Former fighters find hope through skills training in Nepal

23 Nov 2011

image UNDP Administrator Helen Clark (third from right) and Goodwill Ambassador Crown Prince Haakon of Norway (far left) with former Maoist fighters who are now students learning motorcycle repair in Nepalganj, Nepal. (Photo: UNDP)

Nepalgunj - Bimala Ramjali was only 14 years old when her sister brought her to join the Maoist fighters, a group of communist insurgents in Nepal’s decade-long war that claimed 13,000 lives.  Now 28, with a two-year-old daughter playing at her feet, she talks about her family and her new beauty parlor business.

“I was brought by my sister to the Maoist Army involuntarily,” she says when asked why she joined the militia.  “And when I tried to leave, my sister brought me back.”

Bimala Ramjali (or just Bimala, as she prefers to be called) is one of about 4,000 former Maoist fighters—many of them recruited as minors— who are participating in a UN programme to teach them new skills and reintegrate them into civilian life. 

As part of its reintegration initiative, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) partnered with Bheri Technical School in 2010 to train these former combatants in basic and middle level technical skills like mobile phone repair, motorcycle maintenance, and hairdressing. 

Bimala is one of the hundreds of Nepali women who studied to become a beautician for four months before starting her own small business. Thus far, 900 have graduated from the school and 65 percent of them have been offered jobs.

When asked what her hopes are for her young daughter, Bimala’s face lights up and she says:  “A good future.” 

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and HRK Crown Prince Haakon of Norway met today with Bamila and other graduates of the school, and toured portions of the training facilities as part of their joint official visit to Nepal.  Helen Clark stressed that programmes like these are crucial to build a better future for the Nepalese.

After the conflict that began in 1996, the Government and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) signed a Comprehensive Peace Accord in November 2006.  As part of this agreement, among other roles, the United Nations–including UNDP—supported the registration and verification of Maoist army personnel, and later supported the rehabilitation of verified minors and late-recruits.