Women in Nepal are discriminated in various aspects of everyday life. The situation of the single women categorically widows (there are 5 categories in single women) is far worse, as they are unjustly persecuted and marginalized by the pervasive outlook of society. There also exist in prevalence, certain religious and traditional practices, in Nepal, which are detrimentally harmful for the physical and mental health of the women upon whom they are inflicted.
Women for Human Rights (WHR) was founded with the basic objective of encouraging single women to step out of the confines of their homes and share their sorrows, woes, fears and frustrations with counsellors, as well as other women with similar problems. WHR was finally registered as a formal organization in 1994to work for the human rights of the single women (widows) in Nepal. In addition to providing refuge and counselling, WHR brings together women from different ethnic and religious backgrounds from across the country. They aim to build peace and include women in this process.
WHR works primarily with single women; inclusive of widows, wives of missing husbands, divorcees, unmarried women of 35 years age and above, as well as women separated yet not divorced from their husbands.
The organisation works in almost all districts of the country and has over 100,000 single women as members while a rough estimate says that there are 900,000 single women in the country. Deaths of male counter parts I due to coronavirus pandemic, while working abroad in extreme situations and political insurgency in the past brought wider growth of single women in the country, WHR states.
The basic strategic work model of WHR envisages changing of traditional stereotypes and mind-sets that bar widows from participating and accessing resources. In addition to this, WHR also aims to change policies that are discriminatory against widows and provide them with their basic rights. The basic end to this is to bring about a widespread societal realization that widows make for valuable social capital. Chhahari facilities, red colour and sindoor for widows, advocacy for rightful legal provisions for women, monthly allowances to single women are the main achievements that contributed to single women to be socially secured.
Despite legislative ratification at various levels, single women are constantly denied their basic social, political and economic rights. Their crucial roles in society as agents of change, peace-builders and sole supporters of their respective families, are hardly given adequate recognition. For a number of years now, WHR has constantly been lobbying and raising awareness regarding the dire situation of widows (single women) in the country, and as a result, has been successful in changing 6 major discriminatory laws against single women in Nepal.
Ms. Lily Thapa who is also a member of National Human Rights Council has been contributing extensively to keep WHR well moving. She had conceptualised and worked hard to establish the non-government organisation dedicated to the welfare of single women in Nepal.
WHR had recently concluded its 27th annual general body meeting and 5th convention. The election conducted at the end of events on December 25, 2021 had elected Kabita Pandey as the chairperson to lead for next 2 years tenure. Likewise Bimala Parajuli, Bishnu Maya Pandey, Ek Maya BK and Sirjana Shrestha were elected for the post of vice president, general secretary, secretary and treasurer respectively. Similarly, Sabita Maharjan, Shanti Maharjan, Bhagabati Hamal, Mina Adhikari and Shanta Paswan were elected as central executive committee members.
Ms. Kabita Pandey, the newly elected president is a lawyer by profession with expertise in gender and human rights and environment law. She had filed and represented successfully for a number of cases for protection and promotion of women’s human rights, gender and rights of children. She is also coordinating community mediation programme aimed to promote access to justice, peace and social harmony at local level especially for women and other marginalised community of Nepal. Likewise, all other elected for different responsibilities have been contributing in safeguarding rights of single women in respective districts and provinces.