It is widely acknowledged that in Nepal women’s social, cultural, economic and political rights are not fulfilled to the extent they are for men. Nepal’s women on the whole have a lower status than men and are less well-off. The Mid Western Region and the Far Western Region comprise 23% of Nepal’s population (and 42% of its area). The two regions are home to 703,500 adolescent girls and 1,588,175 women of reproductive age.
Both regions lag behind the rest of the country in overall development and gender equality. Some of the difficulties women in the Mid and Far Western Region face are made more challenging when overlaid with issues of caste, religion or ethnicity. The lack of employment and livelihood opportunities for both men and women in these remote leads many people to migrate. As a result, women have had to take on new roles in the family and in agriculture.
Several underlying causes contribute to the vulnerability of women in the Mid and Far Western Region. Apart from a lack of livelihood opportunities, a tendency to shy away from planning and development work compounds limitations in access to services. Both day-to-day and life-changing discriminatory practices are deeply entrenched in these regions, including child marriage, badi, deuki, social and physical purdah, and chhaupadi.
The root causes of vulnerability for women in the Mid and Far Western Region include the historical patriarchal socio-cultural system; these regions being administratively marginalized in Nepal’s centralized political economy; remoteness and a lack of infrastructure; and a persistent attitude that ‘change is bad’. Difficult terrain and environmental degradation complicate the provision of and access to basic services. Finally, limited availability of arable land, its low productivity, and the inaccessibility of markets make food insecurity a pressing concern in both regions, particularly in the Hills and Mountains.
Many ongoing efforts to improve the status of women in Nepal also positively impact on the women of the Mid and Far Western Region. For example, the 2007 Interim Constitution protects the right to equality and non-discrimination on various grounds including gender and caste. Various laws have also been enacted to lower gender based violence and inequality. The National Women’s Commission (NWC) has been established as a statutory body and the government has adopted a national plan of action for the protection and promotion of women’s human rights. A Nepal Police Women’s and Children’s Cell has been established in each of the country’s 75 districts.
Initiatives specific to the Mid and Far Western Region include the adoption of guidelines to eradicate chhaupadi (Chhaupadi Pratha Unmulan Nirdesika 2064 B.S.); the establishment of legal aid committees in four districts (along with 31 more in other regions); the establishment of community-level service centres in 5 districts (along with 10 more in other regions); and the establishment of rehabilitation centres in one district each from these two regions (along with six districts in others). In addition, in 2007, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Badi community (concentrated in these two regions) that guarantees them various rights, including the right to citizenship.
In the coming five years, the UN Country Team will specifically focus on the most vulnerable districts, many of which are in the Mid and Far Western Regions.