An ex-combatant cherishes his new identity as shop owner

Nayalal and his family in front of his grocery shop
Nayalal and his family in front of his grocery shop. Photo: UNDP Nepal

Nayalal, a 24-year old former combatant from the eastern part of Nepal, had a very difficult childhood. He was born in a poor and marginalized community where most of the houses were made of mud, straw, and bamboo. “When I was small, our house burnt down twice and my family lost everything. To make matters worse, my father started drinking too much raksi (local alcohol),” he recalls. “My four brothers and sisters and I didn’t know what to do. We were looked down upon because of our poverty. It was miserable”, he says.

In his community, the poor were abused and exploited regularly by the rich. He felt helpless and didn’t see any way out of their collective misery. Frustrated, when the Maoist insrugency began, he joined the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hoping to make a change. “I thought things might change if I joined the PLA”, he says. However, things did not change for him as he had expected, and his days in the army were not easy.

Highlights

  • UNIRP was established in 2010 with the objective of rehabilitating ex-combatants discharged from the cantonments. Among the 4,008 ex-combatants discharged from cantonments as verified minors and late recruits (VMLRs), as many as 2,743 contacted the UN for rehabilitation support.Out of them, 2,231 officially enrolled in the programme. They were offered career counselling and referred for training or education.
  • As of February 2013, 69% of the 1,758 individuals who completed micro-enterprises, vocational skills, or health related training have either started their own business or found employment.

Following the ceasefire agreement in 2006 that ended the decade long insurgency, the Maoists were stationed in UN monitored cantonments. In early 2010 after a UN verification, 4008 verified minors and late recruits at the time of ceasefire, including Nayalal, were discharged from the  cantonments. This ended all the hopes he had of building a secure future through the PLA, he says.

Seeing no future in the country, he then worked in India as a daily wage labourer, but even that did not pay him well. With low spirits, he returned to his own community.

Then, in early 2011, he visited a regional office of UN Interagency Rehabilitation Programme (UNIRP). After that his life has taken a turn towards social and financial well-being. UNIRP provided him individual career counselling after which he was selected for retail shop training under the micro-enterprise development option. Further, UNIRP provided him salesmanship and book-keeping training, as well as the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) training.

With what he learnt in these trainings, and with additional support from UNRIP, Nayalal opened a shop – the first grocery store of his village.

He is pretty busy now, and his father helps him in his business. Today, he earns upto Rs.15,000 a month.

Nayalal has also become socially prominent, with people gathering, chatting with one another, and even holding some social events in the space in front of his shop. Now, people call me ‘Sahuji’ (shop owner) with respect”, he says.

The business has earned him an income, a respectful place in the society, and hope for a better future. He plans to buy a piece of land and also expand his bussiness. He is married and has a baby, and is able to take good care of his family.

UNIRP, a joint programme of UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and ILO, has trasformed the lives of Nayalal and several other ex-combatants like him.