Nepal | March 29, 2020

‘Needs of women often overlooked in crisis’

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, April 1

The ‘Dignity First’ campaign launched by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and United Nations Population Fund after the devastating earthquakes last year continues in the quake-affected districts.

The Department of Women and Children partnered with UNFPA to distribute kits containing clothes, sanitary items, and torch lights to women and girls in the quake-affected districts, said Bijaya Kumari Prasain, who leads the National Protection Cluster at the department.

The Women and Children Office this week distributed dignity kits to women and girls, mainly pregnant and lactating mothers, who survived the March 3 fire that engulfed 36 houses in Mainar of Kapilvastu district, said Prasain.

When women and girls experience traumatic events such as the last earthquake, the recent fire in Dang or during normal circumstances, they need support to maintain their personal hygiene and safety.

“We have found that the basic needs of women such as security and hygiene are often overlooked during emergency situations. The ‘Dignity First’ campaign was a call to respect and honor the needs of women and girls,” said Giulia Vallese, UNFPA representative to Nepal.

“Female-friendly spaces and maternity units were set up, reproductive health mobile camps were held in the earthquake affected districts, to cater to adolescents, pregnant women and post-partum mothers,” she added.

Even under normal circumstances, women and girls face a special set of risks and challenges that need special attention and this is the reason why this campaign has gone beyond the earthquake response, the DWC director said.

In the far-west, adolescent girls are advocating for the campaign, calling for the need to protect the dignity of vulnerable women and girls and to empower them so that they could play a role in rebuilding their lives and communities.

“Our district has high rates of child marriage and gender-based violence. Child marriage robs girls of their dignity and puts them at risk of early and unwanted pregnancies, posing life-threatening consequences. Gender-based violence also undermines women’s right to dignity,” said 18-year-old Bimala Joshi of Majhigaun-7, Bajhang, who was recently in Kathmandu to take part in the “Girl Summit”.

The 12th grader and a peer educator said her friends also keep telling local leaders and community people that special needs of women and girls should not be forgotten in times of crisis and during normal circumstances.

According to Joshi, members of adolescent girls’ circles in her VDC liaise with the WCO Bajhang and the UNFPA field office to advocate for the campaign.

Apart from the advocacy at the national level the campaign is under way in several districts that we support across the country, integrating reproductive health and protection needs of women and girls into one thread,” said the UNFPA representative.

It’s encouraging to see young people advocating for the campaign and campaigning for women’s and girls’ right to dignity and well-being in districts like Bajhang, Baitadi, Dang, Sunsari, Rautahat and Sindhuli, she said.

A version of this article appears in print on April 11, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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