Positive news on deadly form of menstrual banishment in Nepal

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A discussion with community health workers at Bayalpata Hospital about chhaupadi. ©Nyaya Health Nepal

Chhaupadi is the traditional practice in parts of rural western Nepal of segregating women and girls outdoors when they have their periods. In the past decade, more than a dozen women have been killed while staying in a chhau (shed), some from a snakebite, others after lighting a fire to say warm then suffocating in a windowless building. Women and girls in sheds are also at risk of sexual assault.

In recent years there has been increasing focus on chhaupadi, including various attempts to end it, such as demolishing sheds, criminalising the practice and threatening to withhold social security payments from anyone involved in the practice. I wrote the article below for Nepali Times after learning that one hospital in the region has had great success in getting its community nurses to discontinue chhaupadi.

Tipping point on menstrual banishment in Nepal

It is easy to be cynical about recent reports of actions taken to end chhaupadi, the traditional practice in parts of western Nepal of segregating menstruating women.

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Mt Everest is melting – are you moved?

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Mt Everest in December 2019. Photo: Kunda Dixit, Nepali Times

My article published in this week’s issue of Nepali Times:

Mt Everest is melting : Are you moved?

In the coming decade, climate migration may finally make world leaders take action to slow global heating

Mount Everest has always held mythical status for me, like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza. Growing up on the ‘other side of the world’ I knew about them from a very young age: their mystery was seeded in my imagination as a schoolboy in Canada.

I have not visited the Great Wall or the pyramids, but I remember the mountain flight that took me close to Everest about 12 years ago. It was cloudy when we left Kathmandu but clear enough that the rocky triangle above the Lhotse-Nuptse ridge could be pointed out as we flew past in our tiny plane.

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Women in climate hot spots face challenges adapting

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The workload for women like Nanimaya Dhungana in Kavre district in Nepal (above) has likely increased because of the climate crisis. PHOTO: Kumar Acharya/ Nepali Times

This article was published in Nepali Times on Friday. I found the arguments difficult to follow, but I think the main point is that even when support appears to be available to assist women to adapt to challenges, like the impacts of climate change, they still lose some of their power as they are forced to adapt.

Given that programmes are being developed to assist those hardest-hit by climate change — mostly in low-income countries — that finding is important. Please read on!

Women in Asia and Africa hardest hit by climate change have a tough time adapting to the climate emergency, even with support from family or the state, finds a new study. The results raise questions for global agreements designed to help people adapt to the climate emergency, it adds.

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Locals in Nepal take direct action

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Police use a water cannon to push back protesters on the streets of Kathmandu. Photo: Nepali Times

The jury is still out on federalism in Nepal, which was put in place in 2017, after elections to three levels of government – local, provincial and federal. But there is no doubting that local people are getting more vocal about their frustrations at the slow pace of road building and other infrastructure works. I wrote the following in this week’s Nepali Times:

Think locally, act locally

  • In May, residents and traders burned tyres to block the Chabahil-Jorpati road, signalling their frustration at long-delayed construction on the dusty, crater-filled stretch. They succeeded in sparking action, but after upgrading work stalled, protests erupted again last week in a bid to force the contractor to finish the job.
  • The road blocking trend morphed into poster protests, where the faces of delinquent road contractors were plastered to poles and vehicles. This included Nagarkot, where contractor Sharada Prasad Adhikari, also the landlord of Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was targeted. The tactic spread further, with Mayor Bhim Parajuli of Biratnagar being publicly shamed last week.
  • Residents attempting to stop road-building in Baitadi in October were turned on by an excavator operator, whose shocking attack with the machine injured eight people. Attempted murder charges are pending.
  • In Udaypur last week, locals clashed with police after seizing more than a dozen dump trucks and an excavator that were being used to gouge sand and rocks out of a local river.
  • Residents of Charikot of Dolakha District took to the streets last week to protest the lack of progress in repairing the Jiri Highway. They blocked the main intersection to vehicular traffic for hours.

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Lured by green, in Kathmandu

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Photo: Marty Logan

One of Kathmandu’s biggest defects is the lack of green spaces. Luckily I’ve found one. It’s tiny, and certainly not where you would expect it, but its positive impact is huge. In fact, for many years now I’ve been fortunate to enjoy nature in different forms. in many cities.

I wrote more about this in this week’s Nepali Times:

The lure of green

When I’ve had enough of the smog, barking dogs, crowds and cacophony of Kathmandu I seek out my ‘oasis’, a small piece of green real estate that, I’m sure, slows my heartbeat and lowers my blood pressure on sight in — Dilibazar.

Yes, that’s right, Dilibazar, one of the oldest suburbs of 20th-century Kathmandu, once known for its sweet shops and the derelict Charkhal Jail, but today recognisable by the educational consultancies and their billboards — ‘Study in Australia, Canada, Cyprus, England, Greece, Ireland! — that have spilled onto its streets from Putali Sadak. It’s definitely not the first place that comes to mind when you think of Kathmandu and nature. Continue reading

Freak me out!

Far_Out_review_NTimes_coverI haven’t written many book reviews, but this read was so interesting that I was happy to do it. Called Far Out: Countercultural Seekers and the Tourism Encounter in Nepal, it describes and analyses tourism in Nepal from its infancy till the mid-2010s.

But author Mark Liechty delivers his material with a light touch, thanks to loads of anecdotes and quotations, from both travellers and Nepalis.

As you might have guessed from my headline, much of the book looks at the hippie era in Nepal, but the story begins much earlier, and features some memorable characters.

Here’s my full review in last week’s Nepali Times: Continue reading

Missing and murdered in Canada

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Shae-Lyn McAllister is the fourth women to go missing from Robyn Lawson’s family in Canada since 1988.

On 25 August Robyn Lawson posted on Twitter that three women in her family had disappeared in Canada in the last three years. Robyn is Indigenous, one of about 1.6 million Indigenous people in Canada (5% of the population).

In June, the report of a national inquiry found:

“First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women and girls and (LGBTQI) people in Canada … have been the targets of violence for far too long. This truth is undeniable … (and) amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, which especially targets women.”

I have read much over the years about the experiences of Indigenous People living in Canada (and written about some of them in this blog and beyond). But Robyn’s tweet hit me hard — it’s difficult to imagine three people disappearing from my family.

I wrote and asked Robyn, who is an activist for Indigenous people’s rights, to describe those incidents and the broader context of the lives of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Her powerful, authoritative answers, lightly edited by me, are below.

Can you tell me about the 3 women in your family that you Tweeted about — they all went missing in the last 3 years?

There were actually four that went missing within my family, all cousins. The fourth went missing in 1988 from a Cultus Lake campground in British Columbia (province) after she accepted a ride that was to take her home to Surrey, BC. She has never been found. Her name is Roberta Ferguson, and she was 19 years old at the time she was taken.
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