Touching the Untouchable

“The system [of discrimination based on caste and gender in Nepal] was wrong. . . . I made it my goal to change the system. I knew that with strength and education I could do it.”

On Tuesday evening, October 28th, the Ashby Campus Center was jammed with students, staff, faculty and visitors to hear Bishnu Pariyar. We were able to watch the premier public screening of a new short film on her life: “Untouchable”, produced by the Join the Lights project. The film beautifully presents her experience as a girl from the lowest caste of Nepali Hindu society – suffering daily humiliation of discrimination. And her relentless determination to break those barriers.

At 19 she founded her own organization – Empower Dalit Women of Nepal (EDWON) – with $150 given by an American friend. For 18 years EDWON has grown and expanded, through periods of political chaos and civil war. Today it has educated 10,000 children, has women’s groups in seven of Nepal’s districts, and has empowered men as well as women and children.

Students asked powerful and insightful questions – such as “what about the men?” and “how did you actually start?” At the end of the evening many gathered around her to engage in conversation and take photos. Many were clearly inspired and motivated by this remarkable woman.

To watch the documentary visit: http://jointhelights.org/work/untouchable/

Bishnu received her BA from Pine Manor in 2004 and her Masters of International Development from Clark University in 2007. In 2013 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Pine Manor College.