While women and girls make up over half the global population, their circumstances in places around the world are often still far from equal to that of their male counterparts. In Nepal, women and girls are overwhelmingly less likely to be invested in both in terms of educational and governmental resources, and longstanding taboos and traditions, like chhaupadi, frequently leave them in disadvantageous or even outrightly dangerous circumstances.
Early marriage is common for girls in Nepal — nearly 40% are married before age 18, despite a law banning marriage before age 20 — and young brides are often compelled to give birth before reaching physical maturity themselves which leads to myriad risks for both these young mothers and their newborns. Nepali women also receive less pay for equal work — if they get paid at all.
The British-based organization Womankind Worldwide, estimates that 61% of Nepali women are unpaid for their work, primarily domestic labor.
And even something as basic as menstrual care can be fraught with societal pressures, especially in less developed regions of the country. Many families and communities still force menstruating girls and women to retreat to rickety sheds or lean-tos with no heat, electricity, or running water for the duration of their periods each month.
This compulsory isolation, called chhaupadi, stems from a dated belief that the wider community needs protection from the “impurity” of menstruation. This practice places girls and women at risk of dangerous complication and even death due to freezing, poor sanitation, animal attacks, snake bites, and sexual predation. Though this practice was technically outlawed in 2008, it continues to exist throughout the country, especially in rural villages, and poor to inaccurate information about basic biology, hygiene, and women’s reproductive care runs rampant.
In recent years, the Nepali government has mades strides, like banning child marriage and the practice of chhaupadi, to reverse some of these ingrained customs. In 2008, following a decade of civil war and a regime change from a monarchy to a democratic republic, a new Nepali constitution decreed that women must hold at least one third of federal parliament seats. According to UN Women, the measure worked, and Nepal went from just 2% female representation then to an unprecedented “33% of Federal Parliament, 36% across all seven provincial assemblies, and 40% in the Mentropolitan, Sub Metropolitan, and Rural municipalities” currently. ^
There is still much work to do though, so as Nepal – and the rest of the world – strive for gender equality, we here at Himalayan Youth Foundation (in partnership with HCF) are working to do our part. Today we’re excited to share the launch of a brand new educational and community initiative at Kailash Home, Girl1!
The Girl1 program, through community building events and workshops, aims to empower not only the girls of Kailash Home but their male peers as well. By facilitating structured opportunities for education and open dialogue, Girl1 will enable everyone in the Kailash community, from the staff to all of our children, to create prosperous, secure, and equal lives not just for themselves, but also for their families and communities. Led by female administrative staff member Dhamchoe Sherpa, Girl1 activities span a wide variety of relevant topics with Nepali women leaders and role models collaborating to share their expertise and experiences.
In the month since the official launch of this new program, Girl1 staff at Kailash Home have successfully completed two different workshops with staff and our #KailashKids, and we’re looking forward to sharing more details about those and future events with you.
For now though, we hope you’ll join us in supporting this important cause by joining our online Girl1 community and reading more about how to get involved on the Girl1 page. We’re completely committed to this initiative because at HYF we believe in the power of one girl to change the trajectory of the world. #OneGirlHerWorld