Turning the tides & Telling Stories - Minket Lepcha
When young Minket came to learn about the Lepcha movement for cultural revival in 2007, she was only 24. Even as a young girl, the notion of the vanishing Lepcha culture, to which she belongs, and their struggles regarding the building of dams on the Teesta river deeply moved her. This sparked a desire in her to know more about her own community that took her on a journey to understand the history, culture and philosophy – and to tell the stories of the Lepcha people, the Teesta river and communities that live along with it. It led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Sociology, Diploma in Folkore and Cultural Studies and pursuing Masters in Anthropology from open university in IGNOU. Her work has won her accolades and recognition in national and international forums.
Today, she identifies herself as a strong advocate for the preservation of oral traditions and folklore of indigenous communities all over South Asia, and a storyteller of their inextricable relationship with rivers and nature. In her current role as a volunteer for Glenn Family Foundation, she is working in Nepal using storytelling as a medium to interact with women and children. Since rivers can be a contested issue her role as a storyteller is important in ameliorating mistrust and trepidation within communities and among upper and lower riparian stakeholders. Her involvement with TROSA helped her understand the communities’ relationship with rivers in the Teesta and Mahakali river basin, and bringing their voices out, especially stories on struggles of women to a wider public discourse.
Read her photo stories here:
“I do not see my work as a career.”
On being asked about her meandering career path in becoming a water leader, she opines, “I do not see my work as a career. I became storyteller so that I could connect people with the environment. In my travels to India, Nepal and Bangladesh and throughout the region, I could sense the same palpable transboundary relationship of people and rivers, from upstream to downstream and across river basins, their interdependence, emotions and stories.”
In 2019, she received a TROSA grant to document the changes in the lives of local women brought by TROSA supported Women Empowerment Centers in Nepal’s far-western province.
“Working with TROSA broadened my horizons in understanding the myriad of issues surrounding transboundary rivers and communities, especially women”, she says.
On water and women:
“I had a wonderful and inspiring time working on a photo story with the women of Mahakali River as part of TROSA activities. They are the ones who are connected with environment, river, water and natural resources. Visiting villages of Darchula and Baitadi also exposed me to know how these meek women are finding their voices. To see a local woman become a spokesperson at the Municipality level is an inspiring story that should be shared widely.”
“Water professionals should not see water-related issues as an isolated subject. If we do not understand the fluidity and complexity of river and waters and the social and regional dimensions, we are not understanding the environment in totality”, she adds.
To aspiring young women contemplating a journalistic career or as educators in water-related issues, Minket says, “ one can start studying the river and riverine communities and their lives. Focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 6 could be a starting point.”
Minket is a recipient of the Young Green Filmmaker Award 2016 for a film she directed (link). She is also one of the delegates for Australia India Youth Dialogue 2020 where she hopes to engage in dialogues to connect indigenous and aboriginal stories as an important liaison to build a relationship on the basis of Indian Ocean narratives.