Few months back, I had a chance to give training to women on the issue of Violence against Women. During the interaction, one of the women shared that she was asked by her husband why she went to attend the training. Did she get diamonds, by any chance, attending the program?
She then replied, “If there would be diamonds, you’d probably have been part of it. I go there; I get knowledge, and get to know what my rights are.”
The biggest struggle of women is struggle for identity and equal decision making power at home: their right to dignified life of their own choice. CHOICE, I must say, is a big term for women to exercise; it is still a hurdle. Well, as it goes, every dark cloud has its silver lining. The formation of international conventions and national legislations are embedded on those numerous told and untold stories of women from different corners of the world; those reported and unreported “stories of women of and for CHANGE”.
Even today, Practices of Kamalari and Badi women still continue. Excessive laborious work during menstruation, deprivation of nutritious foods, unhygienic rooms are common features during Chhaupadi. Violence against women is still a neglected issue. Women have limited choice in regard to their fertility. Ten years down the legalization women still aren’t aware of the legalization and lack access to safe abortion services. There are lots of problems related with Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) that need serious attention as they are intertwined with socio-economic and cultural dimensions. Yet, these are problems and definitely with work, we can come out with solutions.
Reflecting on the journey that I have made so far, I come to realize how fortunate I am to be blessed with such a supportive family. As I was growing, I was inspired to be a doctor that I chose to take up science during my intermediate. I called it profession of humanity. However, my life had different calling. My zeal to work for human rights started with the story of that girl who had been victim of domestic violence; who chose to leave her family, and ended up nowhere. She was cursed by everyone because she wanted to live freely on her own. I didn’t understand various norms of society. I argued what was her fault. I wanted to study society closely. Then I landed up studying law. I realized that whatever discipline you choose’ if you work with passion and faith, you can become a beacon for change. I chose to study law to advocate for their unheard voices. That is how I prepared myself all these years.
This January, I had a chance to be a part of “Young Women for Change” project organized by Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON), funded by International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), which works for the advancement of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of women (SRHR). The main event of the project was Young Women Caucus which was a consultation on Beijing +20.The platform brought together enthusiastic young women working through different organizations on the field of SRHR. They are the representative voices of number of committed young women who have been actively advocating in this field, focusing on common ideas of SRHR. Strong determination for change would possibly help to acquire desired changes through changing mind-set.
This consultation was a good platform for experts to share their experiences and knowledge for the advancement in SRHR. Young Women focused on where our laws and policies currently stand regarding fulfillment of these rights. This was an important realization to address the issue in more brief and concise manner. The caucus allowed a collection of intellect and knowledge to shape up ideas for giving recommendations to the state bodies. It identified concerning areas and analyzed on various issues including service provider attitudes towards maintaining confidentiality and privacy rights of the consumers; continuation of ill traditional practices, blind beliefs and superstitious rituals which have tangled the lives of women within its sphere succinctly depriving enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive rights.
Now I have come to realize the rights and duties are merely incorporated in the languages of law through various conventions and legislations but their effectiveness and practicality in day to day life reflects on reality. Participating in a day long consultation on Young Women Caucus with the different thematic issues raised on SRHR, I realized that SHRH is not something limited as a right to health but has an enlarged dimension with right to dignified life. Further, the issue of SRHR cannot be isolated from the socio-economic status of the society. Thus, it also tried to dig out the causes of the problem and accordingly recommended the state from the perspective of different disciplines.
Now with the support of diverse disciplines, we shall support and work to fight for the rights of women and get our voices heard for the change. Thus, when we happen to land up in this platform where the words we utter have the possibility of making policies, we shall use them to advocate for the rights of the women, to the fullest possible. Words fall short in describing the seed of inspiration that this project has implanted in young women like us who wish to continue their journey of change.
By: Roshi Bhandaree, Young Lawyer-Advisory Member- “Young Women For change”
Edited By:.Ms. Smriti Thapa, Coordinator-“Young Women For Change”