As always greetings to you all, hope all is well
It’s been two weeks since I returned from Nepal and I must admit I miss village life. I miss everything from host family, to friends , nature and just the way life appeared to be simple out there. Nevertheless life must go on.
So as much as I enjoyed Nepal there is a few things and cultures norms I found really difficult and challenging to accept.
We all know that gender inequality exists around the world but many of you may not know about the situation for women in Nepal.
Here’s what I learnt whilst living in Nepal:
Women are under pressure to give birth to a son. As the majority of Nepalese are devout Hindus it is believed that if you don’t have a son, you will go to hell. Women would repeatedly get pregnant in a hope of producing a male child and at times when it is discovered that a woman is pregnant with a girl, she would be encouraged into having an abortion. In a culture where women move away once married, a son is seen as an insurance policy; a provider of wealth and security for his family. Therefore some families believe that it is more important to invest in the education of a son who will be able to provide for his family long-term than a girl who would be married off to another family. The pressure to produce a son can sometimes come from the husband, his family or even the girls own family.
Women who are unable to have children face even more stigma from the community and in the home.
In some cases boys even get better education compared to that of girls.
Due to the fact that Nepal is a patriarchal society which is dominated by men, it is equally important to understand that men/ boys are also under pressure. Boys are under pressure to live up to their parents expectations and desires. At times the desires of the parents and the sons may differ, but the sons have no option but to obey and respect their parents wishes. In addition to this it must be difficult for men being the sole decision makers in every issue about family matters.
I’m sure it is challenging for both genders to live up to society and family expectations. In my opinion, I believe both male and female should be educated on the importance of equality. Both the daughter and the son should be brought up in an environment were they can learn about respecting each other regardless of gender and gain a mutual understanding. Neither of them should feel inferior or superior. The labour pain is always the same regardless of whether it’s a boy or a girl, so surely they should both be treated the same.
Women are considered impure and dirty during menstruation time.
One of the main things I found challenging and difficult during my stay was the treatment I received whilst on my menstruation. I absolutely hated having to sit separately from every one else. I couldn’t touch anyone or touch water that was going to be used by other people. I was considered dirty and impure. The result of this action meant that anyone who entered the house and saw me sitting separately from others knew I was on my period. For someone who loves privacy, the idea of everyone knowing when I was on my period felt like an invasion of my privacy. Though I complain I understand that the treatment I received could have been far more worse had I not have been a volunteer /visitor. I was fortunate to also stay in a house hold that is not so strict when it comes to such practices.
The practice formally known as mahinawari hunu is a traditional Nepalese practice which most women / households practice. Women are not allowed to enter temples, use public water sources, touch livestock or touch others. When they serve food, the person who gives it to them will not even touch the dish and at night, they are not allowed to sleep in their own beds.
Some women are against this practice but they will never take the stand and break the tradition, even though they don’t like the practice. They have accepted the practice and see it as part of their culture and life style.
The first time I was introduced to this culture practice, I will admit I found it rather annoying and challenging but like everyone else you accept it and get used to it. I guess it was easier for me to get used to it, knowing that it won’t be forever and I will only have to practice it whilst out in Nepal. However for some women, this practice causes all sorts of problems for those who practice it. Not only does it bring discomfort and isolation to the women practicing it , it sometimes can cost the women their health and life. For the young girls it disrupts their education.
I understand it’s a culture practice and I have to respect it, whether I agree with it or not. However I can’t help but feel sorry for the women who don’t wish to practice it but have no choice but to abide with culture norms. It is difficult to Change and challenge mindsets that have been set for centuries , however I do believe that women’s voices are necessary in order for change to occur. People need to be awakened and active.