The history of “Mit” dates back 5000 years back in the historic times of Lord Krishna and Sudama, represented in the Mahabharata by the story of one of the major deity in Hinduism and his close, intimate friend and devotee. Lord Krishna and Sudama were childhood friends who shared a deep relationship beyond blood, Sudama was from a poor family and lived a simple life as adults while Lord Krishna lived a lavish life as a king, however despite these fundamental differences they shared a deep kinship and love that was above their differing identities. Lord Krishna is known for deeply loving Sudama, respecting him, and helping him despite their large differences in social status – many believe that they had a “Mit” or “Miteri” relationship. This “fictive kinship” or ritual relationship is not a relationship based on blood, or marriage but one of close friendship which can sometimes be sancianted by rituals. In Nepal, this relationship is known by “Mit” or “Miteri” but this concept in not isolated to Nepali culture, in English they akin to “artificial brotherhood or sisterhood”, within the Lepchas of Sikkim in India they are known as “Ingzong”, in Tibetans they are “Ganye and Kidu”, in Japan it is known as “Oyabun-Kobun”, in Latin America they are known as “compadrazgo” and “pogbot bhai” in Punjab and Afghanistan (Dhakal 2017). Amongst these various countries and cultures, this “mit” relationship may differ in its name, origin, and religious traditions around it but all share its critical component of love, respect, and relation which cuts across all forms of social differences, hierarchy, and identities which are made to differentiate and divide people (Dhakal 2017). According to popular Nepali sayings, a “Miteri” is said to surpass 14 generations within the two people who are “mits”, this is twice as long as a blood relationship. In Nepal, these relationships are instrumental to social cohesiveness in a society with innumerable ethnic groups and caste, acting as the glue which binds together people across identities. “Miteri” relationships are significantly unique due to its existence in a society where traditionally and historically kindred relationships either have a common ancestor or marriage ties which are horizontal and in the same social terrain, “miteri” breaks these social norms of relationships and draws a vertical line across social terrains (Dhakal 2017). This relationship are usually sanctioned by religious or cultural rituals and maintained through a series of reciprocal love, respect, and unspoken social obligations. Due to this unique characteristic, “miteri” relationships serve a critical need and significance in the social, economic, and political sphere.
Radha Paudel, a nurse by profession, a humanitarian, social activist, author and the founder/director of Radha Paudel Foundation embeds the philosophy of “miteri” in all her work because the the campaign against discrimination is a “campaign beyond borders” and beyond identities. Ms. Paudel pursues “mit” and “miteri” with all people without regards for blood, marriage, caste, sex, class, ethnicity, religion or any other identities – forging a unselfish, long-lasting loving and respecting relationship or “mit” between people. “Miteri” is a tool instrumental for the construction of peace, inclusion, social cohesiveness, and harmony which disregards established inequitable hierarchies, social and gender norms, and establishes a space space for all individuals to live and thrive with dignity, love, and respect.
Ms. Radha Paudel operates on a philosophy of “miteri” and establishes this campaign within her work all across Nepal, focusing on the Western regions, creating a altruistic unbreakable bond with the people, place, and community. In the west region of Nepal, RPF has founded various programs targeting education, economic development, and social empowerment. In Kudari, Jumla RPF invests in educational programs in various schools which serve to financially support teachers, empower schools, increase cultural programs, and health/sanitary programs. High quality education is an instrumental tool for creating avenues for peace, human rights, and empowerment in an equitable structure because it serves to provide equal opportunities for all regardless of divvying man-made identities like caste, socioeconomic status, and gender. These identities imposed on humans in utero serve as barriers and gateways to privileges and disadvantages that heavily shape and impact one’s future. Additionally, RPF founded a photography-learning center in Jumla 2 years ago which intends to invest in economic development by diversifying and increasing professionals’ skills associated with computer and camera work like use of all Microsoft applications, Photoshop, and actual photography technique. These skills are significantly valuable for economic purposes, because individuals’ employment opportunities increase when individuals possess valuable tangible skills that can aid their resumes, these skills can also result in promotion of employees who can use their skills to upgrade their work. These services also serve to greatly benefit the community as a whole outside of the individuals who receive training because it uplifts the whole communities status and set of skills they possess; the individuals can serve their communities better. Furthermore, it aims to empower individuals and the community by investing in them, and acquiring skills they can be proud of. Similarly, RPF founded a sewing project located in Mugu, an investment for economic development as well as a women focused empowerment tool. The foundation trained several women from Mugu how to sew and provided them with a sewing machine and starting materials. These women were able to start their own business, gain capital income, empower them self, and increase in social status in their homes. In central Nepal, Bharatpur, Chitwan the foundation is starting production of Biodegradable Sanitary Pad with partnership with various organizations like Nyayasam Nepal, Chitwan, Aakar India, German Embassy in Nepal,Fondazioneprosa, Italy, Mother’s groups, and the aid of various individuals. This social business entrepreneurship intends to produce environmentally friendly sanitary pads which are low in cost and available for purchase by companies and by members of the community, as well as empowering the economic development of local members by providing them with employment opportunities. Miteri Pads vision aims to improve the physiological, reproductive, and mental health of Nepalese women while respecting and protecting the environment; their working model focuses on inclusivity, sustainability, and healthy work environment.
After conducting a cross sectional interview regarding “miteri” in Jumla consisting of 15 people diverse in their demographic from age, gender, caste, ethnicity, and location, there was one recurring theme that spanned across all interviews, the idea that “mit” or “miteri” is one of “friendship”, “belonging”, and “ unselfish love”. In this remote, often “ forgotten” region of Nepal, there are people of many ethnicities, identities, caste, class, and religion; these diversities are extensive and range from the upper caste, Brahmin to the “lowest” caste Dalit, as well from the rich to the poor. During their interviews, the marginalized individuals – the poor and “lower caste”- expressed a deep gratitude and desire for “miteri” to be the foundation of our society, recalling on their past and current tragedies which only exist due to these man-made identities. Children of these identities recall times of isolation from society and school and question “fate” and “God” who designated them to these identities, they question “are we not the same as these brahmin kids? Are we not sons and daughters of the same god?” When individuals with privileged identities are questioned, they also convey a sense of urgency for “mitine” , many recalling historic times of social isolation of the lower casts/class which resulted in social division, loss of significant relationships with friends and neighbors; they also recall times of the Maoist insurgency who forced them to abolish traditions of “untouchables” which did not result in punishment from the Gods are previously believed. The importance of “miteri” is blatantly clear from the perspective of the marginalized and becoming prominent among the privileged as values of universal respect, love, and dignity are realized.
Ms. Radha Paudel strongly believes that our “Birthplace is not our choice” thus neither are our artificial identities which alienate the human race from each other, amputating us based on fictional borders within nations, bodies, communities, and families. “Miteri” is not only essential for social cohesiveness in Nepal’s society with its innumerable caste and ethnic societies but for the cultivation of world peace in this time of global division, and war. War is not simply when countries have active gun battles and warfare, and the “absence of war is not peace” as Ms. Paudel states, the world is at war now with the amount of global turbulence, lack of safety, harmony, and state of disturbance from the “developed” United States to the “developing” Nepal. “Miteri” is a foundation which serves to unite all people against inhumanity, work to dismantle the constricting social norms and identities which tightly regulate resources, relationships, and people; it serves the underserved, the marginalized and forgotten to provide resources and empowers communities. It is the ultimate choice for people of all identities to come together, forge a relationship and live together with love, dignity, justice, and equality forever.
 Dhakal, Suresh & Rawal, Nabin. (2017). Miteri Relations in FarWest Nepal : Ritual, Reciprocity and Reproduction of Social Relationship. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323613452_Miteri_Relations_in_FarWest_Nepal_Ritual_Reciprocity_and_Reproduction_of_Social_Relationship