Human Rights, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion
Social discrimination based on ethnicity, caste and gender plays a significant role in keeping people poor and marginalized.
The project area covers some of the most remote, inaccessible and poor communities in Nepal. Most of the landless households are Dalits, Janajatis and other marginalised groups. When it comes to new development initiatives in the area, high casted people are usually in the forefront of benefitting from the outcomes.
Many rural women live in extreme poverty, without any means of improving conditions for themselves and their households. The workload of an average rural woman is immense, taking care of most of the chores. And at the same time, women are usually not included in the communal decision making processes.
The project focuses on increasing women’s and disadvantaged groups’ meaningful participation in natural resource management and the equitable access of women and disadvantaged groups to project benefits and opportunities.
Equal Participation of Women and Disadvantaged Groups in Decision Making
Human Rights Based Approach
As a water resources management project, water resources and water rights function as an entry point to poverty reduction. Ensuring equitable access to water resources and empowering women and disadvantaged groups in water management are the core principles of the project.
As part of sanitation and hygiene promotion, the project campaigns against the discriminating social traditions, such as the Chhaupadi practice, which confines women and girls - including those disabled - to a separate space during menstruation and prevents them from using common water, toilet and sanitation facilities during this period.
In addition to water resource management, RVWRMP works to empower women and disadvantaged groups for improved livelihood development, with various activities related to food production and income generation.
In the rural areas women traditionally carry out most of the heavy chores at home
Promoting Women's Participation and Social Inclusion
RVWRMP recognizes that gender equality is a central concern in water resources management and that adopting a gender-sensitive approach improves the project’s impact, performance and sustainability. This is particularly important in the hills of Far Western Nepal, where male migration for work to urban centers and abroad, leaves women in charge of many aspects of the production cycle. Like elsewhere in the developing world, women and girls are mainly responsible for fetching (in very challenging hill and mountain terrain) the water for domestic use. Giving a voice to women on water management is of key concern to the project.
The wide-spread caste-based discrimination patterns have a negative impact on development effectiveness, as they prevent equal access to natural resources and employment opportunities and results in economic marginalization of the disadvantaged groups, such as Dalits and minority groups.
The project enforces a strict quota policy to ensure that these groups are included in all project activities as per their proportionate representation in the different communities. RVWRMP provides specific capacity building measures to empower these disadvantaged groups to actively participate in the various project activities and to actively speak up at the communal gatherings.
The Human Rights Based Approach and Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan is mainstreamed in all project activities as a cross cutting objective.
In case of elderly and disabled people Accessible Sanitation is promoted.
Drinking of water during menstruation
Menstruation related taboos; the Chhaupadi practice
Menstruation based discrimination is in practice on some level in most areas of Nepal. The mildest form of it restricts women from entering the temple or kitchen during periods, but in the Far and Mid-Western regions, Chhaupadi is being practiced in its hardest form. This means that in many areas women are made to sleep outside their home in a separate shed (Chhau-hut) or with cattle during menstrual bleeding. These sheds, generally known as goths, often lack doors and windows, are very narrow, dark and congested, and have cold dirty floors where women sit and sleep. Hygienic conditions in the sheds are deplorable, women do not bathe during periods and due to poverty and lack of knowledge, usually they do not have clean sanitary pads or cloths in use.
During periods many women are not allowed to participate in social life, like attend meetings or go to school.
Chhaupadi tradition also denies women the right to touch water taps and use toilets in the fear of polluting the water source. Menstruating women are also not allowed to touch men and women and eat curd, milk.
The project has set up the target that 80% of menstruating women will be using the toilet during periods, though this target will be hard to reach as menstruation taboos have a long tradition in the area. The project is also moving towards declaration of villages as total sanitized. The Chhaupadi system may be one of the barriers in achieving these targets. Thus, further interventions are required to end the practice.
Chhaupadi-hut for menstruating women