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Uma Devi Koli is a Dalit – and a Leader in her Community

Uma Devi Koli is a Dalit – the lowest caste. When she came to Nepal with her husband, she struggled to learn the language. Today she’s a leader in her community.

Uma joined a Mercy Corps cash-for­work project in which villagers constructed an irrigation pond and canal to water their crops. They also widened a narrow foot path. She was elected president of the project committee. As a woman, and a Dalit, the role boosted her self­confidence.

“We had some problems at first,” Uma said. “The men felt they should be paid more than us, even though we all did the same work. I showed them that women work just as well as men, to get the same pay.”

Mercy Corps provided Uma and her neighbors with higher quality wheat seeds and taught them to mix fertilizer into the soil. “We doubled the price we got for our first crop,” she reported. Uma also received tomato seeds and learned to grow them in her own poly house.

Now, with the water from their new irrigation pond and higher­yield farming techniques, Uma and her family are more secure. “With the money we earn,” she said, “we buy food to eat ­ and I am sending my children to school.”

And, she said, “I feel confident being a woman. We don’t have to be behind the men. Even though I am Dalit, if we are given responsibility we can do anything. I have gained confidence through this project.”

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