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The need for assistance to the widows in Nepal

Posted by nepaliaashish on January 10, 2009

bidhwas1As published in Nepal Abroad Saturday January 3, 2009 1st Edtion

RAJBIRAJ December 30: At the age of 11 Purni Shah was forced by her family to marry a 25-year-old man. Four years into the marriage, her husband died leaving her a child widow. Her fate is not uncommon in Nepal, which has one of world’s highest levels of child marriage, according to Nepal’s Demographic Health Survey. Over 63 percent of girls marry before 18, and 7 percent marry before reaching 10, the survey said. But for those who become widows, the stigma can be overwhelming: They are often looked upon with disdain and suspicion, and even blamed for their husband’s death. “It’s a cursed life. There’s too much pain and hardship,” 30-year-old Purni told IRIN in the town of Rajbiraj in Saptari District, 400km southeast of Kathmandu in the Terai region, where child marriage is particularly common. “I don’t want to live like this any more,” she said. Fifteen years after her husband died, people refer to her as ‘bekalya’ (child widow) and she is denied even the most basic rights. Child widows fare much worse than other widows, often finding themselves marginalised, according to rights activists. In Saptari District alone, there are an estimated 1,000 such women or girls. However, there is little awareness of the issue. Only one NGO – Women For Human Rights-Single Women’s Group (WHR) – is currently working on the problem.

Bad luck

“The `bekalayas’ suffer terribly in this conservative society which stigmatises them and sets too many rigid rules to control them,” Madhvi Shah, a WHR activist, told IRIN. Banned from wearing new or colourful clothes (white clothes or a sari are socially compulsory for widows), child widows are barred from eating fish or meat, remarrying, and even showing their faces in the early mornings to “prevent bad luck”. They are also forbidden to attend weddings or other social functions, in case they bring bad luck.

Citizenship

“We are treated worse than animals,” Shradha Mandal, who married when she was eight and widowed before her 16th birthday, said. To make matters worse, Shradha has no citizenship, making her a virtual refugee in her own country: In male-dominated Nepal, citizenship is acquired only after reaching 18 and on the recommendation of a father, brother or husband. A new law in 2008 allows citizenship recommendations to come from females, but it has not yet been implemented in practice, according to activists. Mandal has no proof of her marriage, and therefore no rights to her husband’s land or property. Instead, she has to survive on food provided by her mother.

Defiance

However, thanks to WHR empowerment training, some ‘bekalayas’ in Saptari District are starting to speak out and demand a voice. “I have not lost all hope of starting a new life,” 20-year-old Rekha Chaudhary said, explaining that she had started defying the strict Hindu rules in her village, Bisariya. It’s my life and I am not afraid any more. “The first step is to make them more self-confident and aware of their legal and human rights,” said WHR’s Shah, explaining that the training was already having an impact. Kumar Deo, whose husband died when she was only 16, recalled how she started to break the taboo by wearing colourful clothes, put on red bangles and started to walk around freely whenever and wherever she wanted. “In the beginning, I was very scared but as the news about our defiance came out in the local media, that gave me strength,” Deo said with a smile, adding that she was now encouraging others like her to stand up for their rights. Backed by WHR, dozens of widows like Deo are now forming their own self-help groups. “It’s my life and I am not afraid any more,” said 17-year-old child widow Shanti Devi Mandap, married when she was 12 and now looking for a job. (IRIN News Service)

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Ever Cried For Your Country??

Posted by Sandeep Puri on June 18, 2008

This is an essay taken as-is from a mass email that went out. It was apparently published in “The Kathmandu Post” which I have not verified. All the same, it is published here for all to see because it is still relevant, I believe.

Ever Cried For Your Country??
By: BAN WHI MIN

The Kathmandu Post, 11 September 2005 pg. 4.

Nepalis complain about the caste system and corrupt officers. They openly vent their anger against the government. But have they ever thought about Nepali’s real problems? I believe that they have not. I want to say that Nepal’s real problems are lack of patriotism among the people and lack of love for one another. This is the conclusion I have reached during my stay. This summer. I did voluntary work from July 5 to July 30 at FHI Ever Vision School, Matartirtha, Kathmandu.

Let me first tell you about my country, Korea. This might help you understand my point.

Just after the Korean War, which claimed lives of more than 5 million Koreans, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Without natural resources, Korea had no choice but to desperately struggle for its survival by all means. Under this gloomy situation, Koreans envied other Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, and Nepal.

Korean government officials were corrupt. With the dual classes of Yangban (nobles) and Sangnom (peasants), Korean society was sickening day by day. However, Koreans, having determination to become rich, overcame the unfair social structure and put the country onto the track of development.

When the former president Park Jung Hee took over the government, there were few factories in Korea. Korea could not attract loans or expect foreign investments. Under these circumstances, President Park exported miners and nurses to then West Germany. The salaries that they earned were used to building factories and promoting industrialization of Korea.

In 1964, when President Park visited then West Germany, the miners and nurses asked the president when the Koreans would become rich. The president replied, crying with the miners and nurses, that someday the Koreans would become rich.

Many of Korean scientists and engineers, who could just enjoy comfortable lives in the United States, returned to Korea with only one thing in their mind: the determination to make Korea the most powerful and prosperous country in the world.

They did their best even though their salaries were much less than what they would have received in other countries. The Koreans believed that they have the ability to change their desperate situation and that they must make the country better, not only for themselves but also for the future generations yet to come.

My parents’ generation sacrificed themselves for their families and the country. They worked 14 hours a day, and risked their lives working under inhumane conditions. The mothers, who went to work in factories, fed their babies while operating machines in dangerous environments. They always tried to teach their children the true value of ‘hard work’.

Finally, all of these hard works and sacrifices made the prosperous Korea that you see now.

Nepalis, have you cried for your country? I heard that many of Nepali youth do not love their Nepal. I also heard that they want to leave Nepal because they don’t like caste system, or because they want to escape the severe poverty.

However, they should be the first ones to voluntarily work for Nepal’s development, not the first ones to complain and speak against their country.

I have a dream that someday I would be able to free the souls from suffering from the underdeveloped countries, anachronistic customs and the desperate hunger. My belief has become stronger than ever after seeing the reality in Nepal.

A child with fatal disease who doesn’t have enough money to buy a pill: a child living in what seems like a pre-historic dwelling and not having the opportunity to receive education; and a student who cannot succeed , no matter how hard the studies, just because of the class he comes from.

A society, in which wives not only take care of children but also work in the fields, while their husbands waste their time doing nothing; a society in which a five –year old must labor in a brick factory to feed herself.

Looking at the reality of Nepal, I was despaired, yet this sense of despair strengthened my belief.

I already know that many of the Nepalis are devout Hindus. However, nothing happens if you just pray to hundreds of thousands of gods while doing nothing. It is the action that you and Nepal need for the better future.

For Nepal and yourselves, you have to show your love to your neighbours and country just as you do to Gods. You know that your Gods will be pleased when you work for the development of your country and improvement of your lives. Therefore, please, love your neighbours and country. Teach your children to love their country. And love the working itself.

Who do you think will cry for your Nepal? Who do you think will be able to respect the spirit of Himalayas and to keep the lonely flag representing it? You are the ones responsible for leading this beautiful country to a much brighter future. This responsibility lies on you.
(The writer is a 15 year- old student of Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, South Korea)

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