KATHMANDU, Oct 9: One in four girls are involved in child labor, and just two in 10 women can read and write in Nepali, states the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) report.
A report of Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) reports that almost 40% of survivors of child sexual abuse and rape are girls below 18 years of age. Most of them are abused at home, in educational institutions, workplaces, or any given place.
These are just some of the problems that can be listed whilst going through the various reports collected from institutions in Kathmandu working for the betterment of the girl child in Nepal.
It has been evident that the status of the girl child has not seen extraordinary changes in the past and that it needs a boost.
Keeping this in mind, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2011 to establish October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child.
Celebrating the day and to bring together adolescents and youth from all corners of the country to help collect information for the National Action Plan that is to be formulated by the National Planning Commission (NPC), Government of Nepal and NPC in partnership with an Inter Agency Task Team (IATT) consisting of UNFPA, UNICEF, CWIN, Plan Nepal, Save the Children, and UNESCO is holding a conference for Holistic Development of Adolescents in Godavari from October 7 to 9.
The first ever International Day of the Girl Child is being celebrated with the theme of “Ending Child Marriage” which is very much prevalent in Nepal.
The three-day conference, which has been put together by Future Search, a methodology adopted for a prosperous future for the adolescents in Nepal by Pragya Management, consisted of over 100 participants from all around Nepal.
Pawan Mahara, 17, who is in Kathmandu to participate in the conference from Siraha, talking to Republica, said that in her district the problems of child marriage, dowry system, untouchability, inequality between a girl and a boy child are just some of the problems she can remember.
Yuvraj Bhusal, Member Secretary of the National Planning Commission, speaking at the National Future Search Conference for Holistic Development of Adolescents 2012 at Godavari in Lalitpur on Sunday.
“I’m sure there are more problems but those are in my mind right now,” says Pawan.
Sarita BK, 16, from Arghakhanchi, echoes with Pawan and says that untouchability is not just a problem of Siraha but the whole of Nepal.
“I myself have suffered from this social stigma and I still do. People don’t let me into their houses sometimes because I belong to the Dalit community. Their behavior is different,” she shares.
Both her parents are educated and work in Kathmandu while Sarita is a part of the Bal Club in her village. She, along with her friends, tries and creates awareness against such social stigmas which shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Sairta, who has traveled to most of the villages in Siraha District, adds that child marriage is another big problem.
“Even though there is a law, people aren’t aware of the consequences,” says she.
In Nepal, 34% of total marriages are with girls below 16 years. Some 7% of child marriages take place with children below 10 years. The existing practices of dowry in many parts of the country further provokes child marriages in the society, according to a report of UNICEF.
“Along with child marriage, I think another big problem for most young girls is the ‘Chhaupadi Pratha’,” says 18-year-old Seema Chaudhary from Kailali.
According to another participant, Vivek Khadka, 18, from Bajhang, the system is also very much prevalent in far west Nepal.
“Instead of taking care of the girls, they are separated from their families and this is mental torture to the young girls,” puts Vivek who thinks society is also to be blamed for this.
“That girls are considered untouchables during their menstruation period is a social stigma, which has to be removed,” opines Binita Paudel, 18, from Makwanpur.
Talking along the same lines, Seema says that religion has also, to some extent, created social stigmas.
Participants of the same conference pose for a picture at Godavari in Lalitpur on Sunday.
“Girls don’t have cremation rights and other things that follow after a family member dies. Only a son can offer sacred offerings (pinda) on a yearly basis. Those who have a son go to heaven and those who have girls go to hell. These are just some beliefs that people hold, which isn’t true,” shares Seema.
All the problems that the adolescents have to face can be solved with education and reduced poverty is what all of the participants, who spoke to Republica, had to say.
“It’s due to illiteracy and poverty and also lack of information that people still go ahead with child marriage and believe in various social stigmas,” said Jaya Ram Lamichanne, 17, of Kaski, adding, “If only when everyone is educated and living above poverty, these problems can be solved.”
What are the problems of adolescents prevalent in your district?
In Makwanpur, the tradition of getting children married at young age is very much prevalent. Even though there are laws stating that child marriage is illegal, people still do it.
Bal Club and concerned authorities from NGOs do intervene but parents still insist on continuing with the tradition.
Also, the dowry system still prevails, so much so that many grooms actually return (empty-handed) because the bridal demands can’t be met. This is sad.
I think parents need to be more aware of and more responsible to their children.
Aparna Rai, 19, Makwanpur
The main problem for adolescent girls in the far western parts of Nepal is the Chhaupadi Pratha, where girls have to live separately and aren’t fed well and taken care of when they start their menstruation cycle.
That’s the time when they need most care from their parents. But instead, they are separated from everyone, and this can actually lower the morale of such girls.
Vivek Khadka, 18, Bajhang