Monday, March 23, 2015

Country Overview: Nepal

After my last (admittedly, sassy) post about my experience in Nepal, you may have the impression that my time there was frustrating. Well, let me correct that right away because my time in Nepal, barring anything to do with air transportation, was anything but frustrating! This country is fascinating to me, and my love for India quickly transferred to a love for Nepal. The two countries are very similar in many ways, but Nepal has the charm of a smaller, less densely populated, cleaner environment compared to its "big brother" India. So I fell in love.

You can't beat the views to be found on any rooftop in Kathmandu, either.

Though the country is full of charm and fascinating culture, it also has a dark side. Thousands of women and children are trafficking from Nepal into India every year. Kathmandu itself also has a growing demand for prostitution, which does not bode well for those already vulnerable.

The Basics

Nepal's population numbers nearly 27 million, but in the capital city of Kathmandu the droves of tourists coming through for their trek to base camp or summit Everest increase this number impressively. For this reason, the city feels like a blend between an ancient cultural tradition and trendy western influence. The primary language is Nepali. Luckily for me, this is fairly close to Hindi. I was able to communicate easily with a combination of Hindi and English.

Unfortunately, Nepal finds itself on the United Nations "least developed countries" list. It is one of only nine Asian countries on this list - the rest being primarily in Africa. This means that the countries has huge problems with poverty, lack of education, poor health care, and limited natural resources. What's worse, the capital city has been bracing itself for an overdue massive earthquake since the early 2000's. Just imagine the crisis that would present in a country where it takes more than four days to move a grounded plane of the tarmac.

Nepal and My Project

As I said, there is a huge problem of cross-border trafficking for the sake of sexual exploitation in Nepal. It is primarily a source country for the red-light areas in major Indian cities. The tense relations between these two countries certainly are not helping the matter. According to the 2014 TIP report, Nepal does not meet minimum standards for addressing trafficking, making it a Tier 2 country.

Here are the questions I sought to answer while in Nepal:

  1. What is the historical background for the trafficking problem here?
  2. How many girls are trafficked across borders compared to those exploited here within Nepal?
  3. What systems are set up within Nepal for repatriation of rescued victims elsewhere?
  4. What is the current legal framework regarding trafficking here?
  5. How aware are the communities in Nepal of this problem?

Fortunately, there are dozens of organizations doing work in this area all over Nepal. Exciting changes are beginning to occur. The role and treatment of women is improving; the awareness of the problem is increasing. Events like the first-ever all women's 5k are happening left and right (see my Facebook post about that here). Two new social enterprises that will employ survivors in some capacity had grand openings while I was in the city for only a week. Even the graffiti is about social justice! I am so grateful that I got to participate in these exciting changes!

I was also extremely encouraged by the collaboration between organizations that seems to be going on in Kathmandu. It is difficult to find a place where organizations, who truly are competing for funding, work well together to plan events, meet needs of survivors, and share much needed information.

First Impressions

I absolutely fell in love with Nepal. Its people, its culture, and its surroundings are all just beautiful to me. I had the chance to see the bustling city and cute cafes of Kathmandu, as well as the historic villages situated just outside of the city. These villages, in many ways, are just the same as they were hundreds of years ago. In some ways, this is beautiful. However, in others - such as the way traditions have dictated violence towards women, this can be a problem. The country has a long way to go before it can be categorized as "developed" - particularly in its treatment of female citizens. However, I have hope that Nepal will begin to make strides towards progress and equality across the next few decades.




No comments: