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Affirmative action to target Dalits: Practices of Swiss development agencies in Nepal


Jaggi, Annabelle; Müller-Böker, Ulrike (2019). Affirmative action to target Dalits: Practices of Swiss development agencies in Nepal. European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, 53:5-34.

Abstract

With a focus on Nepal's Dalits, this article examines how development agencies adopt affirmative action measures that produce intended and unintended implications. The article delves into a qualitative case study of a nationwide vocational skills training project called the Employment Fund Nepal and two Swiss development agencies that are involved in its planning and implementation. In this project, economically poor members of various groups (including Dalits), who are discriminated based on social categories such as caste or ethnicity, are subsumed under the category 'Disadvantaged Groups' and treated as priority target groups. Academic literature shows that targeting based on social categories can unintentionally foster these categories and risks ignoring intra-group inequalities. Our research indicates that these pitfalls of affirmative action might also emerge in the Employment Fund. Nevertheless, the case study suggests that the breadth of the Disadvantaged Groups category also facilitates inclusivity and emphasizes commonalities, and might prevent an enforced division along traditional social boundaries. We assume that the inclusion of Dalits into broad categories such as Disadvantaged Groups reduces their traditional stigmatisation. Still, we argue that certain Dalit-specific livelihood realities should be given extra attention within development projects and that affirmative action measures need to be highly contextualized and flexibly implemented.

Abstract

With a focus on Nepal's Dalits, this article examines how development agencies adopt affirmative action measures that produce intended and unintended implications. The article delves into a qualitative case study of a nationwide vocational skills training project called the Employment Fund Nepal and two Swiss development agencies that are involved in its planning and implementation. In this project, economically poor members of various groups (including Dalits), who are discriminated based on social categories such as caste or ethnicity, are subsumed under the category 'Disadvantaged Groups' and treated as priority target groups. Academic literature shows that targeting based on social categories can unintentionally foster these categories and risks ignoring intra-group inequalities. Our research indicates that these pitfalls of affirmative action might also emerge in the Employment Fund. Nevertheless, the case study suggests that the breadth of the Disadvantaged Groups category also facilitates inclusivity and emphasizes commonalities, and might prevent an enforced division along traditional social boundaries. We assume that the inclusion of Dalits into broad categories such as Disadvantaged Groups reduces their traditional stigmatisation. Still, we argue that certain Dalit-specific livelihood realities should be given extra attention within development projects and that affirmative action measures need to be highly contextualized and flexibly implemented.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2019
Deposited On:30 Oct 2019 14:38
Last Modified:30 Oct 2019 14:38
Publisher:School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS
ISSN:0943-8254
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Related URL. An embargo period may apply.
Related URLs:http://www.digitalhimalaya.com/collections/journals/ebhr/

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