Researcher / Policy Analyst | Martin Chautari

Barefoot Research Initiative in Nepal

Quality Education

The project aimed to support Nepali grassroots activists who had the necessary knowledge and experiences but came from non-academic backgrounds, in writing and articulating their stories and research for publication.

Barefoot Research Initiative in Nepal (2023)

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Numerous visits to the Western Tarai districts and Madhesh Province of Nepal were made between December 2017 and Dec 2023 to assess the intellectual landscapes. Certain factors were crucial in scouting for researchers/individuals with the snowball sampling technique and we met more than 60 activists in the region. We were interested in meeting with individuals who may have substantial experiences either informed by their locally-embedded activism or by their fact of being local researchers who work within the communities they research and write about. The formal qualifications of the individuals were restricted to a bachelor’s degree (not compulsory though) without any concern for their disciplinary focus. They were required to be professionally engaged in these regions. The individuals inducted in this BR initiative were to represent the social and intellectual diversity of the region as well.

Supported by National Endowment for Democracy. The funding body had no role in research design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Additional resources
  • ‘Writing as an Activism’: Barefoot Research Initiative in Nepal [read more]
  • “Writing for Advocacy”: The Barefoot Research Initiative in the Madhesh Province of Nepal [read more]
  • Writing as activism: the Barefoot Research Initiative in Nepal [read more]
    A webinar explaining the Barefoot Research Initiative, part of the 'decolonizing methodologies' lecture series at the University of East Anglia, UK.

Thank you to Ramya Zwaal, who conducted an initial interview with Sohan Prasad Sha, and whose efforts have helped to make these insights accessible. 


The project had three aims: to decentralise knowledge production away from Kathmundu, the capital of Nepal, towards under-researched regions; to challenge the assumption that social science research can only take place in an academic setting; and to make research socially inclusive and accessible to grassroots activists from non-academic, underprivileged backgrounds who face barriers to participating in traditional academic settings. These barriers include access to research funding, mentorship, language, and caste barriers.


  • Grassroots activists have excellent data and experiences that can contribute to the Nepali research field.

    This is testified by a recently published book collating the research of 23 grassroots activists involved in the project, covering topics ranging from access to justice for female victims to youth activism.

What it means

The project matters because of the weak status of higher education and academic research in Nepal, particularly in the social sciences and humanities at a regional level. The Barefoot Initiative provides a frugal way to bring social issues in under-researched regional areas of Nepal into mainstream public interest.

How to use

  • Engaging local, grassroots activists in research can raise awareness of local issues, and provides fresh ideas and data for policymakers, particularly at a local government level

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Sha, Sohan Prasad. 'Barefoot Research Initiative in Nepal'. Acume.