Nepal's everyday life is still disturbed by suddenly forced strikes with roadblocks, although mostly nobody knows who called the blockade. The government is incapable of maintaining order, and Nepalese people are happy to stay at home over and over again. But civil servants are not allowed to truant and have to walk to work, which our employees do voluntarily. In June, a UNICEF report pointed out that 765 million of the world's children today were married. Although child marriage has been banned in Nepal since 1963, the various governments have not been able to abolish this tradition.
Children are still forced to marry all over the country: Hundreds of thousands of men, including 16-year-olds, leave the country every year to be hired on construction sites in the Gulf States: This means that parents have to stay at home alone, and therefore girls who have just had their period are married to these young or older men before their departure. They then have to take care of their parents in the absence of their "husband", run the household, cultivate the fields and take care of the rest of the family and the cattle.
Among our girls raised by "Children s World", few were married by choice. Most of them said that they had to marry when they were about 25 and in any case before they turned 30. We have seen again and again - and still till this day - that they suddenly marry a man they don't know, but must be born in the same caste as them. Otherwise, they would not feel accepted by society, they say. The education they received through Children's Aid Nepal led very few of them to marry the man of another caste out of love. When the desired child is conceived, it must be a boy, because only then do they feel fulfilled and recognized. It goes so far that many women have abortions because they expect a girl, and therefore doctors in Nepal were forbidden to tell expectant mothers the sex of the baby before giving birth.
Even single women and even widows are discriminated against and downright rejected by society. Some find refuge in the slums of Kathmandu, where the inhabitants accept this situation more easily because they are busy with pure survival. In the slum of Thapathali, where we work, many single women live alone or with children. In each of the 136 plastic huts, 10 people are living on average. Each family has one member who works in the Emirates. Only with the money that comes from the Gulf, they can feed themselves, because the costs for rice and vegetables are now as high as in Europe, but the Nepalese wages are very low.
Here, as in the other slums, the Children's Aid Nepal provides the people with drinking water, which is delivered three times a week by trucks, and the children receive our milk porridge enriched with vitamins and minerals every day. Our relationship with the inhabitants of this slum has improved considerably, as the parents can now see how healthy and active their children have become through our work. The women are now following Muna's advice. In the past, many of them had to have their uterus removed because of chronic infections. Today they immediately go to the hospital and get antibiotics. Little by little, there is a growing awareness that it is possible to stay healthy through regular hygienic measures.
It is a slow development, but we are happy when we realize that women learn to cope better with their lives. One hundred of Thapathali's 260 women have set up a community savings account. Each brings 500 rupees (about US $ 4) to the bank every month. They save the money that brings 8% interest, and if one of them gets into a difficult situation, there is a meeting, and everyone decides if they should help her with what they have saved. Also, the prostitution, which was very strong in the huts, is said to have been contained now, and the criminal gangs, who were active here in former times, seem to have chosen other places as meeting places.
The slum of Banshigat,
where we have been working for the longest time, has made real progress:
after decades of protest action, the state has finally given the inhabitants
the small piece of land that they have occupied for decades. 40% of
them have built small, solid houses. Our kindergarten is very much appreciated,
and the mothers can go to work without worries, while the little ones
are in good hands. Not only do they develop well with our milk porridge,
but they also benefit from the varied activities of the children