GIRLS! GET YOURSELF IN THE GAME!!!

Why play sports? One might say “to get some good exercise” while some might say “To have fun”. That’s all true. But there’s more. In fact, there are many more girls who play sports to achieve a lot more than just being fit.best

Sports have been one of the most important socio-cultural learning experiences for boys and men for many years. And no doubt those same benefits should be afforded to our daughters too. But, have you ever pondered how many girls do you see playing in neighborhood, local play grounds? Do you actually see them playing? Have you ever realized that sports are equally important for girls?

One of the major hindrances are the cultural reasons which prohibit a girl even just to outdoor space ignited with discouragement from school, parents and inadequate  facilities, consequently creating an illusion that sports are definitely not for women and girls. The strong myths about girls ought not to look muscular or sporty is also one of the contributing factors for leaving them behind in the arena of sports. Often there is an additional lack of access to adequate playing facilities near their homes and obviously everyone marking their words, “Look! What a shame, that girl is playing football” which makes it more difficult for girls to engage in sports. Because of all this reasons we are not been able to express the love and interest for the games.blogSunaGirls-672x372

I still vividly remember, when I was a kid even I was not allowed to play the games or 536190_10152714566700608_767011286_ninvolve in sports just because I was a girl. Although, I wanted to play outdoor and explore I was always kept indoor with dolls and a sister to play with. And what I got to play was those “girly games” which I liked but I always wanted something more. Seeing my love for just a football match on TV, my mom gifted me a football on my birthday when I was 13 which left me with sheer happiness. I had very few friends who played football with me but my sister and my pet dog always accompanied me. I then continued my passion for football and played during my school days, high school and I still play at my college. Playing football doesn’t make me shameful. It gives me intense pleasure, happiness and inspires me to achieve goals.

Studies have shown that girls who are involved in sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression. Evidences also highlight that these girls and women have a more positive body image and experience higher state of psychological well-being than those who do not play sports.  But, people of our country are not well acquainted with all these consequences. Rather we find increased drop outs because any sport require a proper place to participate and for many girls, especially in dense urban environments, this means traveling to facilities through unsafe neighborhoods or lacking any means to get to a good facility miles away. And if there isn’t a safe option like carpooling with other families, the only option for a girl and her family may be to stay home.

Should we stop our girls by showing all these problems? Or should we give them opportunities or facilities and let them involve in the sports and help them build confidence, self-esteem and teach them the importance of team work, leadership. Sports participation may meet the development need of adolescent girls and even encourage them to achieve new horizon and wisdom filled experiences.

However, I feel that the sole motto that every player must follow is that “Play for fun”! Don’t worry about excelling the game, just participate, as playing is more important than winning. As being a sport lover, I just want to say that girls should try to know the real inner self and not just holding back and no doubt the real beauty will be reflected in one’s confidence. There will definitely be odds in your way and whatever others say, you should have the strong will in your heart, which you should play with. Those inspirations from players, that hard work and team work during the games helped me gain confidence as I knew that I can practice, improve and achieve my goals. It has certainly helped me to lessen my stress and feel a lot happier and healthier.

It’s not just that the people who are going to do well in life play sports, but that sports help people do better in life!!! Cheers!!! GirlPower-journee-de-la-femme

 

Written By: Romina Pant

Edited by: Elisha Joshi and Insha Pun

GO WILD FOR LIFE

Zero Tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade

Since my early childhood, I had this greatest fascination for nature, its beauty and natural images (3)habitat. This duly propelled my study and exposure in Environmental studies. However, my growing interest for wildlife became substantial since my recent field visit to National Parks of Western Nepal. Coincidentally, this year’s theme for World Environment Day is “Go Wild for Life”.

There is no doubt  that wildlife is mother nature’s greatest treasure which not only helps in maintaining the ecological balance but it also sum up the economic, recreational and aesthetic value. As human population has grown, the subsequent expansion in agriculture area, settlement area and development activities have led to decrease in wildlife and its habitat. The greedy men for one’s pleasure and access to variety of sea foods, leather goods, timbers, medicinal ingredients and textiles have played vital role in its booming illegal trade in wildlife products and eroding earth’s precious biodiversity.

It seems to be likes ages when human impedance was minimum and wildlife was maximum resulting in no issues with respect to conservation and wildlife protection. At present, this scenario seems to be quite a distant dream to achieve.

In Nepal, poaching and illicit trade of wildlife, particularly comprising Asian big cats, and horn of one horned Rhinoceros has been a major concern. In response to which NTNC, WWF and other organizations with the help of Nepalese Government is taking major initiative to close down trade routes and transit markets  for illegal wildlife by including improved stronger policies, awareness campaigns, investments in community conservation and law enforcement have  definitely drawn some silver linings. As a result, anti-poaching units (APUs) were formed in Chitwan National Park (CNP) and Bardia National Park (BNP) to reduce the level of poaching of tigers and rhinos. Nepal is also signatory and party to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and had in place all legal and institutional instruments to address wildlife trade issues.

But, let me highlight the issues of wildlife trade goes beyond the border of one single country. Hence, it is very important to have effective cross border cooperation and collaboration which will slow the issues in coming days.

The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade now more than ever, threatening to overturn decades of conservation gains. In 2011, ivory estimated to weigh more than 23 metric tons was seized in the 13 largest seizures of illegal ivory. Poaching definitely threatens the last of our wild tigers that just numbers around 3,890. Nevertheless, Nepal has also been influenced by this booming market. Corruption, toothless laws, weak judicial systems and light sentence have reverberation on illegal trades which ultimately threatens our endangered flora and fauna.

The more I ponder on the current scenario, the more frustrated I become as I our skills, knowledge, equipments and power all draining. Every day, we hear more and more crime stories and it may cause possible extinction of the wild life in near future. We are responsible to change the situation in coming days with changing the habit of our choices. Obviously, we know that poaching is senseless activity fueled by greed. And today’s poaching is escalating throughout the world and illegal trade supports the poacher’s activities. As a result of these crimes, not only are the animals and plants in peril but has created huge ecological imbalance.

Let’s celebrate this year theme, by being part of Campaign on June 5 to end the illegal trade in wildlife. We should create our own reality through the choices by encouraging people to change their habit and behaviors so that the demand for illegal wildlife products falls. Let’s put wildlife in our hearts and its future in our hands. More awareness and action should be pushed from the grassroots level so that they can safeguard the species for future generations. Whoever you are, whatever you do and wherever you live, show zero-tolerance for the illegal trade in wildlife in word and deed, and make a difference.

– Pratistha Thapa

June-5th-Go-Green-Love-Your-Environment-World-Environment-Day

KHELAUNA PRADARSHANI- The Toy Exhibition

“ I am a nurse, I bring out vitality in those who seem lifeless”.

I still vividly remember, it was March 30th, 8.20 am bed in the medical ward of Kanti Baal Hospital when I heard this soft and soothing voice uttering the words, ‘I have ALM.’ This very day, I believe that the almighty thought of  me, my young  immature mind worthy to know about something that is above the trivial things like religion, land, money over which certainly the entire human race are battling for. The voice came from a small 7 year old girl to whom due to the lesson she taught me that day compelled me to call her and name her as seven year old lady. With a weak smile though her swollen little gums, thin, emaciated tiny body yet with sparkling shimmering eyes, she repeated, ‘I have ALM’. Though, I was initially reluctant to correct her, I regret burping the words,” Baini, its AML, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, not ALM “. I hate to admit that my 20 year old mind could not comprehend as to why  she drew close to me, held my hands with a grin on her face and said, ‘Didi, with each passing day, I want to live, I miss my Baba, my Mitini, my home back at Palpa. But they say without my medicines and treatment here at Kathmandu I will never be able to return home.’ I merely could gather my sense for a reply as a seven year old girl who had not known the world found it to be so beautiful than myself who had wished numerous times to die because of not being able to bear this terrible world. I felt disheartened, miserable and tears rolled down my cheeks as I flipped the chart and discovered the diagnosis to be as ‘Refractory AML’.

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With great pride, I would love to admit that this very girl became the ultimate source of inspiration to all the B.NS 1st  year and Bsc.Nursing 3rd year students of JFIHS/LA to conduct the toy exhibition at Kanti Baal Hospital, Maharajganj on Monday (11 April ) with whole new zeal and enthusiasm since everybody of us wanted her and other little patients of the hospital to be happy at least for one day. Nevertheless, this exhibition was also a pre-requisite of our Nursing’s Curriculum. IMG_20160411_103615 (1)

 

On the very day of the exhibition, the hall was filled with hustle and bustle, panic and nervousness, fear and anxiety all at the same time and the show began at around 11 am where we had arranged an array of exhibits constituting our innovative toy materials demonstrating the marvelous inter-connectedness between our ideas and thoughts. We had set up 5 different stalls based on the principle put forth by psychologists; Freud, Erikson, Jean Piaget and their psychosexual, psychosocial, and cognitive developments respectively for different age groups viz Infants (1 month to 1 year), Toddlers(1year -3 year), Preschoolers(3year to 6 year), Schooler (6year to 12 years) and Adolescents(12 year to 19).

image-c4e250f3cb7f2b15f102ce2b03b639ed4a9703a59488c80763919b0599eeb1ef-VThough all the creative toys exhibited at the stalls were worth describing,  some of them were absolutely prominent, hard to go unnoticed and had captured the attention of every child of respective age groups. To describe a few were; ‘Colour games’ where the toddlers were required to identify and put the coloured cartoon fruits into their respective coloured baskets.

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‘Go with the flow’ was another game crafted out of water bottles placed on a zig zag fashion on a board where the child had to put the ball at one end of bottle which travel down the zig zag path and finally end on board.

Meanwhile, the preschooler stall also saw many young painters enthusiastically taking part at colour books and the T.V with different channels, guitar, football, games like snookers, chess board, table tennis also pulled down its own particular group of audiences.

The innumerable educative and illustrative pictures proved to be effective for delivering informal health teaching on variety of topics like breast feeding, immunization schedule and its importance, accident prevention, promotion of growth and development, personal hygiene its methods and importance, sexual health and development, drug abuse and menstrual hygiene practices, etc.

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Much of all the panic and anxiety faded and it all reversed to positive interactions, laughter, contentment, happiness and joy at the end of the day. I still clearly remember the girl, who was counting her very last days was all the way sprightly as ever as she participated actively in all the games and teachings. I could see her face glowing just like a twinkling star as she moved from one stall to another as if with each new expression she wore, she painted a new hue in the world’s multitude of colors. Eventually, this made her the impeccable dawn of illumination for me at that moment for which I pleaded to the Divine being for some magical to happen.

That evening on my way back to home, I expressed my gratitude towards the divinity for everything he created to be so beautiful and charming. Reminiscing the whole day, amidst the bustling street of Kathmandu I could not hold myself from bursting into tears.

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In the end, we realized that the most priceless gift given with this exhibition was to see those grim, lifeless faces, uninterested initially, feared little hands with cannula had transformed into active, giggling, cheerful, lively smiles and laughter and all these etched deeply into our minds for eternity.

Writer: Insha Pun

Humanitarian crisis

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It was indeed like any other fine Saturday morning until the mind boggling mishap took place. I was blissfully discussing one of the recent programs concerning menstrual hygiene for around 15 young girls. I was feeling hungry, so my brother had gone upstairs to brew something for me on my request. Amidst all of this, the jolting started.  Mild at first, this grew stronger and stronger by the second. It was as if the building itself had begun to jump and dance with great enthusiasm. I could not help but laugh along with my cousin in disbelief, for it was my first experience of such a big tremor.  It was 12th of Baisakh, 2072 the day when the massive earthquake hit our country Nepal.

Rather than being panic stricken and running towards open ground, like most of my neighbours, I waited in a safe place for the tremors to draw to a close. After disengaging the gas cylinder and main electric plug, I stepped out of the house. Within 5 minutes, my four enthusiastic young volunteers and I were all set to help and serve.

“The two most important days of your life consist of the day you were born and the day you realize why.” It was at that very moment I envisioned that I had been trained all these years and equipped with all my knowledge for this moment. This horrific crisis, that loomed in a threatening shadow over our heavy heads.  It was then that all my experiences and training in psychological support, leadership, life skills and experience with the Red Cross was put to the test.  Along with my profession itself as a nurse, all had a purpose in giving me the ability to help the needy and helpless. Since the very first day of the devastating quake, I volunteered in the field of first aid and psychological support in the role of service provider/trainer and continue to do so till date.

The Nepal earthquake of 2015 gave me a clear picture of what one girl can do during a crisis if she has been trained and given freedom to explore different dimensions of life. It goes to show that gender is completely irrelevant when lives are at stake.  The only factor of value was the passion to provide service to humanity. Why is it that this notion has not prevailed eternally?  Has humanity sunk to so low a point that we need to be threatened with a crisis in order to believe and make a difference?

Written By: Pabitra Basnet
Edited by: Elisha Joshi

TECHNOLOGY: A GENDER ISSUE

Everyone has creativity within them; it’s just the matter of unlocking that creativity- Christina Cantors

Pensive me !!!

Pensive me !!!

While I was growing up, I meagerly thought of being an “engineer”. Either we have it in our own dreams that we decide who we are going to be in future or have that role model in our family who would shape our dream. For me, I couldn’t find a single female role model in technology in my entire family. My parents always pursued me for medicine as they usually do in our part of world but I had my other plans.  Ever since I remember I wanted to fly high in the clear blue sky. Despite constant family pressure, my dream of becoming a pilot propelled me to choose math instead of biology in my high school. However, pretty soon I had the cognizance of bitter reality of huge financial requirement to study pilot. This prompted me to opt for detour. I wanted my dream to rest for a while as the fondness of being pilot never vanished from my mind. I gave myself a second thought  regarding my career and  started questioning  myself why  did  I have a thirst for technology? Honestly, I’m not so sure of any particular answer but when I dug deeper, I found my answer. I chose engineering because I had that true fondness for airplanes flying high in the sky. I always wondered how they landed at exact place where they want to, meaning how did they communicate in this process of navigation.

Women in technology !!!

Women in technology !!!

Department of telecommunication engineering

Department of telecommunication engineering

This motivated me to pursue my undergraduate studies in telecommunication engineering in my neighboring country. To be surprised, I was the only international female student in my department. When you are a woman engineer, most people have some kind of opinion ready for you. Brave, genius and man-ish are among the many labels that you get during this journey. Some even condemn for it. I never understood these remarks, but since females are scarce in engineering, people believe that there must be some special reason that I was pursuing it. No wonders many of my Nepalese friends who were in the same city studying nursing often asked my motivation for engineering. They too might have some sort of unspoken aforementioned label for me. However, my answer to them would be nothing. I never thought of explaining my dreams to every other person. As it is said that dreams are personal and so was mine.

Young women in technology !!!

Young women in technology !!!

Debunking myth: Engineers do have fun !!!

Debunking myth: Engineers do have fun !!!

Studying various subjects in four year duration was totally challenging but exciting as well. Subjects like Micro wave and radar, Satellite communication, Optical communication networking, Computer communication networking, Digital signal processing and algorithms, Network security etc allured me the most.  Life wasn’t easy in an alien land. But I had always been blessed with my caring and supportive siblings who were always there for me in times of need. Initially, I felt left out in terms of gender and nationality but as soon as I found my space, It felt like next home to me. What inspired me during those days were young women of different departments from the various states of India doing remarkable  and excelling academically.

Connecting Women in Technology ful logo_thumbSeveral studies on women in technology have shown that a lack of support for women to get into these fields is a major cause of low interest. Well the studies have also suggested that young women are unable to find strong female role models who encourage them to pursue stem majors. Meanwhile, academicians and professors in this field of technology if are female, will act as propelling factor to choose ones career in the same field.

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Young women of our generation are well exposed with technological advancement. If we look at the global instances, they have even marveled it. Regardless of the various technological advancements women have achieved in the past decade, bitter reality is that, the world of technology has always been dominated by men. Amidst all these shades, a silver lining is seen in the form of overwhelming popularity of women in technology over the last few years.

Women in Front line !!!

Women in Front line !!!

Does this popularity end the stereotypes for women who aim to pursue a technology-based occupation? I am sure it doesn’t.  Because of these gender stereotypes, young women of today are reluctant to join field of technology. However, there are success stories to share and learn from, women have been able to accomplish great technological advancements and maintain high positions in technology-related careers. Ada Lovelace, designer of algorithm of the first computer and have transformed to the various systems we have today, Henrietta Swan Leavitt joined the Harvard “computers”, a group of women engaged in the making of astronomical data at Harvard. Furthermore, there are many more women’s CEO viz Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, Leila Janah of Sama Group. Women as vice presidents Cindy Gates of Microsoft, Kim Stevenson of Intel, Cindy Mackenzie of Fox entertainment are to name few among many others. However, this is so small figure in this vast world of technology.

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Few months ago, the world celebrated 20th anniversary of Beijing conference. For those who are unaware of this conference, please view previous posts of this blog or google it immediately. Women in educations and training has been identified has key area of concern by Beijing conference in 1995 in advancing gender equality and women empowerment. Women should enter these men dominated fields and area  in advancing gender equality. The era of today is the era of technology and networking, to be specific social networking. If women have access to these technology spaces, they can create women friendly technology. For examples, technology can be used to combat violence against women by creating safety mobile applications and other technology for advocacy of women’s right issues. These were the information shared by my siblings who attended the 20th review of this amazing conference. I learnt tons from her.

Technology : A gender Issue

Technology : A gender Issue

As for me, technology was never a gender issue, it was my dream. Now with the knowledge regarding gender and observing the existing differences from my surrounding, I can see how it is and should be a gender issue. The impact it can have in the entire world and lives of women across the world is humongous. So, it has been imperative for young women like us to enter these so called forbidden spaces and to create our own space. To sum up,  let me quote my favorite singer Ms. Cyrus and her song CLIMB to all the other young women who are aspiring to land in the field of technology. Girls it’s tough but believe me it’s worth it!!!

Graduation !!!

Graduation !!!

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CLIMB

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta  keep my head held high

Read more: Miley Cyrus – The Climb Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Written By: Ms. Swikriti Thapa, Ms. Thapa is a Telecommunication Engineer.

Edited by: Ms. Smriti Thapa

I HAVE A DREAM !!!

Originally Posted on : The ASAP Blog

If you can dream it, you can do it: Walt Disney

My journey as youth champion took a new turn when I got this opportunity to attend Asia Pacific conference on gender equality and women’s empowerment held in Bangkok. I am grateful to my mentors from Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP) for nominating me to that conference. Prior to the conference I also attended Advocacy in Practice (Aip) training organized by International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) which is a multi-day intensive training for young advocates like us to hone our skills in those UN negotiation spaces. I am always indebted to my mentors from IWHC for providing that undue inspiration for advocacy in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

11016041_10206160763318115_6490992293391457418_nI coordinated a project called “YOUNG WOMEN FOR CHANGE” which was funded by IWHC (International women health coalition) and organized by the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON). The main objective of this project was to facilitate the engagement of young women in Beijing20+ and further strengthen the country position in 59th Session of commission of status of women (CSW) especially on SRHR. As a part of this project we conducted a first young women caucus in Nepal, where around 60 young women working in the field of SRHR participated and provided their expertise opinion on the needs and issues surrounding SRHR of young women particularly of that of key affected young population. We developed a position paper where we highlighted the need of young women followed by a strategic meeting with the government and members of civil society who were to attend the CSW in March.

Nepali Team at CSW

Nepali Team at CSW

1st day of dejection !!

1st day of dejection !!

As any other first timer, I was pretty much excited about 59th Session of commission on the status of women (CSW) as it was a historic 20th year review of the milestone laid for women in the form of the Beijing conference in 1995. The excitement didn’t last very long as I was disappointed on the very first day of CSW as the declaration which was adopted  wasn’t strong enough to guarantee the right of women in terms of her bodily autonomy. Things were gloomy for me as even after the 20 years of establishment of the platform of action the declaration failed to address the basic fundamental human right of women i.e the right to decide on her sexuality and make her reproductive decision by herself including termination of unwanted pregnancy guaranteed by access to legal and safe abortion services. The role of women human rights defenders and their contribution in advancing women’s right across the globe was also largely ignored not only in the political declaration but also in the working methodology. Amidst these rejections, I received a silver lining in the form of my country statement and its commitment in international arena to advance Sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls. Nepal’s further acknowledgement towards the burning issues of climate change and need of Beijing POFA to interlink with upcoming sustainable goals was also praiseworthy.

AiP 2.0

AiP 2.0

As first timer, things were very chaotic for me in the beginning. UN jargon and the different negotiations, its processes, its expected outcomes and how to acclimate myself by actively engaging in these spaces were my preconceived notions. Meanwhile, guidance of mentors from IWHC and their valuable words and also Advocacy in Practice training 2.0 prior to the conference made the entire navigation smooth.

AiP 2.0 team !!!

AiP 2.0 team !!!

March (1)

Getting ready for March for Equality !!

One of the most memorable moment from CSW was the march for Equality on 8th march on the auspicious occasion of International Women Day. Thousands of men and women from all around the world marched in the street of Newyork demanding equality. Hundreds of side events from organizations all over the world working for women in line with twelve critical areas for the Beijing platform of action were difficult to trace in the beginning. As Prochoice, I tried to attend those addressing the SRHR of women, especially of that of young women and found less of these spaces belonging to me. I also encountered many women against women in those spaces. For me it was so ironical, when these women were identifying themselves as one working for the right and welfare of women, but yet so against the very fundamental right of women and girls, the right to decide over one’s body. It was honestly very hypocritical for me. Amidst all these, working with young women from all around the world in formulating the youth SRHR statement and young feminist statement was really inspiring,

Team in formulation of Youth SRHR statement for post 2015

Team in formulation of Youth SRHR statement for post 2015

Young feminist  around the globe !!

Young feminist around the globe !!

With inspiring mentor Sarah !!!

With inspiring mentor Sarah !!!

Yes, even after the 20 years of Beijing declaration, it is very disappointing to say that no single country in the world has achieved the gender parity. I was astounded to find a practice of swapping of one right of women and girls over another in these negotiation spaces. Over the years, sexual and reproductive health and right has been the most debatable topic and given very less emphasis during the negotiation. I often wonder as how is the welfare of women guaranteed when they have no decision over their own body? With this ignorance of the majority of the states to fully ensure the right of its citizen by reducing the gender biased discriminatory laws gender equality and women empowerment will always remain an illusion. But as youth champion, a hope was instilled in me and I still have that flickering ray of hope for which I will pledge to strive now and in the future in my individual capacity, not only for the women of my country, but for women worldwide to speak for their rights, the basic of all; right to ones bodily autonomy. I have a dream, a dream to be part of that CSW in a future where SRHR of Women is acknowledged with full consensus by all the member states.

By SMRITI THAPA

MY BODY MY RIGHT: YOUNG FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way, on a quiet day, and I can hear her breathing: Arundhati Roy 

Originally posted on : The ASAP Blog

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Ever since my childhood, I vividly remember the subtle social differences that society had created for me. Among these, I remember being forced to give up my favorite sport—football, because it was supposed to be the game of my brother and not mine. I grew up and excelled academically and aspired to be a lawyer. I was objected to again. I was told that a profession which demanded leadership and knowledge on law and orders was not meant for me. I choose nursing instead.

Although equal opportunities were provided to study and to excel academically in home, there was a bias between my brothers and me. I was constantly groomed and reminded of lessons of how to behave like proper women viz the very etiquette of eating, walking, talking, laughing. Meanwhile, my brothers roamed around in the dark streets till late nights with no societal boundaries. The famous phrase directed towards us was “Girls should always take care of her lips and genitals” meaning they are not supposed to speak loud and rebellious and should stay virgin before marriage. The future role of me and my sisters were often shown or portrayed as weak and supplementary whereas my brothers were supposed to be strong and expected to lead the family in the future.

When I entered graduate school of Nursing with a major in women’s health and development, this is when the course of my life changed. This is when the existing differences in societal construct in terms of sex and gender were crystal clear. Gender roles were the societal expectation and were purely ascribed and in no way related to our biological differences. I slowly unraveled the origin and factors that perpetuated these roles generation after generation. These roles and their effect in women’s health and development was what interested me.

My knowledge was propelled further by the ASAP Youth Advocacy Institute which I attended 2 years ago. This institute helped me realize my new identity, “Feminist” (men and women who believe in feminism: a principle or belief that women’s have social, economic and political equality as that of men). It made me realize that I always had been a feminist even before I knew its literal meaning. What was lacking in me was that conviction and courage to speak for what I believed in and wanted for myself and for my future.

Since ages society has tried to keep women within predefined boundaries whereas men are set free. They are allowed to be as ambitious as they want, take their dream job and travel the world and most of all decide over their own bodies. However, when it comes to same access for women, they are labeled as antisocial and rebellious. In my view as a young feminist, the most powerful and the most liberating rights of women is freedom or choice to decide over her own body and her future. I truly believe that the power lies in choice. Choice to stay single or to get married, to remain virgin or to have sex before marriage, to choose one’s gender identity, to love men or women, to have or not to have children, to decide the number, timing and spacing of children, to keep the unwanted pregnancy or to abort it. And while doing so, they should have all the necessary information and means to make these choices in terms of sexuality and reproduction. These are our basic rights when we are being born as human.

When these rights are exercised by women then the new world will emerge……….

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Coercion, discrimination and violence while making these choices are often seen in terms of discriminatory laws and policies of the states. Politics often ruled by men and women with patriarchal notion have always tried their level best to hinder liberation of women in having control over their own body. Freedom of bodily integrity is seen more dangerous than atomic or nuclear power. It is reflected in terms of restrictive and discriminatory languages in international dialogues and conventions. It is a known fact that sex and sexuality is very basic to being born as human. It lies in the fundamental needs in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. However, talking about it or acknowledging the right of citizen towards sexual freedom is seen as threat to society in many countries in the world. Statistics of those same countries in the world reveals higher incidences of violence against women including rape and sexual violence, death of women during child birth and due to unsafe abortions as well. However, these societal gender inequalities affecting the health of the women are largely ignored in the national and international political as well as legislative framework.

A decade onwards now, when violence against women is slowly getting international attention as most of the states have ratified CEDAW (Convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women) and states are making laws and policies to address this issue which is commendable. Meanwhile, a fundamental question still remains unsolved. These countries in one hand are addressing violence against women but at the same time restricting women from terminating the unwanted pregnancies or providing limited choices on birth control. In doing so aren’t they perpetuating discrimination and violence against women? This indeed is violation of human right and violence against women. The state policies and laws seem hypocritical in this context.

A truly equal just world is only possible when half of the world population can live their life with freedom; decide over their future and their bodies without fear, shame, guilt, coercion, discrimination and violence. This is only possible when a state realizes sexual and reproductive health rights as fundamental rights of their citizen. And in doing so, they should empower young women and instill them with the power of choice. It is only through our power of choice over bodily autonomy we can truly enjoy other social, economic and political rights what so ever.

By Smriti Thapa

Youth and Safe Abortion Services

“There is only one good, knowledge and one evil, ignorance.” – Socrates

Originally posted on : The ASAP blog

It was the summer of 2009. I was posted for my gynecologist outpatient department (OPD) posting during my undergrad days in nursing. It was a public hospital so the OPD was quiet full of senior residents, junior residents, nursing students like us who came for observation and clients from both rural and urban areas.

A male junior doctor was overviewing the case of Ms. Sita, a young rural, unmarried women in her 20’s who came to the OPD with her father. Her chief complaints were amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation) and vomiting for 3 months. After a quick history and baseline investigation, we determined that she was pregnant. The junior doctor tried explaining to the client about her pregnancy and her reaction drew the attention of other staff members. A senior female resident then quickly took that lady behind a private curtain and enquired about her sexual history. The young woman immediately broke down. She said her partner had pursued her for sexual relations and had told her that no physical relations before marriage would turn into pregnancy. She had no idea of contraception or pregnancy. The guy hadn’t contacted her after that day.

Looking at her naive explanation, I almost broke. I realized she was just an example of many more young women who land up in such situations out of ignorance. Had she known about sex, sexuality and contraception she wouldn’t have had to face such brunt consequences. The resident counseled her and her father regarding the availability of safe abortion services and contraception.

Luckily, Nepal legalized abortion in September 2002, a historic achievement for the reproductive health and rights of Nepalese women. The government began providing comprehensive abortion care (CAC) services in March 2004 and at present the services of medical abortion and comprehensive abortion services are running in an integrated way in all 75 districts up to the primary health center level. Had this young woman come a few years ago, she would have been behind bars for attempting abortion or been an unmarried mother and shun from society as a result.

Studies show that even after a decade of legalization of abortion in Nepal, many people still lack adequate knowledge regarding legal aspects of abortion, safe abortion services and complications of unsafe abortion. Only 38% of women are aware that abortion is legal in Nepal. In addition, their knowledge of the specific circumstances under which abortion is legal is poor.

Similarly, the most vulnerable group (women aged 15 – 45 years) are still unaware of the availability and accessibility of safe abortion services and current laws. A study conducted among women who’ve had an abortion showed that only 68% of the respondents knew about legalization of abortion (Sharma, 2008). Adolescent girls face higher risks of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortion with devastating consequences for their health. As a result of early marriage, high fertility, lack of access and ability to use contraceptive, many forms of sexual exploitations, social, cultural and legal barriers young females are more prone to unwanted pregnancies and eventually may seek or use dangerous methods to terminate, leading to abortion complications (CREPHA, 2003). Like in case of Ms. Sita, had she known she was pregnant, she might have opted for other unsafe ways to terminate her pregnancy. It was her fate that she landed in that hospital.

If not provided with accurate and factual information regarding their sexual and reproductive health and rights, many young women can land up in situations like Ms. Sita. Hence, it is important to empower young women and men to have sexual and reproductive choices to avoid unwanted sexual contact, to make informed decisions about childbearing and to face fewer risks in the course of pregnancy and childbirth. In 2009, the government of Nepal’s Ministry of health and population, as a part of their Adolescent Sexual and reproductive health program and strategy, issued books on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). The program was coordinated with schools through peer education programs. But unfortunately this was not been implemented in all the 75 districts of Nepal. If Ms. Sita had been a recipient of this program, she wouldn’t have landed in such situation.

Comprehensive sexuality education saves lives !!

Comprehensive sexuality education saves lives !!

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Evidence worldwide shows that CSE reduces the incidences of unsafe abortion and empowers youth. I hope that someday Nepal’s comprehensive sexuality education program meets international standards. I hope it reaches every nook and corner of the country empowering more young women in days to come.

By Smriti Thapa

REFERENCES.

Sharma, M. (2008). abortion causes and consequences ( a case study of aborted women, in pokhara and kathmandu). Electronic location- 110.44.126.10:8000/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=754 CREPHA. (2006).

Public Opinion on Unsafe Abortion in Nepal: Some facts and figures. Kathmandu. Retrieved from http://www.crehpa.org.np/pr_po.html.

DEBUNK GUILT OF THE BLEED INBUILT

We bleed and it’s completely normal !!

My 14th spring of life, it was Tuesday evening; I came out of bathroom nervous, anxious as something happened. It was only two days remaining for my 8th grade first terminal exam to be over.  So far, I had done exceptionally well in this exam. I can vividly recall the moment like yesterday.  My underwear had tinge of blood stains. I realized I reached the peak of puberty and had my menarche. Immediately, I recalled the similar moment 2 years ago with my elder sister. She came crying out of bathroom stating what happened and was taken to one of our relatives’ home. She stayed there for almost about 7days, staying in dark room, wasn’t supposed to touch anything or anyone and was even forbidden to see the sun outside during the day. Forbidden things were considered punishable in one’s religion. In our visit she often cried for living in that seclusion. After the flash back of yesteryears for few moments, immediately I wanted to tell mom what happened. Then there came a voice inside me “Wait!! What are you doing? If you are going to tell mom, she will for sure keep you in seclusion and then there will be no exams. You might have to repeat your exam as well. It echoed further: Do you want to repeat that exam where you are sure to excel? Another voice immediately super ceded the first one “No, you got to tell mother at any cost. Even if you are going to give this exam, Devine lord is sure to punish you and you will certainly fail this exam.” A strong gush of dilemma crossed my mind. I took a deep breath and decided to make a choice. Choice to give my exams and reveal what happened after two days. However, within these two days I tried to maintain my own seclusion; I limited myself to the drawing room, refused to eat in kitchen with an excuse of exam, tried to sleep alone when I usually slept along with my granny. In my self-created solitude I cried ample of times and hated myself for growing up so early. I even avoided playing and talking with my brothers and father as we are not supposed to do so with male members of the family during this period. When my elder sister questioned my unusual behavior at times? My answer would be “stress due to exam”. After my last paper, I finally mustered that courage to spill the beans in front of my mom. I still remember the look on her face, typical expression mixed with Joy and sorrow. She must have been perplexed over the passage of time. It was like yesterday she held me for the first time and now it was already 14 years later I was grown up girl. She believed me to be lucky for the event didn’t occur prior to exam. Later that day, I was also the part of same rituals. However, along with that I was filled with guilt too. Guilt, that I committed a sin and shall be punished in hell. My studies will deteriorate in days to come and my future will be dark as hell.

I am Just Menstruating !!

I am Just Menstruating !!

Days passed by and the frequency of my nightmares regarding my result and my future increased. My self-esteem was severely damaged and I was no longer that confident, vibrant girl. A week later, my results were out, to my surprise I stood first and couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t the first time that I had had that good results but this time it was entirely different. A month later I even participated in my first “Panchamiko barta”: a fasting ritual for women in their reproductive years, to absolve the sins committed during menstruation. Things didn’t end there; year after year I asked lord to forgive me for my sins and participated in those fasting rituals. I could never speak about my little secret with anyone. It was buried deep in my thoughts which echoed in the form of nightmares in years to come.

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Most of my years of adolescence; a period of physical, psychological and social maturing from childhood to adulthood was full of that guilt. Adolescent female populations are an important portion of reproductive age group. Female adolescent population (10-19 years) constitutes 23.41% of total female population of Nepal. 1

According to Wikipedia, a menstrual taboo is any social taboo concerned with menstruation. In some societies it involves menstruation being perceived as unclean or embarrassing, extending even to the mention of menstruation both in public (in the media and advertising) and in private (amongst the friends, in the household, and with men). Many traditional religions consider menstruation ritually unclean.2

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A data from the central Beaureu of statistics in 2011 shows that menstruation is still perceived and practiced as taboo by 58% of the population. This was in 2011, almost 10 years after when I had my first menarche. Also in a study conducted in 2014 in Far western Nepal, large proportion of women still believe in unscientific myths which lead to different health related problem but only 24% of women perceived menstruation as natural process.3 This depicts that the rural area is more affected and swamped by these menstrual taboos.

There is variance in the practice of the taboo in the different caste and culture within nation itself. According to baseline survey report of Save the Children Fund (SCF) about 89.42% of the population still practiced the system of chhaupadi in Doti district. For people who are unaware regarding Chhaupadi, it is an interesting but highly discriminatory social tradition in the western part of Nepal for Hindu women which prohibit a woman from participating in normal family activities during menstruation because they are considered impure. The women are kept out of the house and have to live in a shed. This lasts between ten to eleven days when an adolescent girl has her first period; thereafter, the duration is between four and seven days each month. Childbirth also results in a ten to eleven-day confinement. During these most vulnerable periods of menses and childbirth women are considered to be untouchable. There are various discriminatory practices related to “CHAUPADI” that are detrimental to sexual and reproductive health and safety of young female adolescence. Even though it was outlawed by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2005, but it is still highly prevalent in the rural far western part of Nepal.4

Girl practicing chaupadi in far west region of Nepal

Girl practicing chaupadi in far west region of Nepal

Meanwhile various studies have also revealed that menstruation is the major contributing factor in absenteeism and poor academic performance among school girls. A shocking data revealed that around 70.7% girls do not attend the school during their period 5. I can relate to the finding of this study to the regular absenteeism of some of my friends during school days. On asking further, they would simply give varied reasons as in our society menstruation is the topic of secrete gossip and it is additionally surrounded by many myths and restriction in place of residence, dietary intake and activities of daily living.

Various studies across the globe and especially in our part of setup suggests that although people aware of these all consequences, they are not able to avoid it for many years because of strong superstitious belief of mishaps for not practicing these rituals. Drawing reference from my case, my mom although being an educated and working lady she strictly followed these rituals. I hate to tell my mom superstitious but yes she is fully indoctrioned in this regards.

People still talk in hush hush regarding menstruation !!!

People still talk in hush hush regarding menstruation !!!

There other studies which have also shown that educational status can modify these rituals and practices in an individual, especially among young women. Therefore there is the necessity to make the community people aware of these malpractice and should emphasized in school curriculum. Having said this, unfortunately the lectures or chapters on sexual and reproductive health were largely untouched by the concerned teachers in my days. As for me things changed and my perception too as I joined nursing as my undergrad studies. I started to take menstruation as more natural and physiological and my guilt was long gone when I excelled academically. I learnt and was imparting knowledge on menstrual hygiene and unraveling myths in the community where I was posted.

Let’s-break-the-vicious-circle-of-menstrual-tabboo1The guilt of committing a sin had long gone but the guilt of lying my mom still remained fresh. Not only that, not have been able to share it with anyone for varied obscure reasons was also an added guilt. As graduate student of women health and development, one day we had a small discussion in our qualitative research class regarding the experience of menarche. Amidst all those stories filled with laughter, joy and tears. I had my vindication. I shared my story in front of more than 20 people. Later that evening I even shared with my mom. I was unapologetic. I was free. She was still very angry with me that day and following days to come. Still to date she reminds me that event as my disrespect to her. It took me more than 10 years to fully come out of that guilt.

I still believe there are many more young girls like I used to be, buried in the guilt and shame of something so natural and physiological. Universal truth is that we bleed each month; it is our biological identity as females (Exception in some medical conditions). Our womb is pure source of human life. Every month it signifies our capacity to produce life and at the same time our true choice if we wish to bleed every month for the rest of life or we create a next life within. At some places it is even considered holy as there are temples created signifying mensuration.

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Menstruating goddess

Menstruating goddess

However, people still shy and shun the talks regarding menstruation. Even educated people of my generation do that. Sexual and reproductive health and its knowledge should be imparted at an early age, even before menarche so that these young girls wouldn’t have to stake their self-esteem and confidence while growing up unlike boys who don’t face such setbacks. A single approach wouldn’t work. We need to call for united multisectoral coordination in dealing with this taboo and making menstruation normal. Talking about it, writing about it, speaking about it and using platform of social media can play a huge role in debunking that guilt of bleed which in inbuilt.

By Smriti Thapa

Menstrual myths

Menstrual myths

  1. Central Bureau of Statistics. (2012). National population and housing census 2011(national report).CBS: Kathmandu, Nepal.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_taboo
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chhaupadi
  4. Adhikari, P., Kandel, B., Dhungel, S. I., & Mandal, A. (2007). Knowledge and practice regarding menstrual hygiene in rural adolescent girls of Nepal. Kathmandu University Medical Journal, 5(19), 382-386. Retrieved from http://www.kumj.com.np

Young Women’s Position Paper 2015

Young women’s Position Paper 2015 was prepared from the consultation process during the Young Women Caucus held on Jan. 31 2015 in Kathmandu and was submitted to the govenment delegates attending the 59th session of  Comission on Status of Women. The statement was submitted in the policy dialogue, whose participants comprised a subset of the participants from the Young Women’s Caucus as well as representatives from relevant government agencies such as the National Planning Commission, the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and other members of CSO who were supposed to attend the 59th session of CSW (Commission on the status of women).

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Team

Half day long consultation was a sort of intergenerational dialogue with the government and CSO delegate to CSW and young activist. The outcome of the young women caucus, position paper along with the key recommendations was handed over to the delegates attending the CSW. Their feedback, comments and commitment was assured from the individual delegate. The entire program was chaired by the Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Children and social Welfare Ms. Dhan Bhadur Tamang. Mr. Tamang assured us of Nepal’s commitment in improving the SRHR of women and also addressing the issues surrounding the key affected population. The position paper was welcomed by all the delegates. The program was also addressed by the Chair of the National Network of Beijing Review Ms. Bandana Rana, who was so supportive of the young women collective effort on bringing out the pressing issues surrounding young women.

 

There was tremendous positive feedback for the effort of young people from the delegates.

I WILL DO MY BEST AS GOVERNMENT DELEGATE TO HIGHLIGHT THE ISSUES OF YOUNG WOMEN’S SRHR DURING THE CSW FROM GOVERNMENT OF NEPAL.
Joint-Secretary, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Affairs

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Ms. Radhika Aryal on her remarks and future committment !!

The stattement is given here with :

Facilitator of the program and the coordinator of the project Ms.Smriti handed over the outcome of the project.

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We, the young women, men and people of different sexual orientation and gender identities from Nepal gathered together at a ‘Young Women Caucus’ to discuss the key issues surrounding young women in Nepal with the focus on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. The caucus collectively agreed that there has been some progress since the Beijing Platform for Action in the areas of comprehensive education, participation of young women in decision making process, access to health services, and reduction of harmful traditional practice. However, we are well aware that significant gaps and challenges remain. The limited access to the health services, unavailability of youth and gender friendly services, discriminatory practices and behavior of the service provider against women and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) showcases problems in field of health sector in Nepal. Likewise, low participation of young women in both national and community level political decision making processes illustrates gaps at an institutional level. Discrimination and Violence against young women has not been able to decrease and has manifested in diverse forms and shapes.

And it is because of this diverse and dynamic nature of these problems, we came together to discuss key issues of Nepalese young women in SRHR in line with 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action so as to recommend the following issues to be prioritized at the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

1. Reaffirm Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of all young women; particularly ensuring the rights of the key affected young women and girls – young women and girls who are living with HIV, young female sex workers, young women and girls who use drugs, transgender individuals, mobile and migrant young women, young female prisoners, young women with disabilities, through meaningful participation.

2. Ensure young women and girls, especially key affected young population’s access to friendly, non–discriminatory, affordable, non–judgmental and gender sensitive quality Sexual and Reproductive Health services, especially access to stigma free abortion services and modern contraceptives to promote, protect and fulfill the human rights of young women and girls. To serve this purpose, ensure the quality and number of adolescent and youth friendly services and create necessary mechanisms for supervision and monitoring of these services.

3. Ensure access of every young women and girls to comprehensive sexuality education based on their evolving capacity as their human rights, through its inclusion and proper implementation in school curriculum; community based awareness program; youth led mass media.

4. Emphasize the full and effective implementation of awareness programs on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights including SRHR laws, policies and programs set by the government through further capacity building of the service providers.

5. Remove discrimination based on gender in matters relating to identity and citizenship in law and practice. Address issues of LGBTI citizenship, passport and property ownership so as to curtail their vulnerability for violence and increase their access to services.

Young Women’s Position Paper 2015

Prepared from the consultation process during the Young Women Caucus held on Jan. 31 2015 in Kathmandu.

6. Adopt necessary measures to end all forms of Gender Based Discrimination and Violence against young women and girls in different contexts, settings, circumstances and relationship—including sexual harassment, violence and exploitation—and reaffirm commitment to the universal ratification and full implementation of the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Encourage male participation while addressing the issue of violence.

7. Make efforts to remove structural barriers like poverty and other forms of inequalities; and address specific needs and priorities of young women and adolescent girls by facilitating their empowerment, guaranteeing equal access to opportunities and resources and ensuring their meaningful participation in leadership and decision making as well as designing, implementation and monitoring of related national and international programs.

8. Strongly discourage and take appropriate action to prevent and end traditional and harmful cultural practices based on norms, customs and socio–cultural prejudices especially early and forced child marriages by enforcing laws to prohibit marriage without full and informed consent, including increasing awareness on laws and effective prosecution.

9. Encourage the participation of more young women and girls in media and ensure their safety during their work. Furthermore, emphasize on the gender sensitive portrayal of young women and girls in media by encouraging more young women and girls empowered images in all forms of media.

10. Ensure young women’s leadership in conflict situations, climate change and natural disasters to address young women and girls’ needs and problems, especially violation of their sexual and reproductive health and rights in such crisis situation. Also, ensure that national climate change responses adequately and effectively mainstream the differentiated needs of women and girl impacted by disaster and the national climate change responses.

11. Recognize the importance of women human rights defenders and nongovernmental organizations in strengthening state commitment for gender equality, human rights and empowerment of young women and girls. In doing so, also work in collaboration with other organizations that address the 12 areas of Platform of action.

12. Encourage involvement of young men and boys for the realization of gender equality, human rights and empowerment of young women and girls. In doing so, design and implement plans, policies and programs and school curriculum that aims to change the attitude of young men and boys towards gender equality and empowerment.

13. Ensure that the abovementioned issues on young women’s human rights, sexual and reproductive health rights, gender equality and elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence are adequately addressed and reflected in the Post 2015 Development Framework, through inclusion in goals, targets and qualitative indicators.

BY SMRITI THAPA