Archive for Nepal

Making the most of New York

The following entry was contributed by Erisha Suwal, a second year student at SIPA.  Erisha is working in our office this year and she, along with several other students, will be contributing posts throughout the year.


Being in New York has been one of the best experiences while at SIPA. Early last year during the General Assembly (GA) meetings at the UN, I along with three other students organized a protest to demand from the then Nepal Prime Minister that Nepal’s constitution be written on time and that the government expedite investigations on the people disappeared during Nepal’s decade-long Civil War.  It was an intense experience. I distributed pamphlets on the streets of Jackson Heights, a South Asian neighborhood in Queens, and had heated discussions with many people.  It was interesting to see that many fellow Nepali men thought that as a student in Columbia, I should become a doctor or an engineer but not get into politics. Although not all Nepalis think this way, it is a common sentiment.

The foreign advisor to the then Prime Minister also called me directly to request that the protest be called off.  It was terrifying, as I was exposed to the challenges of political activism. Nonetheless, organizing the event introduced me to other Nepali political activists in New York, to institutions and informal groups that worked for justice in Nepal.  Also, because of this event, I became aware of the India China Institute at the New School.  Since then, I have attended many events on Nepal organized by the New School and even audited a class on Nepali Society and Politics.

Another highlight of being in New York is my current internship with UNIFEM (part of UN Women). Prior to joining SIPA, I had limited work experience in the development field. Most of my work was in the financial sector and my development experience came from summer internships throughout my undergraduate years. Interning with UNIFEM provides an excellent opportunity to gain more work experience and to understand how the UN works from the inside. Also, as I’m interested in the political participation of women, working with UNIFEM’s Governance, Peace and Security division could not have been a better match.

Between the extra activities and internships (and awesome parties) I am making the most of my time at SIPA.

Ketti Jean Klefeker, SIPA Student Video Winner, 2010

The following post is credited to SAlex Burnett, SIPA’s Communications Officer.


As part of SIPA’s ongoing effort to share the extraordinary work of its students, the School conducted a contest earlier this year calling for videos from students spending their summer in the field.

Kettie Jean Klefeker (MIA ’11) wins a new video camcorder for her video exhibiting her work with young refugees and orphans in Tibet and Nepal. Klefeker is a second-year student from Haiti, concentrating in Economic and Political Development. She says her work helped her gain greater insight and knowledge about the inner-workings of such homes for children.

The new video recorder will allow her to continue to show how her SIPA education is making a difference around the world. SIPA encourages all students to document and share their incredible stories through photos or video, and is now beginning to loan video cameras to students heading into the field.

Klefeker’s video and additional student submissions will be used to demonstrate SIPA’s commitment to educating the policy advocates and analysts of tomorrow.

Summer 2010 Internship – Post 4

This is the fourth entry in our recap of summer internships completed by SIPA students working in the Admissions Office this year.  Erisha Suwal is a second-year SIPA student from Nepal. She is pursuing an MPA degree with a concentration in Economic and Political Development and a specialization in Advanced Policy and Economic Analysis.


Internship with Search for Common Ground in Nepal

P1040358This summer I interned with Search for Common Ground (SFCG) in Nepal. Search for Common Ground is an international non-governmental organization that works in conflict transformation and peacebuilding. I knew about SFCG because a friend worked there. But, I found out about the internship opportunity through SIPALink. After two interviews, I succeeded in getting the internship. My experiences in diverse cultural settings, language and writing skills and deep interest in SFCG’s work helped me get the internship.

Nepal’s peace process started in 2008 after a decade long civil war. As someone interested in development, I realized that effective development could not happen without moving beyond the post-conflict situation. At the same time, lack of development or rather unequal development was among the many reasons that contributed to conflict. I wanted to learn about conflict transformation and peacebuilding and its relation to development. I also wanted to gain more grassroots experience and see more of Nepal.

The first month was a crash course on conflict transformation and community peacebuilding. Attending trainings and workshops that SFCG gave to its partner organizations, local political leaders and youth active in their communities; I gained theoretical knowledge on conflict analysis and transformation. I learned how SFCG’s produces radio shows and now a TV show as means for peacebuilding.  Once acclimatized, I worked on compiling information for the first draft of SFCG’s annual report. I collected case studies and success stories.

The highlight of my internship was the final month. I was based in Lahan, a highway town in southeastern Nepal. I was responsible for researching on ways to enhance young women’s role in peacebuilding and to recommend possible strategies and ideas to be used in SFCG’s future programs with women in peacebuilding. Majority of the women in southeastern Nepal are Madheshis, a marginalized group treated as second-class citizens, much like immigrants in the United States, until their movement in 2007. I was also responsible for assisting in organizational capacity building for Samagra Jana Utthan Kendra, SFCG’s implementing partner.

To give a sense of my day in the field in Lahaan: Wake up at 7 a.m. Drink black tea with Tulsi leaves and black pepper. Talk to   my host sister about the situation of women is Lahaan or other gossip.  Have lunch at 10 a.m. Walk about 15 minutes to Samagra by crossing a stream dotted with shadowy figures defecating and passing a vegetable bazaar. Read newspapers and talk about Nepali politics. Once everybody drops in, confirm on the plan made for the day since plans change very fast. Select villages to visit. Arrange for a mode of transportation. Once in the villages, gather women for a focus group discussion. Talk to them about   what they think women’s rights is, or what women’s role in peacebuilding should be, or why women are not allowed to leave their homes. There can be heated debates between the mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, which often is when the truth comes out. Listen to stories. After talking to the women, talk to men including village elders. Return to the office. Drink tea. Debrief with Samgra’s staff on the day’s happenings. Plan a new strategy for approaching women for the next field visit.


Dalit mother and daughter in Lahan, Siraha

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—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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