Child marriage has risen in many countries since the world started locking down earlier this year. In fact, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is predicting that if conditions don’t change, the pandemic will contribute to an additional 13 million marriages of children (mostly under 18) in the next decade.
The causes of child marriage are many and complex — economic, social and cultural. In Nepal, girls are often seen as a burden: raised by their parents only to be sent away to live with their husband’s family, and on top of that a girl is usually expected to carry with her a dowry for the groom’s family, which can amount to a huge amount of cash and goods, big enough to put her family in debt for many years.
This photo was taken by Sushma, 15, from Sindhuli district in Nepal as part of a participatory photo project, organised by WaterAid UK. She said: “This is the girls’ toilet at our school. It doesn’t lock properly. If someone is inside, someone else has to wait outside, pushing the door. This is why we need more girl-friendly toilets.”
WASH stands for water, sanitation and hygiene. It doesn’t sound sexy, but when you think about it, those things are fundamental to our lives.
The link between WASH and education is not so evident, but it too is essential, this time for keeping students in school — especially girls and particularly when they reach the age of menstruation.
Nepal’s WASH statistics have been improving but it’s important that we don’t confuse facilities with functioning WASH systems, because in many cases water taps and bathrooms are on site but are not useable.
Women and girls attend a self-defence training organised by a municipal office in Kailali district, Nepal, on Monday 29 April. Photo: THT
Self-defence training for girls in Kailali (District), read the headline in a Nepali newspaper earlier this week. Similar titles appear in the media every few months, and I wonder: What about the boys and men? Why is it that girls and women, who are the targets of harassment and attacks, must also take on the burden of defending themselves?
The easy answer is: no one else is doing it. That’s not to say that authorities in Nepal are ignoring growing reports of sexual violence and harassment – a hotline set up by the Women’s Commission has reportedly counselled 8,000 survivors of violence since December 2017 – but that there’s little evidence of a collective will to address the patriarchal attitudes prevalent here that can result in the targeting of girls and women. Until that happens, it’s better that women and girls are trained to deal with these incidents. Continue reading →