Nepalese women have little influence in a patriarchal society, but they’re finding ways to tackle issues such as child marriage and domestic violence. Largely rural, Nepal has a tradition of migration for work, but it also has a serious trafficking problem. 15,000 young women are taken every year to work in brothels in India.
Before the 2015 earthquakes, over 90% of children in Nepal were attending primary school. However, with 8,000 schools destroyed, many children are missing out on education or learning in temporary buildings that are often unsafe. ActionAid is supporting the reconstruction of schools and helping get children back to the classroom.
What we do in Nepal
Tackling the stigma around periods
In parts of Western Nepal, women and girls are often sent away from their homes during their periods because it is believed that they will bring bad luck. They are forced to live in animal sheds or huts, isolated, afraid, and far away from their family and friends. This practice is called “chhaupadi” and although it has been illegal in Nepal since 2005, it is still practised in many communities.
Chhaupadi puts girls’ lives in danger. It leaves them at risk of serious injury or attack, both from perpetrators of abuse and from wild animals. In recent years at least two girls are known to have died as a direct result of the practice.
ActionAid is collaborating with local women’s groups in Western Nepal to raise awareness about the negative effects of chhaupadi and its illegal status. Alongside local partners, we’ve helped establish at least 11 chhaupadi-free communities and more than 1,400 women have stopped carrying out this practice in the last 10 years. By working with community and religious leaders, as well as local police, we’re helping to bring an end to chhaupadi.
Helping girls manage their periods with dignity
Poverty prevents girls from accessing safe sanitary products and many girls are forced to manage their periods in uncomfortable, unsanitary and ineffective ways. This leaves them isolated and unable to claim their basic rights, like going to school or taking part in community life.
ActionAid is working to teach girls about menstrual hygiene from a young age. Alongside local women, we’re helping girls get information about periods, sex and pregnancy, so they are better informed about their bodies and have the skills and confidence to challenge stigma in their communities. Through local girls’ clubs, we’re giving girls the knowledge to create their own reliable, hand-made sanitary pads. These are made of clean, spare pieces of cotton — usually off-cuts of material used to make clothes. These pads are cheaper than shop-bought alternatives and give girls access to clean, reliable and affordable sanitary protection.
When women and girls are denied the ability to manage their periods with dignity, cycles of poverty and gender inequality become harder to break. By helping women and girls say #MyBodyIsMine, ActionAid is making sure their periods don’t hold them back.
Rebuilding lives after the Nepal earthquake
After the 2015 earthquakes, ActionAid gave food support to 18,500 families, and emergency shelter to 7,000.
By continuing to help the most vulnerable people rebuild their homes, getting children back in school and training communities on how to stay safe in a disaster, we’re gradually helping the people of Nepal to recovery.
Supporting women after the earthquakes
When disasters strike, women and children are often affected the worst, so we’re focussing on supporting women to rebuild their lives so they can better support their children and have the chance to emerge stronger than before.
In the immediate aftermath of the quakes, we asked women what they needed and distributed over 7,000 dignity kits, including basic essentials like underwear and sanitary pads. We also provided solar lamps and solar charging stations to women vulnerable to violence.
Our local staff set up 16 permanent women-friendly spaces, where women can discuss how they would like to reshape their community and be encouraged to take active leadership roles in the rebuild.
More than 2,000 women have learned to read, write and do maths at ActionAid learning circles – and 6,000 more also learned about their rights.
Getting women farming again
66% of Nepal’s population is employed in agriculture. Many of the communities we support live in remote villages in the mountains with very limited access to other towns for supplies, so it was vital that farmers could recover quickly after the quakes.
We’re encouraging women to join cooperatives where farmers have access to legal advice, seedbanks and techniques designed to help them respond to and rebuild after disasters. From providing training on how to set up a mushroom farm to replacing livestock that were crushed by rubble, we’re helping hundreds of women earn an income and get back on their feet.
Education and support for children
Nine out of ten school buildings collapsed in Sindhupawlchok, Kavre and Kathmandu Valley districts, as a result of the earthquakes. But ActionAid’s Children’s Clubs, a place for girls and boys to learn about their rights, are still running. We offer children a safe place to play and recover from their trauma though games, drama and art.
Since April 2015, ActionAid has helped to build over 50 temporary learning centres for kids to study. And we’ve given out 9,580 education kits to school children, including things like books, bags, pens and PE kits.
We are also working with local community groups to rebuild schools and buildings to withstand future quakes. Students and teachers learn about safety evacuation procedures and about how to recover from natural disasters.
How we’re changing lives for good in Nepal
Since the 2015 earthquakes, ActionAid has helped 120,000 survivors with food, shelter, education and psycho-social support.
Injured Krishla got medical help
Along with three million others, Rama lost her home in the earthquakes in 2015. Now, Rama lives in a temporary shelter along with her two daughters, including five-year-old Krishla (right, also pictured above).
The girls were playing with their friend in the courtyard when the quake struck. Rubble rained down on them, trapping them for an agonising half an hour as rescuers tried to free them. Luckily Krishla was pulled free but she was badly injured and traumatised. Her friend had died in the crush.
ActionAid helped to provide Krishla with urgent medical care, and supported her family with emergency aid, such as rice, lentils, salt and medicine. Mum, Rama, 32, tells us, "She has recovered from her injury. I am happy that both my daughters have recovered from the trauma."Learn more about how we respond in emergencies
Shreya and her baby survived the quakes
Shreya Dasar was eight months pregnant when the first 2015 earthquake hit. “I was at the top of my house preparing potatoes for dinner. Suddenly the earthquake came,” she said. “I wanted to run down the stairs, but I couldn’t because I was scared I would fall and hurt my unborn baby. So I held onto the window frame. I was terrified.”
Thankfully, Shreya and her husband survived the collapse of their house and found refuge in a temporary shelter set up by ActionAid in Chapaguan village. There, Shreya received much-needed food and emergency care. Two months after the quakes, in June 2015, Shreya gave birth to a healthy baby girl called Sushreya, meaning ‘beautiful’ in Nepalese.Nepal six months on: stories of hope in pictures
Helping kids recover from trauma
13-year-old Sumit joined his local ActionAid supported Children's Club in 2013. After the 2015 earthquakes, ActionAid set up special children's tents where kids could feel safe and recover from the trauma through art drama and play.
Sumit wanted to help so went from tent to tent playing games with the kids and lifting their spirits. He said, "It makes me feel really happy to help children who are younger than me. The little ones are still scared and I want to help them overcome that.”
When we went back to visit Sumit later in 2015, he told us that he and many of the children have now returned to school and life is finally getting back to normal. "It feels good to be back in school because it gives us a chance to play with our friends and forget the distress caused by the quake.”Donate to ActionAid's work
You may also be interested in…
We work across Africa, Asia and Latin America, every day, all year round.
Read our latest stories from the girls, projects and communities we work with.
Find out how you can support a Nepalese child, and their community, through child sponsorship.