Currently, province- and
parliament elections are taking place in Nepal-for which there are no
less than 95 political parties in the running. Despite the chaotic situation
in the country, the most recent parliament has, occasionally, been able
to pass some reasonable laws: Already 12 years ago now, the "Chaupadi"
Tradition, which has been mandated by Hinduism for thousands of years,
was banned by the Nepalese Court of Justice. This tradition declares
women, who are menstruating, as impure. Hence, they are not allowed
to reside in the same room as their husbands for five to seven days
and have to eat separately from the rest of the family.
Here there is a difference
between the rich and the poor: destitute women spray themselves and
their dishes with cow urine once their period is over, whilst rich women
brush their bodies with gold instead. Only for this occasion and only
gold are held equal to the "holy" cow urine. Wealthy women,
who have their period, sleep in a small, separate room, whilst poor
women, especially in the countryside, stay with chickens and goats overnight.
A woman who has just given birth to a child is considered to be equally
unclean. These women are isolated in an empty room with their baby for
15 days. Even the prohibition of this tradition has not really changed
its customary use.
Consequentially, the practice
of this tradition was criminalized through a law of parliament on the
9th of August of this past year. Nevertheless, it is likely to take
decades for any change in this rite to occur. Firstly, these rituals
are deeply embedded in society. Secondly, this pessimistic view is likely
to occur, because it is mostly women who make sure that the Chaupadi
Frequently, one of the "girls" from the former "Children's
World" is pregnant and none of them are allowed to know about the
gender of the child before giving birth. For quite some time now, it
has not bin allowed for female gynaecologists (male gynaecologists do
not exist in Nepal) to share the sex of the child with the parents,
because the number of abortions has drastically increased over the past
few years, following the news of a baby girl. Meanwhile, the Kinderhilfe
Nepal has supported so many children, that they have already had more
than 130 "grand children".
Our organisation has imperturbably continued its work. In the village
of Mudhku, where we built twenty safe homes after the catastrophe of
2015, the Chaupadr rituals still exist. Muna does her best to elucidate
mother and girls, but it remains a difficult topic: The lack of hygiene
options for menstruating women do not exactly help with the development
of forward-thinking. No women, in the countryside or the slums of Kathmandu,
could ever afford monthly pads. Nevertheless, the desire of the people
of Mudhku, to live a better life, is continuing to grow and we are not
abandoning our educational work. The teeth of all children have been
examined and bad tooth decay was diagnosed for most of them. Soon, a
coach will be rented, in order to take the little ones to a dentist
in Kathmandu. Only very few parents can afford this service and we will
cover the costs.
Our commitment has continued in the slum areas that we look after: the
children receive their daily portion of our vitamin- and mineral rich
milk pudding. They also get enough potable water and are have access
to medical services at all times. In the village of Banshigat, our health
centre, the literacy class, as well as the kindergarden have become
the main focus of the settlement. We have now worked they for ten years
and thanks to the help of our employees on-site, the project is running
smoothly. The whole slum has developed into a more hygienic settlement
with improved shelters, where the residents are slowly evolving out
of extreme poverty. Bina is the head of the slum committee and she works
with our team quite closely. In the mornings, she makes sure the children
get to school and at night, she helps with the maintenance of a peaceful
community by patrolling with other women and mediating any disputes.
Unfortunately, a similar approach does not exist in the larger slum
of Thapathali. As it is common in these settlements, criminal gangs
do exist. They are supported by the different political parties financially
and have a tendency to get violent. Approximately on quarter of the
inhabitants of the Thapathali slum would be capable to pay for the milk
pudding that we give their children for free. However, we cannot differentiate
between the poor and the wealthy with this regard. If we do so, our
employees are threatened by criminals, so we had to realize that we
would either help every child or quit our work in Thapathali completely.
The entire atmosphere in this community is not great between the residents
and many have become rude towards us along the way. When we were handing
out the winter coats that will be necessary during the impending winter,
many parents fought and complained about the colour or size of the clothing.
The result was so unpleasant, that we have decided to not continue this
act in Thapathali next year.
On the other hand, there is only positive news to be shared with regard
to "our Maute Nomads". As they now get chased away from everywhere,
they have ceased to migrate. For two years they have now camped at a
highway near the airport, where they have been tolerated thus far. Since
they were in dire need for water, we had a well drilled for them. However,
when we had its water inspected, we realized that this water, like the
ground water in the capital, was contaminated with bacteria, arsenic,
and lead. It is typical for the poor people of Kathmandu to use this
water for the washing of clothing and dishes. The women then get the
potable water from far away. We have been very clear that the children
as well as the adults must brush their teeth with the potable water
and not the well water.
The women get pregnant again and again, and they get excited about the
additional children every time. Since they have now become sedentary,
they have decided (on their own) to send their children to school. These
children are now taught at a nearby State school, free of charge. We
truly respect the parents for this decision, because the majority of
the people from this ethnicity traditionally utilize their children
as beggars. Therefore, we now support them more and also supply the
children with our valuable milk pudding before they head to school.
The women are keen to learn and we have explained to them how good and
important the milk pudding is for the physical and psychological development
of their children. The people of this clan live like they would have
2000 years ago: they do not own anything apart from their tents, cooking
instruments and the blankets that we got them to get through the last
winter. They spend the daily income of the men on food and claim that
they do not need anything more, because they are completely content.
When their children fall ill, the men simply work twice as hard in order
to earn for money. At the same time, no one worries about the future
and we do have do acknowledge that some of the characteristics of our
Maute "fosterlings" are truly quite impressive.
We thank you for your loyal support towards our efforts and hope that
you had a merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year 2018.