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Art and Education in Kathmandu Prisons

Project location: Kathmandu, Nepal

Status: In progress

Methods of action: Advocacy, Arts, Educational activity, Volunteer activity

Issues addressed: Arts, Education, Prison reform

Cost: >$1,000

Project Overview

This program provides vocational training, education and artistic opportunities to inmates at a Kathmandu jail.

Identifying the Problem

When Roman  was 16, he visited a prison in Gorkha, Nepal as part of a documentary he was working on that explored the role of women soldiers in Nepal's Maoist war. “I still remember the conversations I had there, and the prisoners' deep sense of boredom and hopelessness,” he says. Given that most of Nepal's prisoners are held in jails in Kathmandu, Roman wanted to start a project to help prisoners in Kathmandu, with an eye to building on the initial work to establish a prison reform advocacy group.  

Creating a Solution

Roman has partnered with several prominent Nepali businessmen who are interested in supporting his project. They have worked together to establish a non-profit that may legally raise funds for its projects, whether the funds were procured domestically or internationally. Roman is proud to announce that he has successfully registered his non-profit, called Samajik Sashaktikaran Kendra, which is loosely translated as the Social Empowerment Center.    

Now, Roman and his partners are talking to the relevant ministries and negotiating more red tape to get permission to work in Kathmandu's Central Jail. Roman plans to organize an art competition, which will begin by soliciting artwork from inmates and providing them with the resources to create it. He will subsequently work to publicize, exhibit and auction off their work to not only raise awareness about prison conditions, but also raise funds for future projects. “By first laying the institutional foundations for this work, I hope to ensure that similar work will be regularly repeated, and that other concerned advocates and activists will join in,” he says.

Lessons Learned

Not every project has to be a completely new idea; in fact, some of the most successful creations are inspired by other projects. When Roman was researching how to bring fun, creative activities to the prisons in Kathmandu, he discovered the work of the Koestler Trust, a prison arts charity in the UK. The work carried out by this organization inspired Roman, and he decided he would like to emulate some aspects of the Trust’s work.

Roman is no stranger to the “maddening tangle of red tape” that must be confronted in order to establish a non-profit organization. He encourages anyone interested in starting their own non-profits to find partners and start the process early. “Things move slowly in Nepal, and you need to build a network of contacts and supporters if you want to negotiate the bureaucracy and raise the funds necessary for any sustained and effective advocacy,” he says.  

Roman has estimated that it will cost $1,00 to conduct a single two-week art/education workshop for 10 inmates, which includes the cost of materials (books, art supplies, etc.) and a small payment to the art students who would run the workshop. However, as Roman's project has attracted considerable interest, he is looking to expand the scope of the project to include more inmates, longer classes, and possibly more prisons. The money is all to come from private donors, including some individuals and some private art galleries. Because of this increased interest, Roman is now estimating that the cost will be more than $1,000, and he is currently trying to gauge how much money he can raise and will then expand the scope of the project accordingly.
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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2011

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