Mannish From Kingdom of Bhutan and Her Changing Environments

This case study is about a 61- year- old woman named Manisha from Bhutan, Asia. She demonstrated resilience throughout her adult life in response to multiple changes in her environment. Manisha’s life illustrates how she was able to improve her quality of life through human agency despite numerous human rights violations. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was formed to provide a standard universal basis for all humans (UN General Assembly, 1948). These human rights are not dependent upon “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status” (UN General Assembly, 1948). However, the inconsistency in the implementation of this policy was evident in Manisha’s life.

Manisha was born into a farming family, the youngest of 7 children, in a small rural village in Bhutan. Education was not widely endorsed and Manisha’s right to a free, elementary education was violated by the UDHR, Article 26 since she only completed the second grade (UN General Assembly, 1948). Manisha proceeded to get married and have four sons. She provided food for her family by tending to the vegetable garden on her property, while her husband worked as a contractor. They owned property and enjoyed prosperity. Both her right to marry, Article 16, and have a family and own property, Article 17, were respected (UN General Assembly, 1948).

The stability in Manisha’s life was first threatened when the government opposed her Nepali ethnic group in 1988 due to their Hindu beliefs. This political oppression became a turning point which led Manisha’s family on a difficult trajectory for close to two decades. The Nepali’s were denied citizenship, forbidden to speak their language, and not able to work. The Bhutanese government violated the UDHR, Article 2 when they made a distinction in how people were treated based upon their religion and language (UN General Assembly, 1948). Two life events occurred that were violations under UDHR’s Article 9 for Manisha and her husband (UN General Assembly, 1948). First, Manisha’s husband was arrested arbitrarily and imprisoned for 18 months, then a year later Manisha was told to leave the country.

Three months after first leaving Bhutan, Manisha’s family finally found safety at a Nepali refugee camp. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided crowded, but safe living conditions for the refugees and UDHR’s Article 14 was respected. Although Manisha’s family received shelter and food, clothes and personal hygiene items were scarce. In effect, UDHR’s Article 25 was both respected and violated (UN General Assembly, 1948). Since Manisha’s children attended school while at the camp, Article 26 was respected (UN General Assembly, 1948).

Manisha demonstrated human agency in making choices when she earned money working as the camp’s deputy secretary. In addition, she was part of a cohort of women, similar in age and situation, and she provided them with emotional support. However, after seventeen years Manisha and her family wanted to return home to Bhutan. Since it wasn’t a possibility, they sought to change their citizenship to Nepal. They were not able to do this despite their shared Nepali culture and the existence of UDHR’s Article 15, which offers the right to change nationality (UN General Assembly, 1948). Manisha’s family was encouraged by the UNHCR to make a transition and immigrate to the United States (U.S.) for a better life.

Arrival in the United States marked a turning point for Manisha and her family. At first, Manisha was lonely since she was physically and emotionally isolated from people. This was due in part because her family moved to the U.S. in three different stages. Initially, she was separated from three of her children and their families and experienced a loss of their linked lives. Many family relationships can provide comfort and support especially during times of transition.

After a year Manisha developed greater self-awareness when she noticed the negative difference that she was experiencing in her quality of life in the U.S. This was despite her previous success acclimating to life in a completely new environment. At the refugee camp, Manisha lived with many people, had strong connections, and was employed. Yet during her first year in the U.S., Manisha only interacted with her husband, and son and his wife, and lived separated from the outside world.

This realization caused Manisha to step outside of her comfort zone in order to better acclimate to the new environment. She enrolled in an English as a Second Language (ESL) class and gained employment at a school cafeteria to practice speaking English. These opportunities served to increase her confidence living in a new country. Manisha has now made connections and formed friendships with people from both America and Nepal. Manisha is currently taking a citizen preparation class because of Article 15, the right to change nationality is being respected (UN General Assembly, 1948) .

Like Manisha, her grown children and in-laws have also adjusted to life in the United States. They learned English and have all obtained some type of employment. Manisha is glad her grandchildren are enrolled in school and doing well. Unfortunately, Manisha’s husband hasn’t transitioned as well to his new environment. He is isolated since he isn’t working or attending classes to improve his English speaking skills. Although Manisha and her husband practice their Hindu faith at home, they don’t have access to the Hindu Center since they lack transportation. It seems that Manisha’s husband has not been able to restore the dignity and self-respect that he once had in Bhutan when he owned property and was employed as a contractor.

Social Cognitive Psychologist, Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy offers insight into how Manisha has successfully resettled in the U.S. while her husband did not. Manisha believed that she could make choices to positively influence her life despite the adversity she faced in a new environment. Bandura states that “After people become convinced they have what it takes to succeed, they persevere in the face of adversity and quickly rebound from setbacks. By sticking it out through tough times, they emerge stronger from adversity.” (Bandura, 1994). Manisha’s life demonstrates how human agency allowed her to survive and become mentally stronger despite the numerous violations of human rights.

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