Namaste! Welcome to my first blog, written as I drink my third coffee of the morning on the balcony of my new home in Kathmandu, Nepal. As I overlook the bustling and boisterous roads of the city, I realise how much I have learnt in my few days here. I arrived on Wednesday after a dreadfully long journey from Washington D.C. with a mission: to work as a Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project and the Centre for Agro-Ecology and Development (CAED) for the next 10 weeks this summer.
The Advocacy Project is an NGO which aims to give a voice to the voiceless and to assist marginalised communities in taking action to protect their rights. This is done by partnering with community-based organisations, such as CAED, and supporting them in numerous ways. We have been trained extensively on how to use our skills and knowledge in order to strengthen the organisation by telling their story, developing their programmes, assisting in fundraising efforts and promoting their work on the international scale. This year, I am the only Fellow based in Nepal: others have gone to Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Vietnam. After an extensive week of training and preparation, we have been sent out to our respective locations, ready to put our skills and knowledge into action!
CAED is an NGO working to create more just and equitable societies in remote and disadvantaged areas of Nepal. It uses human rights principles, policies and norms in order to further its cause on issues including food sovereignty, the empowerment of women and girls, sexual and reproductive health and rights, child rights and indigenous identity and education. During my Fellowship, I shall be focusing on the particularly damaging practice of menstrual banishment (Chhaupadi), which remains extremely prevalent in Western Nepal.
The CAED office in Kathmandu.
So what exactly is Chhaupadi?
Chhaupadi is the practice of prohibiting Hindu girls and women from participating in normal family activities while menstruating. They are banned from the house and are forced to live in a chhau goth (cowshed or hut) during this time because they are deemed ‘impure.’ Most of these are comprised of one small room, with a door but no windows. They do not have sanitation facilities, such as toilets, running water or proper light or ventilation. They also do not provide adequate protection from the elements, a grave problem during monsoon season. And not only do women lack safety, nutritious food and oftentimes water, but they also face other risks: attack by wild animals and snakes, theft of their belongings and rape. Chhaupadi is illegal and was outlawed in 2006 by the Supreme court of Nepal. Nevertheless, it continues to take place, and it is estimated that 58% of women in Western Nepal still practice this tradition.
CAED has implemented a community-level programme to prevent the perpetuation of gender-based discrimination among current and future generations. In this programme, they encourage young people to abandon harmful practices, such as that of Chhaupadi. During my Fellowship, I shall be contributing to their work which promotes the end of this harmful practice in numerous ways. My tasks shall include profiling the girls and publishing their stories (check out my Flickr account here!), developing social media and marketing strategies through which to encourage the end of the practice and assisting with fundraising for the organisation – but more of that to come!
Indira, Kalyani and Renu (left to right) are three of the lovely ladies working for the CAED office in Kathmandu.
I am very excited to get started on all of these projects and to bring a meaningful contribution to CAED. I hope to use my competencies to help end this dangerous practice, and I am sure that this will be a positive and fruitful experience. In the meantime, I shall concentrate on getting accustomed to Nepali life – which includes learning to navigate streets with no names in a city where google maps ‘doesn’t really work,’ eating vast quantities of Momo and Dal-bhat-tarkari and visiting the glorious temples of this dusty, but dreamy city.
A decorative plant-pot outside the office!
Posted By Boroka Godley (Nepal)
Posted Jun 15th, 2019