An ex-combatant builds a future

Buddhi (right) at work
Buddhi (right) at work. Photo: UNDP Nepal

Buddhi Mahatara who hails from the mountain district Humla can be found these days repairing motorcycles in Tikapur, a city in the southern plains (Terai) district Kailali. The 'Karnali Motorcycle Servicing Centre' that he is running in partnership with a friend is his means of earning and also a reason of hope for the future.

Buddhi is one of the 4,008 verified minors and late recruits (VMLRs) who were identified as ineligible to remain in cantonments as members of the Maoist army in the process that unfolded after the ten year long armed conflict in Nepal. From mid-2010, the UN Interagency Rehabilitation Programme (UNIRP) has been supporting the rehabilitation of these discharged VMLRs into civilian life. It has been providing them with training and education, and is enabling them to access good employment and livelihood opportunities. UNIRP is a joint initiative of UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and ILO and is funded by the UN Peace Fund for Nepal, a multi-donor trust fund supported by the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Highlights

  • By the end of August 2012, UNIRP has provided career counseling to 2,462 VMLRs and 2,230 of them have enrolled in one of the four rehabilitation options.
  • 1,461 VMLRs have completed training/education and 842 of them are employed or have started their own business.

When Buddhi and his wife Paramita, a voluntarily retired Maoist ex-combatant, decided to settle in Tikapur, they did not know even a single person there. But due to their friendly behavior, they have earned good respect amongst neighbors and have made many good friends, some of whom have become regular clients at the servicing centre. Govinda Khatri, one of his clients, said, "There are many motorcycle service centers in Tikapur, but I like to come to Buddhi not only because of the good service he provides, but also because he doesn't say ‘no’ to repair my bike even in odd hours."

As part of the rehabilitation support provided by UNIRP, Buddhi participated in a seven-and-half-month Motorcycle Maintenance Training at Bheri Technical School in Nepalgunj. He says, “Being discharged from the cantonments had made me and many others feel like abandoned children. At such a difficult time, UNIRP provided us with the opportunity to gain some livelihood skills. The skill that I gained has enabled me to survive and make a decent living." According to him, he is earning one thousand rupees ($11) a day on average.

Buddhi has his share of hardships. Most of his earning is spent in meeting daily expenses and paying the rent of his shop. He wants to increase his investment and add some more tools and equipment, but source of finance is hard to find. He also wishes to get further training as new models of motorbikes are coming into the market. But the hardships do not deter him from pursuing his hope for a better future. "I am crawling now; I have to struggle for four or five years. But, I am not afraid of struggling. The day is not far when I will be known as a reputed motorcycle mechanic."

He adds, "The biggest lesson UNIRP has taught me is to be self-dependent and I am doing that."

By the end of August 2012, UNIRP has provided career counseling to 2,462 VMLRs and 2,230 of them have enrolled in one of the four rehabilitation options (vocational skills, microenterprise development, education and health). Of those enrolled, 1,461 have completed training/education and 842 of them are employed or have started their own business.