A loud round of applause resonated across the hall as 16-year-old Anita Bishowkarma finished her speech on the importance of child rights. She recited a poem and called on government and non government bodies to reach out to women all over the country.

But she wasn’t an orator to begin with. “I wasn’t like this you know. I was scared of speaking in public. I used to be so scared. But now I can express myself anywhere,” said Anita. An orphan from Udaypur, Anita was brought to Kathmandu five years ago.

 “I was so young then. I didn’t even know what abuse was, but now I understand. My heart goes out to the fellow girls in my village who still face violence everyday,” said Anita. One particular case that haunts her is the news of a 70-year-old man raping a two-year-old.

Not every one is lucky and I want the authorities to know that, said Anita at a programme organised on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, which is being observed on Saturday.

 Nepal has ratified most international human rights and child rights instruments. The Interim Constitution and national laws have also incorporated many measures for protection of children. Still, 95 percent of girls are subjected to various forms of sexual abuse.

“We have a lot of laws and acts, but they are not being implemented,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam. “Nepal has taken a lot of steps in ensuring children and women’s rights but still gender discrimination, violence, human trafficking exists, and we have to fight it,” he said.

The problem of structural gender inequality in Nepal makes women and girls exceptionally vulnerable to judicial and social discrimination. Most of the girls are abused at home, in educational institutions, work places or any given place, according to a report by the Central Children Welfare Board for 2013.

Massage parlours, dance bars and cabin restaurants in Kathmandu employs nearly 50,000 workers, out of which 80 per cent are women aged 12 to 30. Approximately 50 per cent of them suffer from some form of exploitation. Studies show that 50,000-150,000 women and girls are trafficked every year.

National Planning Commission member, Bimala Poudel Rai, said child rights, which is a cross cutting theme, cannot be dealt by a single entity.  “This is a multi sector issue and the response should be from various sides, both government and non-government agencies,” she said.

The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl Child is “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence”, focusing on the importance of investing in empowering girls and preventing various forms of violence.

Minister Gautam, on behalf of the government, pledged to commit to the cause of security, protection and empowerment of children.

Source: The Kathmandu Post (October 11, 2014)

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