dreadful day she and some of her relatives were painting their house when the wall collapsed and buried them all. She was lucky to survivor as she was literally pulled out of the rubble, while eight relatives perished. The guesthouse owner had to be taken to Pokhara for treatment and it took almost four months for her to recuperate from her wounds. “I did not want to burden anyone and thought that I should gradually start my own business after Dasain festival,” Dan Maya said. She started with a home stay and a small shop next to it. Judging from the number of guests the home-stay is blossoming. Dhan Maya Gurung is just an example of the indomitable spirit of Barpak’s residents.

The conference was organised by Oxfam’s partner Humanitarian Accountability Monitoring Initiatives (HAMI). Oxfam in Nepal provided technical and financial support for the conference. Community Self Reliance Center (CSRC), Himalayan Conservation Group and National Network of Disaster Management Committees (NCDMC) were other collaborating organizations in the conference.  Besides these Gorkha’s District Disaster Relief Committee, Gorkha district, and the district chapter of Federation of Nepalese Journalists supported the conference. The event was the first one in a series of national level and district based interactions under Oxfam’s Leave No One Out campaign, promoting inclusive reconstruction after the earthquake, including landless, women and other marginalized groups.

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