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 tradition continues. 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 organization 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 color 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.