Nepal must ensure students’ WASH

WASH in schools

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.

Here’s the column I wrote about this for the current issue of Nepali Times:

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Building up Nepali girls’ confidence to fight patriarchy

Photo of rows of women and girls observing self-defence moves at a course in Nepal on 29 April.

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