Simikot

Our project is located in Simikot at about 3,100 m above sea level, in the northwesternmost and most remote area of Nepal. Simikot is one of the most underdeveloped regions in the world. There are no roads, all transports are carried out on humans and animals. Due to the steep, barren landscape and the long winter, the population suffers up to 6 months of hunger and malnutrition almost every year.

 

The high illiteracy rate (20% for men, 60% for women), the strict caste system and massive poverty provide fertile ground for the continued practice of dangerous ritual customs, exploitation and violence. The main victims are women and girls.

Violence against women & girls

Nepalese women and girls face an unimaginable amount of suppression on a daily basis. It is the patriarchal society that enables these forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls: no access to education, forced and child marriage, rape, beatings, no self-determination, outcasts in their own families. Lack of institutional and social support mean that women and girls usually have to endure this fate throughout their entire life. It is characteristic that suicide is the most frequent cause of death among Nepalese women and girls between the ages of 15 and 49 years.

 

In Simikot, too, violence against women is omnipresent. Often, girls are married to much older men at an early age, leaving them unprotected against physical, psychological and sexual abuse by these men.

 

 

Nearly all women report regular beatings and other forms of violence. When a woman or girl is raped, she has to marry her rapist. If she wants a divorce due to domestic abuse, she will be cast out. Society blames women and girls for the violence inflicted on them.

 

Once married, girls are finally taken out of school, often before they learn to read and write. They now belong to the families of their husbands, must hand over their earnings and have to ask for permission in all areas of life.

“Every day when I go to bed after collecting wood, I dream of being a boy. As a boy, I could read books and imagine what I would like to become later.”

“Once he hit me so hard that my head was bleeding heavily. I did not go to the hospital, because I wanted to die rather than live on with this man.”

"When she was being raped, she was just lying 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

Hindu women and girls in Simikot practice Chhaupadi. This tradition is based on the belief that women and girls are impure during their menstruation and after the birth of a child.

Chhaupadi isolates women and girls for up to 7 days during their menstruation and for up to 30 days after the birth of a child, forcing them to spend the night with their youngest children in forests, caves, animal sheds or wooden shacks, where they are vulnerable to sexual assaults, abductions for forced marriage and attacks from wild animals.

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

Since 2015, the tradition of Chhaupadi has been banned by law, but continues to be practiced in rural and remote areas.

“All stables and Chhaupadi-houses where full so I decided to sleep in the forest. It was a very cold night. The next day I couldn’t feel my toe anymore. The doctors had to remove it.“

„In der Nacht kamen Burschen und Männer und warfen Steine und Kot auf uns. Sie sagten, dass wir uns dafür schämen sollten, zu bluten.“

"Manchmal kommen Männer und suchen sich eine Frau aus. Die nehmen sie dann, heiraten sie, missbrauchen sie und bringen sie zurück in die Chhaupadihütte."

"Während Chhaupdi fürchte ich mich vor wilden Hunden, Schakalen und Schlangen. Aber am meisten fürchte ich mich vor fremden Männern. "

Project development & idea

In order to better understand the environment women and girls in West Nepal live in and to be able to positively change it together with those affected, the project was preceded by three months of comprehensive participatory social research. Participants were recognized as experts of their living environments and actively involved in the entire project planning process.

This was how the project Mahila Avaz – Women’s Voice was born; grown from the wealth of ideas of affected women and girls, developed with the knowledge and experience of today’s project team.

Mahila Avaz – Women’s Voice has set itself the task of ending gender-based violence through individual and collective empowerment. Our women’s shelter is the only one in the entire region of Humla (more than 50,000 inhabitants). At the shelter, women and girls are protected against violence and can participate in capacity-building activities. With documentary photography, we combine development cooperation with striking art and awareness-raising in Western civil society.

 

Quotes:

„Jeden Tag wenn ich nach dem Holzholen ins Bett gehe, träume ich davon, ein Bub zu sein. Dann könnte ich Bücher lesen und mir ausmalen, was ich später einmal werden will.“

“Every day when I go to bed after collecting wood, I dream of being a boy. As a boy, I could read books and imagine what I would like to become later.”

„Einmal hat er mich so fest geschlagen, dass mein Kopf stark geblutet hat. Ich bin nicht ins Krankenhaus gegangen, weil ich lieber sterben wollte, als mit diesem Mann weiterzuleben.“

“Once he hit me so hard that my head was bleeding heavily. I did not go to the hospital, because I wanted to die rather than live on with this man.”

„Als sie vergewaltigt wurde, ist sie einfach nur still dagelegen. Sie wollte nicht, dass sie jemand hört. Sonst hätte sie ihren Vergewaltiger heiraten müssen.“

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

„Ich wurde mit 12 Jahren mit meinem Mann verheiratet. Ich war noch ein Kind und hatte große Angst.“

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