Unity through Empathy

By Jenna Mulji

Swayambhunath, a famous Buddhist temple in Kathmandu. Surrounding Swayambhunath are many smaller Hindu temples, demonstrating the integration of diversity in Nepal.

In April 2015, the Nepalese earthquake destroyed many homes, taking over 9,000 lives and injuring at least 22,000 people. Four years after, the repercussions of this earthquake are still felt, both within urban centres such as Kathmandu, as well as the rural areas, where government help is less accessible. Despite the trauma still felt by many, the Nepalese people, as I have observed during my Stretch Experience, have a great amount of resilience, and an even greater amount of unity, when it comes to creating change.

While a country with a caste system still in place may not seem to be the ideal example of unity, Nepal is incredibly diverse, with many different ethnicities and religions co-existing in a small area. These differences are not only acknowledged, but they are celebrated, and while each ethnicity is unique, the diversity is appreciated by all. Working with Women for Peace and Democracy Nepal, a local NGO which aims to empower women at the bottom of the caste system to start their own businesses, I not only experienced the direct impact of unity on those affected by the 2015 earthquake, but I also had the opportunity to work with those who facilitated this unity, thereby allowing women and families affected by the earthquake to break free from the cycle of poverty which afflicted them in the first place.

WPD Nepal not only gives women resources to start their own businesses, but they create women groups in each community affected, giving women the space to empower one another and to learn from each other. The women of each community are united in their common goal, and this unity not only builds confidence individually, but it changes the perspective of the entire community through creating a society where women being able to provide for their families is a common occurrence. This mindset improves the lives of many future generations and excels the recovery process from the earthquake through a shared sense of resilience, one that enables the Nepalese people to not only recover, but to thrive.

WPD Nepal is not the only NGO working towards helping those still affected by the earthquake in Nepal to begin their lives again. There are hundreds of organizations working towards empowering the poorest of those affected by the disaster to find their daily routines again, and to prevent the trauma the disaster caused throughout the nation. These organizations often work with very limited resources and staff, however, the difference they make in others’ lives is insurmountable.

The world is only becoming more interdependent, and while we are growing closer to each other every day misunderstandings and an unwillingness to communicate with one another has led to some of the direst conflicts in our world today. Unity towards understanding one another is more important than ever among the leaders of the world, and the example set by Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake is incredibly important. While it was difficult for me to fully grasp the complexity of the caste system, and although I had my personal biases about a system such as this one, the empathy and understanding demonstrated by the Nepalese people towards those who were less fortunate and are still struggling to get back on their feet was certain, and if this empathy was embodied in the rest of the world, if we constructed a world where, despite our differences, we could appreciate one another and learn from each other, then, we could truly be united in reating a better world for our future generations.

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