Print Edition - 2016-05-08  |  Free the Words

Rainbow country

  • Promoting cultural diversity is important as it will lead to sustainable development
- ANITA YADAV, Kathmandu

May 8, 2016-

The term diversity refers to the difference, variety, dissimilarity and abundance of different things while culture is a term that allows us to refer to anything that is itself or about culture. Combined together, cultural diversity is a concept that realises coexistence and interaction between different cultures. The existence of different cultures is considered to be an important heritage of humanity since such issues, without doubt, help to promote and expand knowledge and values such as respect and tolerance. Respecting and tolerating others even though they live on our side but do not manifest the same beliefs and cultural backgrounds will always be a step forward as individuals.

The caste system in Nepal is very complex. Although the caste system and the traditional legal codes were publicly prohibited by the 1990 Constitution, caste continues to play a crucial role in the private lives of many Nepalis. The geographical environment of Nepal has deeply influenced the lifestyle of its people. Due to 

the high mountains, remote valleys and centuries of migration, many ethnic groups with similar backgrounds have evolved in different directions culturally and linguistically.

Cultural diversity is not a recent phenomenon. Nepal is a country rich in culture and customs. We are heirs to a wonderful cultural diversity which refers to the variety and abundance of different things. It is interaction between different cultures. We have cultural diversity as an important asset in our country, and we have the right to see that our culture is respected. In Nepal 81.3 percent of people follow Hinduism, 9 percent Buddhism, 4.4 percent Islam, 3 percent Kirat, 1.4 percent Christianity and 0.9 percent five other religions. According to Census 2011, there are 105 castes and ethnic groups and 103 languages existing in Nepal.

Beliefs are shapers of people’s lives and are shared ideas about how we work. They are components of the social fabric that unites the different cultural and ethnic groups in their ideology and ways of understanding the reality in which they live. Culture is everything that comprises the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional values that characterise a social group. 

Culture is an important part of the lives of the people. It influences their views, values, humour, hopes, loyalties, concerns and fears. When working with people and establishing relationships with them, it is useful for us to have some perspectives about their culture and understand it.

Cultural diversity is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life. This diversity is a prerequisite for reducing poverty and achieving the goal of sustainable development. 

The development process must take into account cultural needs. We need to tap the potentials of the collective knowledge and value cultural expressions of the vulnerable sections of society. Culture is linked to many areas of development. It is, therefore, important to increase the ties between culture and other sectors, including education and the media. Respect for and appreciation of diversity must be a cohesive factor that strengthens the social fabric and the development of our country. 

There are no better or worse cultures. Obviously, each culture may have ways of thinking, feeling and acting in which certain groups are in a situation of discrimination. But if we accept that there is no hierarchy among cultures, it considers the ethical principle that all cultures are equally worthy and deserving of respect. This also means that the only way to correctly understand culture is to interpret its demonstrations in accordance with its own cultural criteria. Although this should not mean eliminating our critical judgment, we need to set it aside until we have understood the symbolic complexity of many cultural practices. 

Diversity is a constitutive element of culture. As we explore other cultures, it is also important to remember how much we have in common. A person who grew up in Kathmandu will probably see the world very differently than someone who grew up in London, but both of them know what is waking up in the morning and waiting for the day’s adventures. We are all human beings. We all love deeply, learn and have hopes and dreams. We all have experienced pain and fear. Knowing and respecting the various cultures, we should build powerful and significant changes in the communities we live in. The community can benefit from each cultural group which has unique strengths and perspectives. Understanding cultures helps us to overcome and prevent racial, social and ideological divisions.

Yadav is a social activist and yoga instructor

Published: 08-05-2016 08:35

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