Monday, March 23, 2009

Blog On Hold :-(

Thanks to all of you who are asking 'why aren't you posting right now?'

I'm hunkered down writing my final paper for grad school. I'm SO ready to finish and return to Nepal.

I am, however, accepting 'attagirl' comments here on the blog, on Facebook or at

See you...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Local groups around Nepal are working to reform the practice of Chhaupadi, the period of confinement for women during their period and for 11 days following childbirth. During this time, a woman must live away from her family and the main house, cannot work, eat regular meals, touch items shared by the family or be touched by her family members. For washing, the woman must use a separate tap or water source.

She is considered unclean.

Sometimes the woman is confined to a filthy cowshed or other animal shelter. Sometimes she must sleep outside on the ground. These confinement shelters can be musty, moldy, dank, and dark. Many are without available light or proper air circulation. Sometimes the women sit in the midst of animal excrement and foul standing water.

For the first 11 days following birth, the child is also considered unclean and can be touched only by the mother. This practice can have dire consequences for mother or child as complications arising during the postpartum and newborn period may go unnoticed. Also, the unsanitary setting may increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as diarrhea or postpartum sepsis (severe infection.)

Three years ago, Nepal’s Supreme Court outlawed Chhaupadi but its practice remains widespread. Most people still believe that to violate the confinement and allow the women in the main house will bring misfortune. They believe that if a woman eats a normal diet she will get sick and if she touches a family member they will fall ill as well. If the newborn child is taken outside the people in the village believe that God will become angry and the child will be affected.

Change is happening but slowly. Women, and their husbands, of the younger generation in Nepal are declaring that they do not like the practice. One young couple, recently interviewed for the BBC, tells their story.

In Dil village, Basanti Devi's husband, Ganesh said he wants to see the Chhaupadi system abolished.

"I broke the rules," he says. "I carried our child back from the health post where he was born and then entered the main house despite my parents' protests. I do touch my child.” His wife Basanti Devi, though, still has to go to a special tap, outside the village, to wash…away from all her neighbors.

"I wanted to give normal food to my wife but I couldn't go that far against my parents' wishes. We can't change everything at once. It has to be gradual."
Devaki Shahi works for a local charity, the Rural Women's Development and Unity Centre, and travels around advocating change. She speaks from experience, having been confined after her own son's birth.

Thanks to campaigns by her and others, the actual sites of confinement are at least improving in some of the districts in Nepal. If sheds are used, they're likely to be cleaner, less likely to be shared with animals. The women get better food too.
But FEAR keeps this tradition alive.

HOPE lies with the new generation of better educated and informed Nepalis.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Edited from a story in the San Francisco Chronicle:For over twenty years, Olga Murray of Sausalito, Calif., has dedicated her life to helping the children of Nepal, providing them with educations, meals, and health care they would otherwise never be able to get. She formed her nonprofit, the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation, to do just that with the help of caring donors.

Her love for these children has made this 83-year-old grandmother fight one of the saddest measures of poverty in western Nepal, the selling of young girls to be domestic slaves, or Kamlaris, by parents too poor to feed their children. Some of these girls are as young as 6-years-old, and many are sold year after year until they reach adulthood when they marry and start their own families. For many of these Kamlaris, the lives they lead in their employers homes are filled with abuse, both physical and mental. Worse, some of the girls are raped by employers who feel emboldened by the girls' inability to communicate with their families because they are so far away.

Murray found that the way to end this Kamlari system was to help the families out financially, treating the cause of the problem directly. Her innovative approach was to provide the family with a piglet or goat, which they could raise and sell or slaughter for food. She also tells the parents that she will provide school for the girls. She pours her efforts into stopping the transactions during the Maghe Sankranti festival when the girls return home and parents make new deals or renew contracts.

Since her projects inception, Murray and her charity have saved over 4000 girls from slavery, many of whom have gone on to receive educations and become successful businesswomen after being trained in vocational programs. Many more have become advocates and volunteers to end the practice that once enslaved them.