Nepal

Widows in Nepal

Inequality based on caste and gender is widespread in Nepal. Many women have experienced discrimination and violence. Women from low castes such as the Dalit caste are especially vulnerable because they don’t have access to their own money, housing or land.

Discrimination against widows is also common. If a woman’s husband dies, she is considered a bad omen by society and faces exclusion and, often, violence.

Ten years of civil war, from 1996 to 2006, which left 30,000 people dead and communities broken, only served to increase inequality.

  • 77 per cent of married women aged 15 to 49 are employed, compared with 98 per cent of men. Of these women, 61 per cent are unpaid for the work they do, compared with 12 per cent of men (Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2011).
  • Only 40 per cent of Nepali girls are educated beyond primary school (The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics).
  • Only 11.8% of Dalit girls are enrolled in secondary school
  • About 49% of Dalit women encounter violence but only 4.4% of cases are reported
  • 75% of single women/widows were married between the ages of 10 – 19

Helping women affected by domestic violence

In 2009, the Nepalese government passed the Domestic Violence Act to improve victims’ access to justice. But the law is not put into practice.

Our local partner, Saathi, aims to change this by:

  • Coordinating and chairing a network of 36 organisations to pressure the government to put the law into practice
  • Training journalists to better understand and report more on domestic violence
  • Holding workshops for government authorities and the public to raise awareness about the law
  • Carrying out research on services for female survivors of violence, so they can look at improving them.
“I never imagined that I would live a normal life again. Nevertheless I have become a stronger person and can move on with my life.”Laxmi, who has experienced domestic abuse
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Saathi

  • Asia
  • Nepal
Saathi’s strategy is to work at all levels of Nepali society – from the government to the grassroots level. Saathi ...
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Supporting widows’ rights

Bereaved women often lack access to legal documents such as their citizenship, marriage or husband’s death certificates. This prevents them from inheriting property or receiving a widow’s allowance.

Our partner WHR is:

  • Providing a refuge, counselling and resource centre for widows, offering legal advice and safety
  • Campaigning for awareness of violence and trafficking, which is an increasingly dangerous prospect for single women following the earthquake
  • Training widows in tailoring, food processing and jewellery making so they can become financially independent.
“I was widowed four years ago when my husband was washed away in floods. In my district WHR carries out awareness raising programmes, so there is now less domestic violence and more awareness of human rights. I feel much safer now.” Bishnu
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Women for Human Rights (WHR)

  • Nepal
  • Asia
WHR strengthens the lives of single women (widows) through their economic, social, political and cultural empowerment in order to enable ...
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Improving the rights of Dalit women

More than one in 100 people in Nepal come from the Dalit caste, which faces severe discrimination. Dalit women are segregated from mainstream society and deemed ‘untouchable’.

Our partner FEDO is:

  • Training Dalit women leaders on human rights and leadership
  • Setting up groups which promote Dalit women’s rights
  • Advocating for greater inclusion of Dalit women in leadership positions and government.
“I know that women don’t just belong in the house, they are also human beings. Women should have knowledge outside their houses.”Anita, a member of the Dalit caste
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Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO)

  • Asia
  • Nepal
FEDO promotes the rights of Dalit (meaning "oppressed" in South Asia) women through advocacy, education, economic rights, health and sanitation ...
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The earthquake and relief efforts

In April 2015, an earthquake struck Nepal leaving an estimated 10,000 people dead. It devastated cities and villages, affecting 1.4 million people.

Recovery will be long and the disaster has left women increasingly vulnerable. Many have become displaced from their communities, live in insecure tents and face greater risks of violence. The crisis has also led to an increase in the trafficking of women and girls.

We are working with all three of our partners in Nepal on:

  • Distributing tents, mats, blankets, food, first aid kits, clothing, medicine and personal hygiene products . We often reach remote and isolated communities faster than government workers
  • Providing counselling for women and children who have been affected by the earthquake.
  • Providing shelter, food, medical assistance and counselling in safe houses for lactating mothers, the eldery and extremely vulnerable.

Women’s rights in the future

In 2015 the Constituent Assembly voted in a new constitution which delivered mixed results for women’s rights.

The new constitution requires that one third of the members of parliament have to be women and either the president or vice-president must be a woman. In October the country elected its first female president.

However the new constitution also prevents mothers from passing citizenship on to their children if their father in non-Nepali. This will potentially leaves thousands stateless and making women second-class citizens in law, in violation of several international women’s rights agreements.

Our impact in Nepal

Thanks to our partnership with women’s organisations in Nepal:

  • Over 83,000 widows are working together to protect their rights through networks in 73 districts of Nepal.
  • Following our partners’ campaigning, the law has changed so that, for example, the property of a deceased husband is no longer returned to his family when a widow remarries, and widows do not have to be 35 to inherit their husband’s property.
  • The Nepali Congress Party has amended its constitution to reserve two seats for Dalit women.
  • Three Dalit women trained by FEDO have been elected to the central committee of the Nepalese Dalit movement.
  • 12 Dalit women who took part in our training sessions have joined political parties.
  • 2,427 Dalit and single women households received essential household, hygiene and medical supplies after the earthquake.
  • 1620 Dalit households who lost their houses received temporary shelters.
  • Five ‘women and child safe spaces’ were opened in Kathmandu, where women and children could go after the earthquake for essential basics and psychological services.

Find out more about our impact

Help us do more

£57 can provide journalism training for 10 Dalit women to raise awareness of issues that affect them.

£219 can train a Dalit woman in leadership skills so she can become involved in politics.

£25 can help five widows to start their own business so they’re more independent and can pull themselves out of poverty.