Apeksha Prazai, who grew up on the periphery of Nepal’s civil war, was exposed to 10 years of conflict, with some accounts claiming 19,000 people were killed and 150,000 internally displaced.
The uprising was led by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M) with the aim of overthrowing the ruling monarchy and establishing a People’s Republic. The war ended in 2016 under the auspices of the United Nations and a peace agreement was reached between the Nepalese government and the Maoist rebels.
“We lived in the capital, Kathmandu, and were fortunate enough to survive many conflicts and violence. But we were close enough to know and care about what was going on in the village, ”said Prazai.
Of the many related activities that were difficult to define at the time, a large number of women involved in the People’s War particularly confused her.
Thousands of women played fighters, leaders and other forms of support in this violent conflict. Given the deep patriarchal nature of our society, it has always seemed to me that this is amazing. ”
As a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science, Prazai seeks to better understand this ambiguous phenomenon and to investigate the dynamics of women’s participation in conflict. Citing early data collected from fieldwork in Nepal and secondary data throughout South Asia, Prasai’s dissertation analyzes the process of recruiting women into rebel organizations and examines how women themselves influence the process.
The MIT Center for International Studies (CIS) has won the Jean Gilming Prize this year. Guillaume, a longtime colleague of the CIS and senior adviser on the Defense Studies Program, donated the fund shortly before her death in 2019. For a long time it was dominated by people.
Like Guillaume, Prosai is committed to advancing other scholarly groups that have historically excluded women and historians, and has worked with various capabilities to achieve this goal. In the past, she has chaired the CIS ‘International Women’s Politics and Security Group – a network that supports female graduate students, alumni and faculty in the greater Boston area. He also served as Co-Chair of the Graduate Student Council on Gender and Diversity in the Department of Political Science, and was a member of its Diversity, Fairness, and Admissions Committee.
The Gylamine Prize is especially important to me because Jean was not only a respected research scientist but also passionate about supporting women. I share her commitment and I am humbled and respectful that I can benefit from her generosity, ”says Prazai.
From Nepal to MIT
Prosai left Nepal in 2012 to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Bodoine College, USA. She was first exposed to political science and took courses on politics and conflict, and it was at Bodoin that she began to learn how to rarely mention women.
I was studying political science courses, and I saw how women are rarely mentioned in discussions about interstate and civil wars. What I know from the conflict in Nepal is strange. So I wondered if the participation of women in violence was unique to Nepal.
Curiosity forced her to explore the issue further. In her second year, she learned to learn about girls who went beyond the Nepalese context. During her junior year abroad at the University of Oxford, she began exploring the role of women in more extensive resistance campaigns. The following summer, she received a grant from Bowdoin to conduct an independent study of women’s participation in violent campaigns throughout South Asia. This was the basis of her dissertation honoring female suicide bombers.
This dissertation left a lot of questions for Prasai to answer and she was motivated to get a PhD at MIT.
Broadly my dissertation seeks to shed light on the gender dimensions of civil war. In particular, I seek to understand the process of including women in male-dominated rebel organizations operating in patriarchal communities. I am particularly interested in finding out how women themselves influence these processes and bringing them into the discourse on other neglected feminist gender and civil wars. ”
Prosai is fortunate to be a part of the Department of Political Science and the SSP community.
I am grateful to be able to learn from exceptionally talented faculty, students and alumni who do creative and important research. I am grateful to have the latitude to continue my research with excellent advice that will help me explore the answers to meaningful questions that are intense and relevant to the real world. ”
For the good of women
Prazai’s research includes extensive fieldwork related to interviewing CPN-M members who participated in the People’s War and collecting primary documents in Nepal.
The money from her drowning prize will be used for additional field work in Nepal. Although the Kovid-19 epidemic has delayed her travel plans, she hopes to return by the end of this year.
“Many of the women I spoke to never had the opportunity to describe their experiences in words. They are often interested in telling their stories and hopefully they will not forget the contribution they made to the business, ”she explains. The purpose of one of her dissertations is to shed light on the experiences of these women in the People’s War and to help preserve certain aspects of their history.
As a Nepali woman, it makes a lot of sense for me and many in my community to work to understand the role of women in a movement that has changed the socio-political trajectory of Nepal and to make a small contribution to preserving their history, she says. “I am grateful for the support of the Gilmin gift that allows me to continue this work.”