From “breaking the silence,” to fighting superstitions, and engaging men, our 2015 LEADers present different ways they believe we can prevent violence against women.
According to data by the the World Health Organization, more than one in three women and girls globally experience some form of physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime. Each year, on November 25th, the world comes together to call attention to the violence women and girls still face in their everyday lives. This day, known as International Day for the Elimination Against Women, also marks the start of UNiTE’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which ends on December 10th, Human Rights Day.
One of Women LEAD’s core tenets is ensuring that our LEADers know they have a right to live a life free from violence. During our two-week long Leadership Institute, we give our girls a safe space to talk openly and candidly about the violence they have experienced in their lives. We also teach our program participants how to fill out a First Information Report (FIR), which allows individuals to report harassment or violence they have experienced or witnessed to the police. Women LEAD also organized a self-defense class for about 50 women and girls in the community following the 2015 Earthquakes in Nepal.
In line with the 2015 theme of Prevention, we asked our 2015 LEADers what they believed they could to to prevent violence against women and girls in their communities. These were their responses:
Despite the country’s historical election of its first female president, women in Nepal are rarely seen as equal to their male counterparts, a fact some say is reinforced by country’s new constitution. Mahima, 18, says that this belief is one of the reasons women are often susceptible to violence in their everyday lives. “I should be treated like an equal human being. Women in our societies are separated and there is always a negative way that our society looks at females.”
Bidhyalaxmi, 18, says that violence in the lives of women and girls can be prevented by ensuring that they have what she calls the “3E’s”: Education, Equal Rights, and Economic Independence. “I believe these three E’s prevent violence in the lives of women,” she explains. “These things make [women] strong and when women are strong no one can mistreat them and do any violence against them.”
Prashansa, 17 and Aastha, 17
Violence against women and girls is a subject rarely discussed in Nepali society. The 2011 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey found that 77% of women surveyed has never sought help for the violence they had faced and another 64% of women had never told anyone. Prashansa and Aastha understand that this taboo only perpetuates the cycle of violence for women and girls in Nepal. “In order to prevent violence we need to speak about the violence [we face] and stand up for ourselves. One voice or cry of help may scare away the offender,” says Prashansa.
Jessica, 17 and Nikita, 17
Jessica and Nikita, both 17, listed number of ways in which violence against women and girls can be prevented. In a country where women are still routinely accused of witchcraft, Jessica talked about how “we need to change superstitious beliefs because Nepal is very superstitious and has a lot of wrong beliefs about women.” Nikita discussed the importance of educating individuals about the different laws that protect both women and girls. “I wrote promote policy [in society] because there is already a lot of policies and law in Nepal regarding the topic but a lot of people don’t know about them or follow them,” she says.
In Nepal, like in many other countries in South Asia, the birth of boys are still prefered over the birth of girls. In fact, an estimated 50,000 babies are aborted each year in Nepal after parents discover they are girls. Kabina, 17, says that this is one issue that will need to be tackled in order to combat violence against women and girls. “Literally when a girl is born parents are found crying because they think that the door of hell is now open to them,” she says. “There is a belief that if the son is born then they can directly go to the heaven but when girls are born they are aborted.” Kabina says when girls are born they should be recognized as equal and given the same opportunities as boys in order to reach their highest potential.
Anugya, 17, noted that it’s important to empower both women and men in the fight to end violence against women and girls. “Real men don’t use violence,” Anugya says. “I know that society is dominated by men but if we educate men, then half of the work that we have to do to prevent violence [against women and girls] and empower women will be easier.”
Puja, 17, talked about how all women must know that violence is a violation of their human rights. Like her peers, she talked about how women should be able to speak out against violence, but also called out the societal belief that violence is an acceptable way to display strength over women.
“I have written a message to every woman that ‘patience’ is not only your responsibility. Do not tolerate the inhuman behavior patiently. Realize that even men can be ‘patient’ and can control their unnecessary anger,” she explained.
Sabina, 18, mentions that it’s important that authorities know how to respond appropriately to cases of violence against women and girls. “When women talked to concerned authority, the person listening to the problem should help them as much as they can,” she says. “In our country the rules and regulations are limited to papers and documents and have not come into much practice. To stop violence against women, we should practice those rules and start following them from the family itself first by treating sons and daughters equally.”
You can see what the rest of our LEADers had to say on our Facebook here.
Women LEAD is the first and only leadership development organization in Nepal, lead by young women, for young women. Each year we select 30 girls from across the Kathmandu Valley and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to become changemakers in their communities.
These interviews were lightly edited for clarity.