Simikot

Our project is located in the most north-western region of Nepal in a village called Simikot, which lies around 3100 m above sea level. No roads lead to Simikot hence all goods are transported by plane or carried to the next larger locations by humans or animals as the area belongs to one of the most underdeveloped in the country. Due to the steep and barren landscape only limited agriculture is possible, and long, relentless winters can lead to hunger and malnutrition for 6 months.

Limited options for education until date lead to high illiteracy rates (20% for men and 60% for women). Traditional gender roles, the strict caste system and widespread poverty perpetuate dangerous traditional practices such as the ‘boy-child-preference’, child marriage, or banishing women from the house during her period (Chhaupadi). Other consequences are exploitation and domestic violence. The main victims are women and girls.

Violence against women and girls

Nepalese women and girls face an unimaginable amount of suppression on a daily basis. The patriarchal system facilitates various types of discrimination including; violence against women and girls, no access to education, forced child marriage, rape, or even exclusion from the society. A lack of institutional and social support means that females have to endure this fate throughout their entire life. The physical and psychological harm caused from these forms of Gender-Based-Violence (GBV) can be evident in lasting chronic pain or signs of depression. Suicide is the most frequent cause of death among Nepalese women and girls between 15 and 49 years of age.

In Simikot, too, violence against women is omnipresent. Girls are often married at a young age to a much older men, what leaves them unprotected from physical and emotional exploitation as well as sexual abuse from their husbands.

Most women report regular beatings and other forms of domestic violence. When a female adolescent or adult is raped, she is obliged to marry her perpetrator. Divorce is not an option as such divorcees are excluded from the community. The society blames women and girls for the harm inflicted on them.

Once married, girls cannot continue their education hence many do not gain sufficient literacy skills. A wife moves in with her husband’s family, where she is responsible for the household chores, their children and the care for her parents-in-law. It is frequent practice that women have to hand over their earnings, have no decision-making power but require permission in all areas of life.

«Every day, when I go to bed after collecting wood, I dream about being a boy. As a boy, I could read books and imagine what I want to do with my future.”

“Once he hit me so hard that my head was bleeding heavily. I didn’t go to the hospital because I wanted to rather die than continue living with this man.”

“When she was being raped, she just lay there silently. She did not want anyone to hear her. Otherwise, she would have had to marry her rapist.”

“I was married to my husband when I was 12. I was still a child and very scared.”

Chhaupadi

Menstruating Hindu women and girls practice a tradition called Chhaupadi, which asks them not to enter the house and therefore sleep in the open when having their period. This tradition is based on the belief that a menstruating female is impure during her menstruation and after the birth of a child.

Consequently, Chhaupadi isolates women and girls for up to 7 days each month and for up to 30 days after giving birth to a child. This practice forces females to spend the night with their youngest children in forests, caves, animal sheds or wooden shacks. Staying in the open makes them vulnerable to sexual assaults, abduction for forced marriage, animal attacks and exposes them to any weather conditions, summer and winter.

Chhaupadi is life-threatening in places like Simikot where temperatures can drop to minus 15 degrees during winter. Severe frostbites and diseases are the results, which contribute to the high maternal and infant mortality rates in the region.

Although the Chhaupadi tradition has been banned by law in 2015, it is uphold in rural and remote areas as no systematic implementation of the law has been undertaken by the government.

“All the stables and crates were occupied, so I decided to sleep in the forest. It was a very cold night. I didn't feel my toes in the morning. The doctors removed one toe. "

“Once he hit me so hard that my head was bleeding heavily. I didn’t go to the hospital because I wanted to rather die than continue living with this man.”

“When she was being raped, she just lay there silently. She did not want anyone to hear her. Otherwise, she would have had to marry her rapist.”

“I was married to my husband when I was 12. I was still a child and very scared.”

Project development and Idea

In order to develop a good understanding of the social, economic, and natural environment of the beneficiaries, a comprehensive participatory approach, which included the local women, was used for over a three months period. Participants are/were recognized as experts of their living conditions and were motivated to get actively involved in the entire project planning process.

This is how the project Mahila Avaz – Women’s Voice – was born; sourcing from the numerous ideas of the affected women and girls of Simikot and developed to a project with the help of an experienced team of nationals and internationals.

Mahila Avaz – Women’s Voice – aims to end gender-based-violence through individual and collective empowerment. For this purpose, a women’s shelter was founded, as the only one in the whole district Humla (50’000 inhabitants). At the shelter, women and girls are protected from domestic violence, and traditional oppression like Chhaupadi, and are able to gain useful knowledge and competencies to tackle their daily struggles.

 Mahila Avaz – Women’s Voice aims to end gender-based-violence through individual and collective empowerment. For this purpose, a women’s shelter was founded, as the only one in the whole district Humla (50’000 inhabitants). At the shelter, women and girls are protected from domestic violence, and traditional oppression like Chhaupadi, and are able to gain useful knowledge and competencies to tackle their daily struggles.