Empowering Intersex People by Story-telling: Campaign For Change (CFC) Nepal Initiative
Intersex people in Asian countries continue to be invisibilised in the mainstream and policy discourse. The situation of Nepal’s intersex people is quite similar. Esan Regmi, Executive Director of CFC Nepal, took the initiative of compiling the stories of 13 intersex people and published them in a book. We spoke to Esan Regmi to understand the motivation behind the project, the challenges he faced and the impact of the project.
What was your motivation behind starting this project?
I have been working within the LGBTI movement for quite some time as an intersex person. I constantly felt that there was no information and understanding about intersex people within the wider society as well as within the human rights organisations. Even LGBTI organisations didn’t have much knowledge about intersex people. While the LGBTI movement in Nepal started in 2001, there was no sensitization about intersex people. There was a lot of misinformation about the number of intersex people- it used to be said that there could only be one intersex person per 100,000 people. However, when the United Nations published the factsheet- the realisation started growing that the number of intersex people was quite high as compared to the prevalent notion. We realised that it was important to tell the story of our community members, particularly since there were so many misconceptions about intersex people. We wanted to make the intersex people visible and ensure that their living experience is known to the wider society.
Furthermore, we didn’t have intersex people to connect with and there was a huge misunderstanding about intersex. People used to think that only people with ambiguous genitalia could be intersex. As a consequence of such prejudiced view, intersex people never felt part of the society. In 2016, we organsied our first meeting of intersex people and resolved to share the lives of intersex people. Through this project, we wanted to show the diversity of intersex experiences and the need to have an intersectional approach while working on intersex righ
Did you face any challenges while conducting the project?
The foremost challenge of executing this project was the short time duration. Most intersex people whose stories we wanted to collect couldn’t be reached via online means. Therefore, our in-person meeting in 2016 was our only opportunity. Since the meeting was held over 2 days, we had a very short time to cover the agenda as well as collect everyone’s story. We also faced serious challenges in getting financial support to publish the book and had a hard time getting support from LGBTI organisations as well. However, we were able to see through these challenges and finally we published the book.
How has the publication of this report impacted the intersex movement in Nepal?
This book was the first publication on intersex issues in Nepal. So far, there were no knowledge resources on intersex people in Nepal. The publication of this book gave a lot of confidence to the wider intersex population in the country. Since 2016, we have been sharing the book on many platforms and meetings. More and more intersex people are coming forward as they got the confidence from reading about the experience of intersex people in the country. This storybook was covered by many national and international organisations such as- Intersex Human Rights Australia (IHRA), Save the Children and Being LGBTI in Asia.
We also relied on this book as a reference while preparing our submissions for the UN Child Rights Committee. In the last few years, many studies and reports have cited this book as a reference. Within CFC Nepal, we have been using the storybook as a tool for spreading awareness about intersex people