The women sit cross-legged on a worn rug on the dusty ground, heads lowered shyly but listening intently. Premkumari Idrishi sits tall among the rainbow of coloured veils. "Our paralegal committee is number one in this whole district," she says proudly, holding her index finger aloft. "We are illiterate but still we have been able to run this and still we're number one."
Idrishi, 43, is president of the women's paralegal committee (PLC) in Purena, a predominantly Muslim village in Banke district, mid-west Nepal. Established in 1997 by NGO Plan Nepal, the committee's 25 volunteers visit homes to mediate cases of domestic violence, sexual harassment and child marriage, and property disputes.
If the volunteers cannot reconcile the parties, or they are faced with incidents such as rape, Idrishi says they refer the case to Saathi, a local NGO working to eliminate violence against women. "Saathi approaches the police and takes the necessary action because it has legal facilities and access to formal, state justice mechanisms," she explains.
Published in the Guardian. Copyright the Guardian. Photo: Tom Van Cakenberghe for the Guardian.