Low Caste People’s Lives
As a Hindu society, a caste (or class-based social status system) operates in Nepal. This has devastating consequences for those at the bottom of the scale.
People are born into a specific caste, which is thought to be based on one’s karma from previous lives – being from a low caste is regarded as punishment for past misdeeds. Individuals must marry within their caste, and therefore, in isolated rural settings like where Foundation Nepal work, there is no escaping one’s caste. Low caste also determines a person’s occupation, so people of low caste work in the worst paid occupations, such as tailoring, which perpetuates the poverty cycle.
Low caste (also known as untouchable or Dalit caste) people face huge discrimination within their communities, and are treated in a similar way to how lepers were treated long ago. An untouchable person is seen to be contaminated, or dirty. Their children can only play with other untouchable children, and an untouchable person cannot enter a higher caste person’s house. If an untouchable person touches food or water, these items are also deemed to be contaminated and cannot be consumed by higher caste people. Therefore low caste families cannot access the village water supply, and must use water sources which are often a long way away.
Acute Poverty Levels
Low caste families are usually the poorest, with the smallest amount of land and the least fertile land. Because the quantity of food that they can produce is low, these families usually suffer the most malnutrition, and their children have the poorest educational attainment. Again, there is little chance of escape from this poverty trap, and the mothers in these families face particularly acute hardship in trying to raise their children.