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Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity

Demanding a ‘just recovery’ from below: the role of grassroots accountability activism in safeguarding labour migrants’ rights in the pandemic era

Disasters are known to intensify pre-existing social inequalities. But they are also a catalyst for socio-political transformation, as seen in the recent reinvigoration of civil society activism and emergence of newer forms of participatory and accountability initiatives to advance the values of “care” and “justice” in disaster recovery.

As a global disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the multiple injustices facing historically disadvantaged communities, notably informal workers and labour migrants. It has also triggered innovative forms of solidarity and rights-based movements as competing frames to the health security measures introduced by various governments. Grassroots activists, in spite of setbacks and indifference from powerful actors, are inventing and pursuing newer political strategies to deepen the prospects for just and democratic recovery from the pandemic.

What are the opportunities and limitations for grassroots accountability activism to assert the political potentials for a 'just recovery' for labour migrants in post-Covid Nepal? The proposed project seeks to examine this overarching question. Using Covid-19 disaster as a site of political possibility, the project will draw on the perspectives and experiences of labour migrants, youth activists and volunteers to understand the potential of grassroots activism in challenging intersecting inequalities facing labour migrants in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis in Nepal. The political possibilities and challenges of youth-led, bottom-up activism will be investigated in terms of its ability to construct alternative narratives of care and justice, and forge newer alliances to hold the State accountable to the voices of the returnee Nepali migrants.

Banner Image: Photo by Samrat Khadka on Unsplash


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