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Social Inclusion & Excluded Groups

Nepal is home to a mosaic of ethnicities and languages. More than 61 ethnic groups and diverse nationalities reside in the country. Despite the socio-cultural diversity, Nepal is facing a vicious cycle of poverty which mainly is the cause of spatial heterogeneity and structural inequalities. The spatial causes of poverty can be seen due to the regional imbalance in the development process, while the structural inequalities have been coupled by 'haves' and 'have nots'. Structural inequality has further been compounded by the caste system of the country. Although anti-discriminationprovisions are contained in the 1990 Constitution, caste discrimination remains ingrained in Hindu- dominated Nepalese society. Poverty, lack of social services (health, education, water and sanitation, etc.) remain pressing problems for rural, lower castes and indigenous peoples, despite economic development and poverty alleviation having been the primary objectives of the Nepali budget for the past years. Additionally, the bitter truth is that lower castes and minority ethnic groups are disproportionately affected by widespread social and economic problems aggravated by poverty. Generally, Nepal's Hindu-dominated society has excluded four groups of people from the contemporary development processes either through political exclusion (decentralised efforts of development, basic citizenship rights, etc.)or through economic exclusion (concentrated urban market centres) or through social exclusion (socio-cultural attributes-a legacy of age old culture, etc.) These four groups are: i) Dalits or lower caste people, ii) Indigenous people or Janajati iii) Madeshi or Terai inhabitants and iv) Women.

Social Inclusion and Dalits
The Dalit community in Nepal is not only discriminated to use and have access to public utilities and places but excluded from the legal system and public policies. Through laws and plans (e.g. the Local-Self Governance Act which has provisioned affirmative provisions for Dalits' participation in local bodies and the 10th Five Year plan aiming for the enhancement of Dalits limited accessibility in natural resources), the government has been intervening in increasing the participation of Dalits in local and central governance. Yet, the results of such nominal policies have been proved as tokens and can be labelled as formal inclusive only. Often Dalit activists and people/institutions working for Dalits raise their voices on pertinent issues like untouchability, discrimination, poverty, social prejudice and cultural barriers, inaccessibility in resources, and lack of representation in governance and political system.

Social Inclusion and Madhesi Community
In spite of having a long history of origin and habitat, the Madhesi community is practically considered as outsiders. They continue to be marginalised and have faced exclusion in active political participation, administration and governance, decision- making and policy planning. Moreover, they face problems like issues of citizenship and finding their true identity in their own native land. The Madhesi people feel highly discriminated against and has almost lost 'the sense of belongingness to this nation' The exclusion of the Madhesi community (comprising of 32 percent of the country's human resources) from the national mainstream has been a negative factor for the sound economic development in the country.
Many of the modern day basic facilities have not yet reached Madhesi people. Nearly 40 percent of the Madhesi population is Dalit and indigenous Janajati who are inherently disadvantaged in many social and economic aspects. Again, poverty is very high among the Muslim population living in rural areas having average low rates of literacy. There has been little effort to prevent social, economic and political exclusion and to reintegrate those who have become excluded through unemployment, landlessness and homelessness. In addition, immediate attention needs to be provided to ascertain citizenship rights to the landless Madhesi people, and to maximise their representation in political and administrative units of the country.

Social Inclusion and Women
The Constitution of Nepal has guaranteed the right of equality to women, however discrimination against and problems concerning women manifest themselves in a number of ways in Nepal. An age-old patriarchal value system, social and cultural The exclusion of the Madhesi community (comprising of 32 percent of the country's human resources) from the national mainstream has been a negative factor for the sound economic development in the country.
Many of the modern day basic facilities have not yet reached Madhesi people. Nearly 40 percent of the Madhesi population is Dalit and indigenous Janajati who are inherently disadvantaged in many social and economic aspects. Again, poverty is very high among the Muslim population living in rural areas having average low rates of literacy. There has been little effort to prevent social, economic and political exclusion and to reintegrate those who have become excluded through unemployment, landlessness and homelessness. In addition, immediate attention needs to be provided to ascertain citizenship rights to the landless Madhesi people, and to maximise their representation in political and administrative units of the country. practices have crippled the women in many ways. Only very recently, women were granted the political right to own property, and in 2003, women were granted the right to abortion but with strict medical restrictions. Child marriages, restrictions on widows remarrying and arranged marriage practices are still followed widely.
Women often face domestic violence and harassment, with no legal provisions, as gender discrimination is deeply entrenched in society. Comparatively, women work more than men in and outside the household and receive significantly lower wages. Their employment is limited to the unorganised sectors, and despite affirmative action programmes, their participation in the government is low. The low status of women in Nepal can be traced to a number of interrelated economic, legal, cultural, political, and institutional factors. Women's poverty is exacerbated by caste and ethnicity-based discrimination, as the caste system defines access to resources and opportunities, leaving women more disadvantaged than men at every level. Women have unequal access to food, education and health care, limited opportunities to earn incomes, restricted access to and control over productive resources, and few effective legal rights. They are further disadvantaged by a lack of awareness of their legal rights and opportunities.

Social Inclusion and Indigenous (Janajati) Communities
The Nepali state has recognised 61 indigenous communities only in 1999. However, the state has defined the communities conservatively by calling them groups that face socio-economic and cultural backwardness. Social scientists believe that there are more indigenous people/communities than recognised by the state. An in-depth anthropological-sociological survey is necessary for
ascertaining the true number of such communities and people. Indigenous people face consequences in terms of discrimination, because of their small population and due to historic and current discriminatory treatment by the state and society. Some of the pressing problems relevant to the Janajati groups are:

    *      Linguistic discrimination
    *      Religious domination and cultural imperialism
    *      Abolishment of land rights
    *      Access to resources and inadequate recognition of indigenous/traditional knowledge endowment
    *      Exclusion in political participation
    *      Migration and indigenous people