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Duchess of York visits CARE Nepal

Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson graced a meeting called by CARE in Dwarika’s Hotel in Kathmandu. Seven community representatives from CARE Nepal projects (Sakcham project in Chitwan, Chunauti project in Janakpur and CRADLE project in Doti) along with eight CARE staff engaged in an enligthening interaction with the Duchess for approximately two hours.

After an introduction to the CARE staff and community representatives Country Director of CARE Nepal, Alka Pathak explained the format of the meeting briefly which comprised a presentation on an overview of CARE programs, interjected by discussions with the community members, where relevant ; the screening of a 25 minutes video titled “We CARE: Caring for Girls and Women in Nepal” that focused on various programs of CARE in Nepal in relation to issues pertinent to women in the country. However due to keen interest of the Duchess to talk to the community representatives in person, the format of the program was changed with the sole focus being on an interaction that was interspersed with a short presentation of CARE’s work in Nepal.

The main questions from the Duchess were about the community’s personal experiences of VAW/SGBV (Violence against Women/Sexual and Gender based Violence), issues relating to maternal health and economic/social empowerment, the role of men in supporting women’s improved status. She also keenly listened to CARE project’s interventions that directly benefited the community, day to day challenges and the mechanism the community used to overcome these challenges.

The most significant responses from the community representatives was a brief overview of their profile and how they had struggled at different levels to reach where they were, that they continuously suffered domestic violence, but drew strength from their solidarity groups. They also narrated the support that they received from CARE Nepal in getting psychosocial counselling from local peers and starting a small scale business (such as pig rearing, running small shops and leasing land for plantation) through CARE’s Livelihood Improvement Program.

One of the young community representatives shared her story of loosing four of her family members in a bus explosion near Madi village due to an ambush laid by Maoist rebellions and not receiving any compensation till date. Another woman spoke poignantly about her son who was a drug addict at the age of 12; the Duchess reassured her that this was not her fault and that the woman should not feel guilty for not being able to address this issue, but to take courage in the fact that she had tried everything that was humanly possible to save her son.

The two representatives from Janakpur spoke about the ill effects of early marriage and dowry on young girls’ lives, and how the whole process marginalised them, insulted them and also had a huge effect on their health. One of the women had been married at 14 and had her first child at 16.The two FCHVs (Female Community Health Volunteers) from Doti and Kanchanpur districts disclosed the difficulty of women, especially when pregnant, in remote areas to access health facilities (the nearest health post even with minimum facility is at least two hours walk uphill). They gave a quick overview of the facilities that existed and those that were not functional at the village level. They explained in detail the training that they received with support from CARE Nepal, the basic services that they provide to the needy women and children in the area (such as Vitamins and iron tablets to pregnant women and treating pneumonia in infants above two months) and the awareness raising activities that they do on a day to day basis. They also elaborated on “chaupadi” (the act of keeping women who have their menstrual cycle, isolated and in inhuman and cramped quarters without adequate food etc for 4-5 days) which led to extreme discrimination and abuse of the women. One spoke about her success in reducing the severity of this practice in her village through awareness raising and highlighting its ill effects. The Duchess strongly condemned the act, terming it as a violation of women’s rights.

The Duchess expressed her hope of visiting Nepal again and then to visit the villages where these women came from. She also asked the women to make products for which she was eager to provide market in USA. The women from Madi had earlier presented the Duchess and the other guests with a handmade photo frame and a note book with a bamboo cover.

The Duchess was accompanied by Head of DFID, Sarah Sanyahumbi and the Duchesses Personal Secretary Georgia Hicks who also participated in the interaction session. The CARE staff presented CARE information package to the visitors that contained:

  1. CARE Nepal’s Annual Report 2008
  2. Hard copies of CARE’s presentations
  3. CARE Nepal’s flyer
  4. A leaflet of the White Ribbon Campaign of which CARE Nepal is a partner
  5. A publication of CARE Nepal “Lifting the Veil” on Reproductive Health
  6. CDs with two documentaries produced by CARE Nepal: Waves Of Change and We CARE: Caring for Girls and Women in Nepal
  7. Underlying causes of poverty analysis and contributions towards a program approach- a report

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