Villagers turning to COMCAP for settlement of local disputes
RATANCHURA, Jan 7: Laxmi Hayu has a busy day. She has been called to settle a domestic dispute between a woman and her daughter-in-law next door.
After being nominated as a mediator of the Community Mediation Center at Ratanchura VDC of Sindhuli, villagers turn to Hayu for help whenever there is any dispute in the village. "It is not an easy job setting disputes agreeable to both the parties. But I am now used to it and find the job a lot easier," she said.
Along with Hayu, there are other 28 mediators, including 10 females, working as mediators for the Ratanchura VDC. They had undergone various trainings conducted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) under "Strengthening Community Mediation Capacity for Peaceful and Harmonious Society (COMCAP) Project".
The COMCAP pilot project is running in two districts-Mahottari and Sindhuli-since January 2010. Two VDCs from each of the two districts were chosen for the pilot project. Twenty-eight mediators -three from each ward (one woman compulsory) and a VDC assistant-selected from each VDC underwent an eight-day basic mediation training followed by advanced level of training. The mediators mediate local disputes and meet at least once a month to share their experiences.
When a disputing party files a complaint with the centre, each party is allowed to pick three mediators - one primary and two secondary ones - from a list of mediators. If the primary fails to turn up, the secondary mediator is called in to mediate the dispute. "As the disputing party can select the mediator on his own, the party is in a position articulate his problem to the mediator," Hayu said.
Tanaka, a JICA volunteer, who is also the leader of COMCAP Project in Nepal, said the disputing parties are themselves asked to introspect and this helps them find the root of the dispute. "Realization helps the parties reach an amicable agreement."
According to the Japanese volunteer, the COMCAP project has settled around 200 cases so far.
Bhim Shrestha, VDC assistant of Ratanchura VDC, said the establishment of the center has brought a huge relief to the villagers. "It was hard to convince villagers to settle their disputes through the center in the beginning as they preferred District Police Office and the court," he recounted, adding, "But many disputing parties regretted having sought local administration´s intervention to settle petty disputes as it turned expensive and time consuming."
The approach is gaining popularity among the villagers as the disputing parties are in a win-win situation as no party is penalized. "The main objective of the center is to settle minor disputes locally instead of seeking the local administration´s intervention," Shrestha added.
According to Shrestha, they have settled around 14 disputes in Ratanpura VDC alone since the centre´s establishment in March, 2011. The disputes mediated by the centre range from petty household disputes to community related issues.
Hayu shares her experience with media. (Photo: Bipulendra Adhikari