Brief Introduction

Parsa District covers 1,353 km2 of Nepal’s Central Region, and its elevation ranges from 122 to 925 meters above sea level. Parsa District comprises 82 Village Development Committees (VDCs) and one sub-metropolitan municipality: its District Headquarters (DHQ) – Birgunj. Parsa borders Nepal’s Bara District on the east, Chitwan District on the west, Makwanpur on the north and India’s state of Bihar on the south. Some 23% of people in the rural parts of Central Tarai1 live below the poverty line (as compared to 27% overall in rural Nepal)2 . Parsa is well-connected to Kathmandu via the Tribhuvan Highway, part of a busy trade route network between China, Nepal and India, via the East-West Mahendra highway. Parsa is well linked to Kalaiya, District Headquarters of Bara District, via blacktop road. An airport in Simara connects the area to Kathmandu by only a fifteen minute flight. Parsa’s population counted over six hundred thousand people in 2011, 48% of whom women. There are 67,843 children under five in the district, 61,998 adolescent girls (10-19), 141,635 women of reproductive age (15 to 49), and 39,633 seniors (aged 60 and above). A large share (83%) of Parsa’s population is Hindu, 14% are Muslim, 2% Buddhist, and smaller shares of other religions.3 In 2001, Madhesi castes other than Dalits accounted for 41% of Parsa’s population, Dalits made up 14%, Janajatis made up 16%, Brahmins 7% and Chhetris 3%. 4 A typical household in Parsa is made up of about five or six people and owns its home (91%) and 8% of households live in rented spaces. Most households use firewood (66%), cowdung (16%) or gas (16%) for cooking, and electricity (72%) or kerosene (24%) for lighting. Some 15% of households in Parsa have motorcycles, and 70% have bicycles. Altogether not that many (30%) have radios, more (39%) have televisions, and only 15% are connected to cable television. However, 60% have a mobile phone. There are 12,985 landine telephone connections out of an exchange capacity of 14,608 in the district. The three exchange units are stationed at Birjung Municipality, Pokhariya and Allaw VDCs. There are also 148,311 mobile phone lines and 1,533 ADSL users in the district. Telephone services are available in all VDCs. 6 Parsa also has a District Post Office, 13 Ilaka7 and 67 Additional Post Offices, and a Dakk (rapid postal delivery) service.8 Governance As a result of the armed conflict, 101 people lost their lives in Parsa, five men disappeared and 15 people were injured. A Local Peace Committee was established in Parsa in 2009, comprising 23 members: nine from political parties, one from the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, one from the Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry, one from the NGO Coordination Committee, one from the Nepal Red Cross Society, one from the District Bar Association, one from civil society, four from conflict-affected families, one from Dalit and Muslim communities each; two positions are vacant at the moment.9 Of the 32 national parties represented in the Constituent Assembly (CA), only 21 are present in Parsa and were part of the now dissolved All Party Mechanism of the District Development Committee (DDC). 10 Parsa has five electoral constituencies. In the CA, Parsa was represented by 12 members; five candidates, four of whom male, were elected in 2008 firstpast-the-post (FPTP) runs and seven, five of whom male, selected under proportional representation (PR). Nepali Congress (NC) was the largest party in Parsa, its candidates winning three of the five constituencies under FPTP. The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Nepal (MJF-N) and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) were elected in the remaining two constituencies. On average two thirds of eligible voters cast ballots across Parsa’s five constituencies, however a relatively large share of cast votes were deemed invalid (around 7% in FPTP and 5% in PR runs), which is on par with other districts in Central Tarai. The major political actors in the district include Madheshbased political parties and NC and CPN-UML, both of which have strong organisational structures in the district, but Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) and Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPNM) are also important locally. Due to the split of MJF-N into Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Loktantrik (MJF-L) and Madheshi Jana Adhikar Forum-Ganatantrik (MJF-G), their organisational structure is relatively skewed but nonetheless reaches across the district. The Sadbhavana Party (SP) and Tarai Madhesh Loktantrik Party (TMLP) have their institutional base all over the district. All these Madhes-based parties officially position for “One Madhesh, One Province”. Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) have an institutional base in almost all VDCs of the district. While the public considers both these parties pro-monarchist, only RPP-N promotes the reestablishment of a Hindu kingdom. The Hindu Youth Association, which is not a registered political party, was established after Nepal was declared a secular country to advocate a return to a Hindu kingdom, and is influential in Parsa. 13 In mid-May 2013, the total number of people registred to vote in parsa reached 241,987. In August 2012, 223,555 eligible voters had been registered by the Election Commission with photograph and biometric profile (57% men, 43% women, and 20 individuals of third gender).14 There are 148 polling posts in Parsa and the Parsa District Election Office is located Birgunj. There are 632 Child Clubs in Parsa, 200 of which are affiliated with the District Child Welfare Board, and all of which participate in various governance structures.15 In 2009, UNICEF supported the mapping of disadvantaged groups and service delivery at VDC level in 23 districts as part of the Ministry of Local Development’s implementation of the Decentralised Action for Children and Women (DACAW) programme. The categorisation index used for mapping takes into consideration the proportions of the population who are marginalised, who are vulnerable, and who have food sufficiency for less than three months in a year; the proportion of participants in decision-making who are women, Dalit or Janajati; the availability and quality of primary schools and the availability and quality of health posts; and the prevalence of gender-based discrimination. Seven of Parsa’s 83 VDCs are categorised as ‘poor’ on most of these aspects, and 63 other VDCs are also categorised as ‘poor’ on many aspects (see also map).16 The latest available vital registration records for Parsa are for 2010, when 11,779 births, 1,113 deaths, 2,383 marriages and five divorces were registered.17 In 2011/12, the planned development budget amounted to 607,481,766 NRs (or 29% of the total proposed budget for the DDC18), 9.2% of which came from local revenue generation; 84% of the planned budget was received, and 80% of the planned development budget disbursed.19 Parsa DDC has not failed any local governance minimum conditions since 2007/08, and accordingly received 20% additional grants and 100,000 NRs in staff incentives for 2011/12. 2012, and case registration is increasing as citizens gain better access to the process in an improved overall security situation.22 The Legal Aid Act 1997, which sets out specific provisions for institutional capacities to provide free legal aid to “persons who are unable to protect their legal rights due to financial and social reasons,” came into effect in Parsa in 2004. 23 The District Bar Association, composed of 13 members including two women, provides a common platform to 164 privately practicing lawyers in the district, of which five women and one Dalit. The District Bar Association occasionally conducts legal literacy programmes in the district on the request of the Nepal Bar Association; four such programmes were held in 2011. 24 Additionally, there is a District Legal Aid Committee, chaired by a prosecutor and including four lawyers from the District Bar Association, which provides free of charge legal representation in court to citizens whose annual income is below 40,000 NRs. The District Legal Aid Committee appoints a lawyer for this purpose, and receives around 50 applications for this service on average each year. It received 51 applications in 2011-12, 20 of which received representation by a lawyer in court. 25 Likewise, the District Court has one paid lawyer on a permanent basis who serves cases on behalf of those citizens who can not afford private representation. 26 The District Court has a judge and social worker trained in juvenile justice procedures, but no such lawyer or psychologist. 27 Furthermore, there are Paralegal Committees in 41 VDCs and in three wards of Birgunj sub-metropolitan city.28 Paralegal Committees are being incorporated into Women and Children Office’s (WCO) regular Women Development Programme at ward level as Gender Based Violence Watch Groups. Both entities are not supposed to conduct community mediation and dispute resolution any longer, but only to raise awareness on children’s and women’s protection issues, and to detect and report cases to the competent authorities, facilitating access to justice including with a small fund for emergency assistance to victims.29 Per the Children’s Act 1992, the District Child Welfare Board (DCWB) is responsible for child rights promotion and protection in the district. The Board is chaired by the Chief Development Officer in most districts with members from government line agencies and NGOs and the Child Welfare Officer (Head of WCO) as secretariat. DCWB receives reports of children in need of care and protection (orphans, abandoned, child labor, child abuse, etc.) and disposes of a District Child Emergency Fund to provide immediate response and refer cases to NGO service providers or reunify them with families. Village Child Protection Committees are the local extension of DCWB, but there is only one in Parsa

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