The Sustainable Development Goals in Nepal
Nepal committed to the SDGs early on, and this commitment has been reaffirmed in key policy documents, such as the current 15th Development Plan and the 25 Year Long-Term Vision 2100 that internalises the Goals. SDGs codes are assigned for all national development programmes through the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework. Further, Nepal has prepared the SDG Status and Roadmap to localize the SDG indicators with baselines and targets for 2030. Other key documents are a SDGs Needs Assessment, a Costing and Financing Strategy, and additional SDGs Localization Guidelines. Finally, Nepal has conducted a Development Finance Assessment (DFA) to provide an overview of development finance flows and institutions and policies that can align finance with national development priorities. These are the goals the UN is working on in Nepal:
13 October 2020
Supporting Most Vulnerable Migrant Returnees to Meet Immediate Needs
Pabitra Jimba, (31) from Makawanpur District had been in foreign employment for over six years and had been able to support her family back home before she lost her most recent job in the United Arab Emirates to COVID 19. She had been stranded in that country for five months without job before she returned to Nepal in mid-July. She purchased flight tickets on her own as no one – the employer, host and home governments – provided her with support. Similarly, 27-year-old Sarita BK (name changed), originally from Morang district was on her way to Kuwait in March via India but was caught up by the nation-wide lockdown in India and got stuck there for next four months. Unaware that she was travelling undocumented without a work permit, she managed to arrive in Kathmandu in early July with support from various organizations and her relatives. She is a divorcee and is the sole breadwinner of her three-member family. Those are only examples of vulnerable Nepali returnee migrants hard-hit by the COVID 19 pandemic. According to the Government of Nepal, COVID 19 Crisis Management Committee (CCMC), a total of 51,441 Nepali migrants have been repatriated from abroad as of 14 August. According to various sources, an estimated 127,000 Nepalis abroad were in need of immediate assistance and 450,000 migrants excluding those working in India are projected to lose their jobs. This leaves migrants’ families facing the risks and acute consequences of not being able to afford basic needs such as food, education, health and nutrition. With hundreds of thousands of Nepalis back home, and those working in India also losing their jobs and 500,000 Nepali youth entering labour market every year, Nepal’s unemployed population is set to be unprecedented. Nepal, where contribution of remittances to GDP in 2019 was equivalent to 27.3 per cent, lost nearly 50 per cent of remittances in April and May compared to the same period last year according to the Nepal Rashtra Bank, the country’s central bank’s report published in May 2020. This clearly indicates that the socioeconomic effects of the crisis in Nepal are expected to be devastating to its national economy and the overall achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Under these circumstances, the road ahead for the returnee migrants like Pabitra and Sarita does not look an easy one as the Government of Nepal faces a big challenge of reintegrating returnee migrant workers in the national labour market. This requires a comprehensive plan for the creation of employment opportunities, matching skills and interests of returnees as well as needs of the national economy. In order to meet the immediate needs of the returnee migrants like Pabitra and Sarita, a total of 97 (89 female and 8 male) returnee migrants have received direct assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as of 31 July 2020 under an initiative supported by the United Nations Secretary General’s COVID Response Fund. The underlying economic and social vulnerabilities of Nepal are further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country-wide lockdown, global economic disruptions and resulting impact on global value chains, plus restrictions in global travel and trade are already severely impacting Nepal’s economy and people’s livelihoods. Those most impacted persons include migrants, both internal and returning from abroad; informal sector workers; and workers in the tourism industry. These sectors are large contributors to Nepal’s GDP. The loss of income is felt at individual and household levels, raising concerns about the means to meet essential daily expenditure including food. In order to meet the emergency needs of the people and to help Nepal build back better, the United Nations provided the UN Secretary General COVID Response Fund to Nepal. The fund will also provide immediate livelihood support and reintegrate the most affected community into employment. The aim of the fund is also to alleviate potential social consequences of a desperate economic situation, including suicide and other negative coping methods such as child labour or child marriage. The fund focused on persons who have the least means of managing external shocks also aims to prevent the loss of development gains among the most vulnerable persons in Nepal. The UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund is jointly executed by ILO, IOM, UNDP and UNESCO in Nepal.
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03 December 2020
Oped : The challenges people with disabilities face
Richard Howard The year 2020 has thrown unprecedented challenges at all of us, both in Nepal and globally. The pandemic has also impacted people disproportionally. Persons with disabilities that make up 15 percent of the world population, or one billion, are among the hardest hit by Covid-19. One in every five women is likely to experience disability in her life, while one in every 10 children is living with a disability. Of the one billion population of persons with disabilities, 80 percent live in developing countries. These numbers provide a backdrop for thinking about our response to Covid-19 and how we make a dedicated effort to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind. We must ensure their inclusion in our response and recovery efforts. Some disabilities are not visible. Chronic pain, mental illness, chronic fatigue are a few types of invisible disabilities that control people’s lives but do not show in obvious ways. These are people who are regularly told that their disabilities are not real, are made up for sympathy or only imagined and could not possibly be a real medical condition since they walk free from canes or crutches, have functioning limbs, and can seemingly move their bodies just like the rest of us. Society needs to be built so that it is accessible to everyone, including those with less visible disabilities. Nepali society, like most societies, should promote greater understanding and increased accessibility for people with disabilities, who are often treated differently or excluded from the opportunities and conversations open to others. They are pressed to navigate a world that is not built for them. Kindness, compassion and consideration are a good start to ensure that we see and support those who may struggle and suffer in normal times and in times of crisis. When this pandemic passes, the world must be a different place, and it is a chance to reimagine a society in which people with disabilities have better lives; where they do not have to fight to be seen and included, and where they are not merely an afterthought. People with disabilities should participate in our response and recovery from Covid-19 at all stages, and they should hold us accountable to deliver on our promises. On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I hope that we can all begin to envision a society that everyone can participate in, one that changes how we see and interact with disabilities as equal partners, particularly those with invisible disabilities. It is a chance to build back better and challenge inequalities at every step. A big step in the right direction is to break the silence, speak up and wipe away the biases held against people with disabilities, to banish the stereotypes, and slowly dissipate the stigma facing people with disabilities. These changes start with each of us making a commitment. There are myriad ways in which the world can transform to remove obstacles for people with disabilities to access the opportunities the rest have, from access to economic opportunity and healthy workspaces to accessible infrastructure and health services. Richard Howard Howard is the UN Resident Coordinator ad interim in Nepal and is the Director of ILO Nepal
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12 October 2020
Young Girls in rural Nepal are choosing early marriage to escape poverty and discrimination
The zinc sheet roofs, mud huts and wooden pillars of Namuna Basti shows poverty reigns. Namuna Basti is a labyrinth of lanes with 55 closely packed housing units inhabited by impoverished Badi community- the poorest and most marginalized groups (Dalits) in Nepal who are also considered the “untouchables”. It lies just out of eyesight from the nearest bigger town in the Karnali Province. In the community, young women with children are a common sight. About 90 percent of the women from Namuna Basti are married before the age of 20, which speaks to the alarming prevalence of child marriage here. An Arial view of Namuna Basti. Child marriage in Nepal is driven by a complex web of factors., Key among them is caste-based and gender-based discrimination, especially when combined with poverty. In Nepal’s rural communities, parents often choose marriage for girls because, once married, daughters customarily leave their homes to enter into their husbands’ household and cannot financially support their parents like their sons. It leads families to prioritize education and even basic survival needs, such as food, for boys over girls, which is one of the reasons why child brides and their children are more likely to be malnourished. Due to the existence of a deeply embedded patriarchal norms and unequal power relations, Nepal has a high prevalence of deeply-rooted traditional practices such as caste-based discrimination, chhaupadi and menstrual restrictions, child marriage, dowry, and witchcraft accusation and persecution. These practices often create significant barriers to the realization of human rights, particularly for women and persons from excluded groups. Despite significant advances in legislative and policy frameworks made over the past few years, these practices continue to pervade in Nepal. In 2018, in recognition of these practices being barriers to realizing the UN’s commitments to Agenda 2030 and the principle of Leaving No One Behind, the United Nations Country Team in Nepal with the support of DCO innovation funds carried out a Perception Survey on five of the above-mentioned practices. The survey, conducted in 16 districts within Province 2, 6 and 7 covering 4,000 respondents, was led by the United Nations Resident Coordinators Office in Nepal. Rama (name changed), a 22-year-old girl from Namuna Basti was born into a Badi family. Due to poverty her parents could not afford her education. She started working in India as a full-time maid at the age of 13. She had to spend more than 12 hours a day doing household chores, and she was desperately looking for an escape from her everyday hardship. With the hope to live a better life, seven years ago, she married the person she loved at the age of 15, despite the minimum age requirement for marriage being 20 years old under the Nepali Law. Her husband was 25 Rama’s husband belonged to the so called “upper-caste” Kshetriyas (also called Chhetris). In Nepal, the influence of caste — a social order rooted in Hindu scriptures and based on an identity determined at birth — cannot be disregarded. In the perception of caste hierarchy, Brahmins and Chhetris remain at the top and Dalits, who make up almost 13.6 percent of Nepal’s population of more than 27.33 Million, are at the bottom. Due to this perceived hierarchy, discrimination based on caste remains pervasive. From the Perception Survey carried out by the UN, among the 4,000 respondents from 16 districts, 97% indicated that they have accepted the prevalence of caste-based discrimination in their locality. Following their marriage, Rama returned to Nepal with her husband and began living with her in-laws. Being a Dalit woman, Rama was at high risk of experiencing both caste- and gender-based discrimination at her husband’s house. Fortunately, however, Rama’s husband protected her and facilitated her to be accepted as a member of the family. Rama became pregnant almost immediately after her marriage. Knowing that pregnancy could be risky for Rama at her young age, her husband insisted to abort the baby. But she remained adamant and gave birth to their first child when she was just 16. Within just five years of her marriage, her life took an unexpected turn, when a tragic road accident killed her husband. Following the death of her husband, her in-laws began verbally abusing her and forced her to work endlessly. Rama left her husband’s house along with her children and began living with her mother in Namuna Basti. Rama is now a 22-year-old widow and is a sole bread winner for her family. With poverty, lack of education and discrimination based on her caste that she faces every day, giving a decent life to her children is a constant struggle. In the same Basti, Seema Badi (name changed) lives two houses apart from Rama. Seema, just like Rama, is a child bride who chose to get married on her own. She eloped with her boyfriend, who was two-class senior to her in school, when she just became a teenager. Her mother initially brought Seema back from her boyfriend’s house and asked her to focus on her education and wait until she gained some maturity. To her mother’s dismay, Seema left the house for the second time to be with her boyfriend. And what drove her to do that? “To escape from poverty, discriminatory social norms and a desire to avoid a forced marriage to a stranger” was her answer. “My mother was giving birth every other year. I had to support her either by babysitting my siblings or supporting the household chores. At school, I faced discrimination from my peers and my teachers for being a ‘Badi girl’” lamented Seema. Recalling one of the incidents in school she said, “one day a big commotion took place in my class when I accidently touched my classmate’s tiffin box. Since she belonged to the upper-caste, my teacher thrashed me in front of my peers. That very moment, I lost faith in our education system and I tore my books in front of my teacher and left the class. I never returned to the class again.” Seema, who is 21 and a mother of an 8-year-old girl, shares she is content with her present life. Her husband is working in the gulf country to make the ends meet for the family and pay for their daughter’s education. “Together Forever” says Seema with happiness as she shows the initials of her husband and daughter's name inked on her left hand. She however feels she could have achieved more had she listened to her mother and not eloped for the second time. But the societal pressure was one of the factors that constrained her from staying with her mother. “The rumor about me eloping with my boyfriend has already spread in the community. So, the only choice I had was to go back to the person I love because no one would have accepted me as a wife later,” shared Seema. Seema does not want her daughter to repeat her same mistakes. She wants to invest in her daughter’s education so that her daughter can achieve her full potential. But the growing trend of voluntary “love marriages” among teenage children in marginalized communities, often prompted by the desire to escape poverty and discrimination, scares Seema. Seema’s fear is not unfounded. The Perception Survey showed that 90% of the 4,000 respondents acknowledge that voluntary love marriage (Bhagi Bibaha) among minors is prevalent in their locality, while 19% indicated the continued prevalence of an arranged marriage (Magi Bibaha) among minors. According to UNICEF, 15 million girls are married as children globally each year and Nepal has the third highest rate of child marriage in Asia, after Bangladesh and India. The trend of young girls like Seema and Rama choosing early love marriage to cope with poverty and discrimination not only exposes them to a vicious cycle of inequality and insecurity, but also perpetuates the practice of child marriage, creating an obstacle to global development. A 19-year-old girl from Dailekh district with her two children. Child marriage is a core development and human rights issue which is directly linked with eight of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are Goals 1 (poverty), 2 (food security), 3 (health), 4 (education), 5 (gender equality), 8 (economic growth), 10 (inequality), and 16 (peace). Ending child marriage and investing more into the child’s future is therefore an indispensable responsibility of Nepal to ensure that it fully achieves the SDGs.
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