Elderly Poverty in NepalNepal, nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, captivates with its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural tapestry and spiritual heritage. Home to Mount Everest, diverse ethnic groups and ancient temples, this South Asian nation invites exploration of its natural wonders and the warmth of its people. 

However, the elderly poverty situation in Nepal unveils a poignant narrative of economic vulnerability and social intricacies affecting its aging population. Exploring the nuanced facets of elderly poverty in Nepal sheds light on the imperative for targeted interventions and policies to ensure dignified lives for its senior citizens. Below are five facts about elderly poverty in Nepal.

5 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Nepal

  1. Rising Elderly Population and Migrating Younger Generation: Nepal has a rapidly growing elderly population, with seniors accounting for around 10.21% of the total population in 2021. This is a 38.2% increase compared to the 2011 census. More than 80% of Nepalese seniors depend on their children for support. However, youths from 47% of Nepalese households have migrated abroad in search of better economic opportunities, leaving elderly family members behind to shoulder the family’s social, financial and physical responsibilities with reduced support.
  2. Limited Pension Coverage and Poor Social Safety Nets: While non-contributory social pensions have been a blessing for some Nepalese seniors, barriers such as geographic, poor infrastructure and limited awareness about available social welfare programs for the elderly can make it difficult for seniors to access essential services and markets, resulting in underutilization of available resources and benefits. Additionally, the absence of comprehensive social safety nets further complicates the situation. While Nepal has implemented unique social pensions such as the Old Age Allowance (OAA), the intended results of such pensions have fallen short. For example, a study on the OAA found that 61.7 % of OAA beneficiaries were dissatisfied with the cumulative allowance.
  3. Area and Gender Disparities: More than 85% of older adults live in rural or economically disadvantaged regions of Nepal. The multifaceted struggle for the elderly population is more pronounced in these rural areas, where access to basic services and economic opportunities is often limited. Seniors often face high health care costs that can deplete their limited financial resources. For example, a study conducted on malnutrition among the elderly in the Kavre district of Nepal found that 49.7% of the elderly faced the risk of malnutrition, with malnutrition prevalence being higher among females at 15%, compared to males at 8%.
  4. Illiteracy: Illiteracy and poverty share an intertwined relationship, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage. Limited access to education hinders individuals from acquiring essential skills and knowledge, severely limiting their employment prospects and income potential. Without the ability to read, write, or comprehend information, economic opportunities remain restricted, reinforcing the barriers to escape poverty. Illiterate individuals often lack awareness of available social welfare programs, further marginalizing them from support systems. A survey found that the literacy rate for older adults in Nepal was 27% for males and only 4% for females.
  5. Elderly Abuse: Despite a large portion of the elderly being dependent on their family, elderly abuse silently festers in Nepal, a distressing concern demanding urgent attention. Abuse, in this case, is not limited to physical abuse and also includes neglect, financial abuse and psychological or emotional abuse. A study on elderly abuse in Nepal concluded that 54.5% of the elderly experienced some form of abuse, with neglect being the most common form at 23.1%, followed closely by psychological abuse at 20.6%.


Current solutions to elderly poverty include international and local efforts and ongoing research.

  • International efforts: Many international organizations, including the UN and its affiliated organizations, are involved in the fight against elderly poverty in developing countries. However, there are specific organizations aiding the elderly. For example, Help Age International aims to aid 8,000 elderly citizens with access to their basic needs. Additionally, aid from Western economies has made a significant impact on alleviating poverty. For example, the U.K.’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) support has spent £897,549,791 on cultural and educational development projects.
  • Local efforts: NGOs based solely in Nepal have focused on specific sectors that may aid in poverty reduction. For example, Volunteers Initiative Nepal has assisted 25,113 beneficiaries through its Women’s Empowerment Program and 143,842 beneficiaries through its Public Health and Medical Care Program
  • Future research: Many scholars have been researching aging trends in Nepal, and some have noted that technology can be an important tool, as the introduction of schemes such as Mobile Money Cash Transfers can overcome the physical distance hindrance and deliver the OAA on time to elderly individuals in remote areas.

Looking Ahead

Elderly poverty in Nepal presents a pressing and complex challenge. With a growing senior population and limited social safety nets, many elderly individuals find themselves grappling with financial insecurity and inadequate access to health care. The interplay of insufficient pension systems, lack of family support and limited employment opportunities exacerbate their vulnerability. 

Addressing elderly poverty requires comprehensive policies that ensure equitable access to essential services, foster intergenerational support and promote sustainable livelihoods. By recognizing the unique needs of Nepal’s elderly population, the Nepalese government and other organizations can work towards alleviating their plight and enhancing their quality of life.

Piyush Plabon Das
Photo: Flickr

Community Forestry 
Having endured earthquakes in April 2015 while being one of the world’s youngest democracies, Nepal’s population has been struggling to lift themselves out of poverty. Nevertheless, a transformative light has emerged over the last 40 years through pioneering community forestry initiatives. Beyond empowering local communities, these endeavors present promising avenues for alleviating poverty’s grip. 

What is Community Forestry?

Community forestry is a participatory approach to natural resource management where local communities are empowered to collectively manage and make decisions about nearby forest resources. This practice involves sustainable utilization, conservation and regeneration of forests to meet both environmental and socioeconomic goals, offering communities opportunities for income generation, livelihood diversification and a stake in preserving their ecosystem. Here are four ways Nepal’s community forestry impacts poverty alleviation.

1. Empowerment for Economic Upliftment

Nepal’s community forestry model focuses on empowering local communities to manage their nearby forests. This approach opens avenues for sustainable resource utilization, creating income streams that can uplift communities from poverty. The village of Fulbari, nestled in Nepal’s Siwalik hill range, has become a powerful testament to the potential of community forestry in uplifting impoverished communities. With the backdrop of Nepal’s forest cover at 26%, Fulbari’s landscape shines as a living example of the success of such initiatives

The village, primarily comprised of the Tamang caste, faced considerable challenges, including displacement due to floods and limited resources. In 2003, Fulbari was established on public land to resettle those affected by natural disasters. The on-site Grass cultivation significantly supported livestock farming, offering a readily available source of feed, and freeing up time for other income-generating activities. The villagers embraced alternative crops like turmeric and ginger, diversifying their income streams. Financially, this transition was profound, with farmers experiencing improved economic conditions and even establishing internal funds for various needs.

2. Breaking Agrarian Chains

Nepal’s heavy dependence on agriculture has perpetuated poverty in rural pockets. Community forestry introduces an alternative avenue, offering livelihoods less vulnerable to climate shifts. According to a study in 2017 investigating the rural regions of central Nepal, it was found that small-scale farmers have shifted their primary livelihood focus from subsistence farming towards alternative non-farm endeavors, such as remittance-based income and wage labor. Additionally, the research highlighted that the trend of diversifying livelihoods through non-farm activities is prevalent among a significant portion of rural households.

3. Women’s Rise To Empowerment

Community forestry initiatives have ignited a positive ripple effect on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Women’s involvement in decision-making and income-generating pursuits is on the rise. As of 2009, the Community Forestry Guidelines were amended so that 50% of community forestry user group executive committee members would comprise women and 35% of user-group income would be used for pro-poor intervention. The Dolakha Community Forest underscores this trend with women-led endeavors such as herb cultivation and apiculture, leading to not only poverty reduction but also a shift in societal dynamics.

4. Scaling Impact for a Brighter Future

Community-managed forests now account for more than a third of Nepal’s forest cover, which has grown by about 22% since 1988, according to government data. Independent studies also confirm that greenery in Nepal has sprung back, with forests now covering 45% of the country’s land. Thus, Nepal’s achievements are garnering attention far beyond their borders. Government bodies and international organizations are amplifying these initiatives to replicate success stories. Supported by funding and expertise from entities like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the expansion of community forestry continues to broaden opportunities for poverty alleviation.

Looking Forward

Nepal’s community forestry undertakings offer a glimmer of hope in the global struggle against poverty. Through local empowerment, livelihood diversification and gender-inclusive strategies, these programs present a blueprint for sustainable poverty alleviation. As Nepal’s journey unfolds, its lessons resonate globally, prompting us to explore innovative pathways that can uplift vulnerable communities and lead us closer to a world free from the shackles of poverty.

Miriam Schuller
Photo: Flickr

Equity Index in Nepal Equitable access to school increased significantly in Nepal between 2006 and 2016. The gender gap in school enrollments reduced by 2.8% during this 10-year period. However, the government noticed that other disparities limited access to quality education for children.

The government created the Consolidated Equity Strategy for the School Education Sector in 2014 to strengthen equity in education, primarily through measuring existing disparities and taking action to address them. Nepal’s Equity Index was launched in 2017 to operationalize the equity strategy and target the most disadvantaged school districts.

An Innovative Financing Tool for the Education Sector

The Ministry of Education developed the Equity Index with support from UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), World Bank. It is an innovative tool that enables the Ministry to rank the prevalence of disparities in educational outcomes, access and participation in schools and allocate resources to schools based on data that calls out specific needs. It exists within the Education Management Information System (EMIS) in the Department of Education.

The Equity Index uses data on gender, geography, socio-economic status, ethnicity and caste, and disability to create an “equity score” for each district. The planners and policy-makers rank districts according to their respective index scores. The data and the index are shared at all levels in the education sector to ensure the inclusion of district-specific disparities. This data sharing helps the government allocate resources as part of budget planning activity and considers the outcomes for further planning.

Indicators of Education Outcomes

A few critical components or indicators were needed to measure the efficacy of the Equity Index in Nepal. These include the percentage of children not enrolled in schools, survival rates (children repeating levels and/or dropping out), learning outcomes and levels of education: Basic (Grades 1-8) and Secondary (Grades 9-12).

Nepal’s Equity Index Piloted in 2017

Nepal’s basic education sector encompasses over 30,000 schools and approximately 8 million students between Grades 1 and 10. In 2017, more than 700,000 children of school age were not in primary or secondary school across the country.

Schools are allocated a budget annually based on the number of students enrolled. However, the needs of these schools could be different. For example, a school that needs some sort of food scheme for students may be in a community that cannot afford school supplies. In such cases, the Equity Index could aid in helping decision-makers allocate the extra funds needed to procure school supplies.

Using the Equity Index, the government identified five districts as part of the initial scope for targeted interventions in 2017. The interventions are usually proposed by the district stakeholders (which could include parents and guardians), including communication campaigns and community mobilization for children who are out of school. The Equity Index observed that out of 109,500 children who were out of school in these five districts, approximately 22% enrolled due to these interventions.

Reaching the Disadvantaged Made Feasible

Nepal’s Equity Index resulted in remarkable progress, increasing coverage from 6% (5 out of 75 districts chosen in 2017) to 20% by 2019, enabling the government to allocate additional budget for targeted interventions in these districts.

In 2019, the U.N. verified that there was more than a 50% reduction in out-of-school children in these targeted districts.

Understanding the nature of barriers to access and learning is critical to ensuring inclusion and equity in the education sector. The Equity Index in Nepal enables its government to compare severities in disparities across districts and take the necessary actions to guarantee targeted interventions where they are most needed.

– Sudha Krishnaswami
Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in NepalAs of May 2023, 15.1% of Nepal’s population continues to live below the poverty line — less than $1.90 a day. In 2014, this number stood at 30.1%. Despite these drastic improvements, Nepal’s poorest continue to face significant challenges, as levels of malnutrition and air pollution remain critically high, and standards of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) remain critically low. As a result, communicable, maternal, neonation and nutritional (CMNN) diseases alone continue to cause 21% of deaths in Nepal, despite being largely preventable. Listed below are some of the most prominent diseases in Nepal. 

Top 7 Diseases in Nepal

  • Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) – Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), such as coronary heart disease and strokes, are the leading cause of death in Nepal, with 24% of total deaths being attributed to CVDs alone in 2019. Cardiovascular disease is the general term for conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. CVDs are the leading cause of death globally.
  • Malaria – Malaria poses a “serious and persistent threat to public health” in much of Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization, and it is the region with the second-highest estimated malaria burden globally. While Malaria remains the second-highest leading cause of death in Nepal, between 2015 and 2021, the country has seen a more than 40% reduction in the number of cases recorded, a global target set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The mortality rate from malaria has also decreased drastically between 2009 and 2019, a decrease of almost 82 deaths per 100,000 cases
  • Diarrheal Disease – Often caused by bacteria, diarrheal diseases are particularly common in countries such as Nepal, where there are poor water, sanitation and hygiene standards (also known as WASH) for the majority of the population. While numbers are improving, diarrheal diseases remain the third highest cause of death and remain one of the most prominent diseases in Nepal. 
  • Lower Respiratory Infection – Often used as a synonym for pneumonia, lower respiratory infections are any infections in the lungs or below the voice box. Largely a result of poor levels of WASH and dangerous levels of air pollution in the country’s capital, Kathmandu, currently standing at 4.9 times higher than recommended by WHO, lower respiratory infections are one of the top diseases in Nepal. 
  • HIV/AIDS – Around 30,000 people in Nepal live with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). If left untreated, HIV can develop into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), which is often fatal. Since February 2017, the United Nations’ Test and Treat Strategy has aimed to prevent the spread and to administer treatment of HIV and AIDS, with highly positive results. More work, however, needs to be done to ensure the Test and Treat Strategy can be administered effectively and reaches Nepal’s most vulnerable, to ensure that one day it no longer ranks as one of Nepal’s most prominent diseases and leading causes of death
  • Tuberculosis (TB) A serious bacterial infection of the lungs, the prevalence of tuberculosis in Nepal has been on the rise since 2018. Around 117,000 people in Nepal have been diagnosed with TB, and an estimated 69,000 of these developed TB in 2018 alone. WHO surveys estimate that around 40% of people who present with symptoms of tuberculosis do not seek treatment. Malnutrition is one of the main factors leading to the contraction of TB. 
  • Meningitis – A bacterial infection of the lining around the brain and the spinal cord, meningitis is particularly prevalent among Nepal’s youth. 83% of the cases occur among those under 25 years of age, while the highest age-specific attack rate is children under 1 year of age. With a lack of access to public health care services among Nepal’s poorest, the case fatality rate for meningitis in Nepal stands at 11%, making it one of Nepal’s deadliest diseases. 


For each of Nepal’s most prevalent diseases, their fatality levels have decreased substantially over the last 15 years. This is in large part due to the work of NGOs and nonprofit organizations such as USAID and WHO helping to improve levels of malnutrition and standards of WASH. USAID is currently working with the Government of Nepal to improve the country’s public health services, providing critical care to Nepal’s poorest and most vulnerable. Yet communicable and preventable diseases in Nepal continue to be a leading cause of death, and more work needs to be done to ensure these numbers continue to improve. 

– Eleanor Lomas
Photo: Unsplash

Women in Nepal
In 2015, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck Nepal and surrounding countries, claiming the lives of thousands. This earthquake not only displaced millions but also plunged more than 1 million Nepali people into poverty. The most susceptible demographic, children and women in Nepal, bore the brunt of the impact. Many children found themselves orphaned, compelled to aid their remaining family members, which led to them forsaking school attendance and engaging in child labor full time. Among the tasks undertaken by many children was the labor of breaking rocks along the riverbed to sell the stones for monetary gain. After visiting Nepal and witnessing these circumstances, U.S. citizen Maggie Doyne made a commitment to help children and women in Nepal rise out of poverty.

About Maggie Doyne

Fast forward to 2008, when an 18-year-old American girl named Maggie Doyne, who had opted for a gap year after high school to travel, discovered a girl breaking rocks on the banks of a river in Surkhet, Nepal. This encounter prompted Doyne to establish a connection with the young girl and develop a friendship. Doyne proceeded to assist the girl by paying for the girl’s school books, uniform and school tuition fees.

The encounter with the girl prompted Doyne to contemplate the stark contrast between those who possess abundance and those who endure scarcity in the world. As time passed, Doyne extended her support to other disadvantaged children in Nepal. Doyne helped to send the children to school but soon recognized that some of these children required more than just access to education. The children lacked a stable and nurturing home environment. This realization compelled Doyne to take further action.

Kopila Valley Children’s Home

Doyne took action by using her savings to acquire a piece of land in Nepal. In collaboration with Nepali resident Top Malla and the support of the local community of Surkhet, Doyne brought Kopila Valley Children’s Home into existence in 2008. This establishment offers a stable and safe environment that now serves as the home for more than 40 children in Nepal.

Many of these youngsters come from backgrounds with profoundly distressing circumstances. They receive support not only from Doyne, whom they affectionately refer to as their mother, but also from a diverse group of caregivers they address as aunts and uncles. Doyne and her team have managed to deliver tailored assistance to these children. “Kopila Valley was born and soon blossomed into BlinkNow, a nonprofit foundation serving an ever-growing, ever-inspiring community in Surkhet, Nepal,” the BlinkNow website says.

Kopila Valley School

Eventually, Kopila Valley Children’s Home embarked on an expansion that included the establishment of Kopila Valley School in 2010. Currently, the school accommodates more than 400 students hailing from the neighboring community. Additionally, the school ensures that its students receive nourishing meals and access to health care services. The school infrastructure was upgraded to a “green campus” to place a focus on sustainability. For example, the implementation of solar power systems and the use of earthquake-resistant materials. Notably, all educators and staff members at the school are of Nepali origin and many other staff members are from the local community.

Kopila Valley Women’s Center

Kopila Valley has undergone further expansion, solidifying that it plays a fundamental role in the community it serves. In addition to the children’s home, school and health clinic, BlinkNow developed the Kopila Valley Women’s Center in 2013. This center is committed to empowering marginalized women in Surkhet by delivering vocational and empowerment training. With a mission to address issues like abuse, educational deficits and limited economic prospects, the center offers comprehensive assistance.

Many of the training participants are survivors of domestic violence and early marriages. The participants receive intensive instruction in valuable vocational skills like sewing, weaving and cosmetology. This training equips them to secure employment and undertake economic endeavors and enhance their overall livelihoods.

The empowerment courses also cover self-confidence skills, health and wellness, women’s rights, Nepali law, basic literacy, business and and maths skills. Trainees also have access to “counseling services, which provides mediation, legal support, and general stress and trauma care and management,” the BlinkNow website says. The Center’s influence reaches even further through its community workshops, fostering gender parity and women’s empowerment.

The training has enabled graduates to develop independent enterprises and cooperative endeavors. Beyond skill development, the Center fosters a nurturing atmosphere where women come together to heal, uplift and support each other. This nurturing environment catalyzes positive transformation within the community, effectively showcasing the profound impact of education and the formidable strength of women in Nepal.

BlinkNow has had a profound impact on children and women in Nepal. The work of Maggie Doyne and her team has helped lift many people out of poverty, allowing them to secure independence, strength and support.

– Ada Rose Wagar
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Nepal
The global organization Girls Not Brides defines child marriage as an issue “rooted in gender inequality,” which is ultimately “made worse by poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices, and insecurity.” The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has one of the highest rates of child marriage in South Asia, and Plan International suggests that “37% of Nepali women aged 20-24 years are married by the age of 18 and 10% of those are married before 15.”

Reasons for the Prevalence of Child Marriage in Nepal

Child marriage in Nepal, as well as across the globe, is a clear violation of a child’s human rights. There are many factors that contribute to the prevalence of child marriage, and poverty is one of those significant factors. In some countries, deeply entrenched cultural and social traditions stand as a reason for child marriage. For instance, some families marry their daughters off young in order to preserve their “purity”—a girl who marries young will be less likely to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage and bring shame to the family.

Families experiencing extreme poverty see child marriage as a way of relieving their economic burdens, as the girl’s husband will take on the financial burden of care. Additionally, the child bride’s parents may receive money or gifts that will bring relief to their economic struggle.

Champions of Change

Plan International is a humanitarian organization that advocates for the advancement of “children’s rights and equality for girls.” Plan International implements several girl-led and youth-centered campaigns to promote gender quality in the country. For example, through Plan International’s Champions of Change, the organization aims to utilize youth engagement to advance gender equality and address issues that disproportionately impact females in the country, such as child marriage. Child marriage is, in fact, one of the main focuses of the Champions of Change program.

Asha is a 22-year-old female who is a facilitator for Plan International’s Champions of Change program in Nepal. Having avoided child marriage herself, Asha aims to help young girls understand their right to make decisions regarding their futures and bodies. On weekends, Asha facilitates training sessions on gender equality for young girls in Nepal between the ages of 10 and 24. “I want all the participants to learn about their bodies and their choices. This will help them to understand why child marriage is a harmful traditional practice,” Asha says to Plan International.

Looking Ahead

Unfortunately, child marriage is not uncommon. Young girls who find themselves in this situation face a threat to their futures and well-being. UNICEF recognizes that in order to find a lasting solution to child marriage, the world must address the factors that enable it. Campaigning for gender equality remains the most effective way to transform the lives of girls across the globe. Educating younger generations about the harmful nature of child marriage should be a necessary requirement for all schools. Organizations continue to promote the significance of education around this topic, for both young girls and boys, while also running campaigns with the aim of helping young females understand their rights.

– Olivia Taylor
Photo: Flickr

Leprosy in NepalLeprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease, is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Leprae which is related to the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. The disease is mildly infectious and is most prevalent in places with higher levels of poverty. Due to issues like overcrowding and malnutrition that many people living in poverty face, people’s immune systems can be compromised, making them less able to fight the bacteria.

Leprosy is curable and, if treated early, it will not cause any long-term health issues. According to The Leprosy Mission, around 200,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with leprosy each year.

Although the overall prevalence of leprosy in Nepal fell below one case in 10,000 of its entire population in 2009, there are still areas in Southern Nepal where its prevalence is much higher due to its proximity to Northern India. Nepal was still among the top ten countries affected by leprosy in 2021.

How Leprosy Affects People

If left untreated, leprosy can cause nerve damage, leading to a loss of sensation in the hands, feet and face. Due to this loss of sensation, people with untreated leprosy are less likely to notice pain from injuries such as burns and cuts, which can then lead to infections. Nerve damage to the face can also cause difficulty with blinking and can lead to eye damage and even blindness.

Due to myths and superstitions, there is a great amount of fear and stigma surrounding leprosy in many cultures. Those suffering from the disease are often isolated from their families and communities, and many lose their jobs and even their homes because of this.

Heal Nepal

Although leprosy is curable, especially when treated early, it can be very difficult to diagnose. The Leprosy Mission works with medical researchers to discover new treatments for leprosy and develops campaigns in countries affected by leprosy to help educate people about the disease. They also work with governments worldwide to ensure medical staff are educated, reducing misdiagnosis and preventing leprosy from developing.

The Leprosy Mission aims for zero transmission of leprosy worldwide and is working to improve education on how to end the transmission of leprosy in Nepal through its Heal Nepal program. Heal Nepal works with local communities and health services in 11 different districts of Nepal to educate local communities about leprosy, raising awareness of its symptoms and treatment. They also train health workers on leprosy diagnostics and encourage the early treatment of leprosy, and emphasize that it is not infectious when treated.

These efforts have significantly reduced waiting times for referrals and have allowed for a more efficient provision of leprosy treatment to patients, which has decreased the number of serious health complications in people with leprosy in Nepal. The program also provides patients suffering from more advanced cases with reconstructive surgery when necessary.

How Heal Nepal Is Supporting People with Leprosy in Nepal

Heal Nepal has recruited numerous female volunteers and trained them to identify leprosy, and due to their efforts, more than 170 new leprosy patients have been identified and given treatment. This has lowered the levels of the disease and prevented many people from developing lifelong disabilities that can occur as a result of untreated leprosy.

Along with readily available and highly effective treatments such as multi-drug therapy (the World Health Organization’s recommended treatment for leprosy), there have been many medical breakthroughs within the past decade that are helping people with disabilities caused by leprosy. “Clawed hands” or foot-drops caused by leprosy-related nerve damage can now be restored with surgery and physiotherapy, and reconstructive surgery can also restore eyelid muscles, allowing people to blink again. People with nerve-damaged hands and feet are also encouraged to check daily for any cuts or burns and to soak their hands and feet regularly to make them softer, which helps prevent further injuries which could cause disability. Protective shoes and mobility aids have also been made available to those who need them, improving their quality of life and allowing them to be more independent.

Not only do Heal Nepal and The Leprosy Mission help those with leprosy on a physical level, but these programs also help with the social aspects of having leprosy and work to end the stigma and fear surrounding leprosy by educating people in communities where leprosy is common. They also offer counseling and support groups to help people with leprosy feel less alone and help them cope with the negative social aspects of having the disease.

Overall, The Leprosy Mission’s Heal Nepal campaign has helped reduce transmission of leprosy by identifying and diagnosing the disease early on. This has allowed people with the disease to be treated and cured and allowed many people to return to a normal standard of life. For those with more advanced cases, their quality of life has also been improved with more advanced medical and social care.

– Molly Wallace
Photo: Flickr

Social and Political Stability
Poverty plays a primary role in many of the social and political issues visible around the world. Considering this, global poverty reduction stands as the solution to strengthening social and political stability worldwide.

The Connection between Poverty and Instability in Nepal

Nepal, a country in South Asia, stands as a strong example of how poverty connects to social and political instability. For much of its modern existence, Nepal has seen a steady stream of political instability and violence, visible in tragic events such as the Nepalese Civil War that lasted from 1996 to 2006 and many other political uprisings. While some of this instability links to Nepal’s historically weak governance, studies show a strong correlation between the nation’s poverty and political violence.

According to a research article by Lauren C. Griffin published in 2015, about 25% of people in Nepal survived on less than $2 per day. The history of extreme poverty in the nation opened the door for instability and violence in many ways. For instance, the Maoist insurgency beginning in 1996 led to Maoists taking over the education system to perpetuate their terror and recruiting impoverished people with grievances against the government to join the cause.

Because many of the Nepalese are trapped in this cycle of poverty with their basic needs going unmet, it is easier for political instability and radical terrorism to take hold. By helping to raise the quality of life and access to decent wages and education in Nepal, not only would residents be able to rise out of poverty but the country’s ever-present political and social chaos would be curtailed as well, says Griffin.

There is a broader consensus that helping to promote political stability and to solve social and political issues like those found in Nepal is one important way to fight poverty. “Regions that are afflicted with problems of poverty are more likely to experience crises and instability, and the reverse is also true,” said Dr. Ritu Lauter, a professor of International Studies and Political Science at Peninsula College in an interview with The Borgen Project. “When poverty rates are low, you are likely to experience more political stability… People in free and open societies are likely to fare better in life on all sorts of indicators of human security and well-being. Consequently, there is less likelihood of social and political upheaval and unrest.”

Women’s Rights and Access to Education

The prevalence of poverty typically impacts issues such as women’s rights and opportunities and access to education. Without regard for women’s rights and educational opportunities, cycles of generational poverty only continue. Dr. Lauer understands the importance of ending global poverty in order to find solutions to these issues. “Global poverty is associated with negative outcomes in all areas of life, be they social, economic or political,” she said in her interview with The Borgen Project.

“With more access to wealth come more opportunities to have a higher standard of living and a more comfortable lifestyle. When survival is not the only goal and societies have more resources available, investments in human development are more likely, thus supporting higher literacy rates and gender equality.”

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “If all students in low-income countries had just basic reading skills (nothing else), an estimated 171 million people could escape extreme poverty. If all adults completed secondary education, we could cut the global poverty rate by more than half. ” Recognizing the importance of education in reducing poverty, the U.N. declared high-quality education one of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, with the overall objective of reaching zero poverty.

The Potential Impact of Support

According to Oxfam, a significant majority of the global adult population living in poverty are women. These women face numerous obstacles in their efforts to escape poverty, including low wages and precarious working conditions. Providing these women with access to resources that can uplift them out of poverty not only benefits them individually but also contributes to the overall development of their impoverished nations.

For instance, women represent 45% of the agricultural workforce in developing countries. When women are given more opportunities, such as improved access to education and other resources to support their careers, it leads to better community nutrition outcomes and more efficient management and preservation of local natural resources, as stated by Global Citizen. Additionally, safeguarding women from violence and political oppression plays a crucial role in reducing poverty rates in any given region, fostering social stability, and promoting community growth.

Action to Address Social Issues

Work is already underway to end global poverty by addressing social issues like these. For example, a U.K.-based charity called the Nepal Education Foundation (NEF) is focusing on improving primary education in Northern Nepal. Not only does the NEF work to provide educators and schools with the resources and support needed but it also works with local communities in Nepal to “construct classrooms, toilets and playgrounds.” The NEF also helps with curriculum development.

Dress for Success, established in 1997, is a large nonprofit that works in more than 20 countries to empower women with resources and skills to attain economic self-sufficiency, enabling them to rise out of poverty. Dress for Success provides this support for impoverished women in several ways, including helping poorer women find outfits for job interviews and hosting programs that teach women leadership skills that will help them thrive in their employment endeavors and in life.

So far, the organization has helped more than 1.3 million women move toward self-sufficiency and independence. The efforts of Dress for Success not only help individual women prosper economically but trickles out into broader prosperity for whole communities and countries as a whole.

As the fight against global poverty continues, it is important to remember how improving political stability and social issues benefits not only individuals and their countries but the peace and prosperity of the world as a whole. Be it by promoting political peace, or by providing educational access to children and protecting women’s rights, the whole world benefits from global poverty reduction.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in NepalAnuradha Koirala, the founder of Maiti Nepal, has rescued and prevented over 50,000 female victims of human trafficking in Nepal in the past 30 years. 

In 1949, Koirala was born into a well-educated and affluent family, showered with love from her parents. Her life seemed like a carefree fairy tale until her marriage during which suffered physical abuse, mistreatment and humiliation from her husband. Koirala blamed domestic violence for enduring three miscarriages.

Finally, she was able to escape her horrible marriage and start a grocery store in a small town to make a living. However, Koirala didn’t forget the pain of her marriage. She determined to use her experience to help abused victims of human trafficking in Nepal. Thus, she embarked on her own rescue mission, tracing the footsteps of trafficked girls.

A Background on Human Trafficking in Nepal

Nepal and India share an open border of 1,850 kilometers, which has made human trafficking in Nepal one of the most lucrative markets in the world. The Human Trafficking Rescue Program estimated that there are more than 54 women trafficking cases in Nepal every single day. According to investigations from the United Nations and local non-governmental organizations, approximately 12,000 to 15,000 Nepalese young girls and women are victims of human trafficking each year. These individuals hold hopes of finding well-paid employment abroad, but their dreams turn into nightmares. Most of them end up in brothels in India, enduring rape and becoming slaves to addiction. Furthermore, these exploited women are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. 

Maiti Nepal Helps Rescue Human Trafficking Victims

In 1993, Koirala used her meager income to establish the nonprofit organization Maiti Nepal, meaning “Mother’s Home Nepal.” The organization offers medical care, rehabilitation services and educational training services to trafficked girls, enabling them to reintegrate into society. Its vision is to create a society free from exploitation against women. As the organization developed, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) decided to provide financial support to Maiti Nepal. 

Moreover, Maiti Nepal collaborated with UNICEF to launch a dance program “KinderKulturKarawane” to release girls’ inner pain and rebuild their confidence. Many survivors have found a positive outlet through dance, expressing their emotions and boosting their physical and mental well-being. Additionally, survivors incorporate their stories into dance performances, raising awareness among the public about the dangers of human trafficking and the common tactics used by traffickers.

Currently, Maiti Nepal has established 11 temporary shelters in different border towns, providing counseling services, health care and life skills training. The organization‘s transit homes serve not only as temporary residences for victims of human trafficking but also as interception points to rescue children and women. It collaborates with border police, conducting regular raids on brothels and searching for traces of traffickers along the Nepal-India border. 

Maiti Nepal became the world’s first social organization to utilize AI technology for tracking criminals and missing girls in 2018. The American software company, NowtRKit, provided the facial recognition technology program for tracking human traffickers to Maiti Nepal free of charge. The adoption of this technology significantly enhanced Maiti Nepal’s border surveillance efforts, enabling the organization to intercept criminals crossing the border more efficiently and preventing human trafficking. Koirala stated that in 2022, the organization helped police rescue 499 women and children

The work of combating human trafficking is fraught with danger. Koirala remains confident even though she receives life-threatening letters from criminal groups every day. From the moment she decided to establish Maiti Nepal, she understood the kind of difficulties she would face.

Looking Forward

Through the relentless efforts of Koirala and Maiti Nepal over the past 30 years, the Nepalese government has designated September 5th as “Anti-Trafficking Day.” The government has continuously worked towards improving relevant laws, protecting victims and strengthening sentencing measures. Koirala regards every assisted girl as her own child. She hopes for the day when Maiti Nepal can disband, signifying the end of trafficking in Nepal and the cessation of torment for Nepalese girls. 

The work of Maiti Nepal has received recognition and support from various sectors both domestically and internationally for their efforts against human trafficking in Nepal. Koirala’s steadfast belief and selfless dedication set an example for this organization and inspired more people to join the fight, bringing hope and transformation to trafficked girls.

– Mingjun Hou
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Taboos in NepalChhaupadi is a dangerous and illegal tradition of period shaming that most young girls in Nepal experience during their menstrual cycle. During their period, girls have to leave their family home and live alone in a chhau hut. They cannot touch or interact with anyone, attend religious ceremonies or use household toilets. Girls going through their first period often cannot even go outside during the day. These issues from this practice highlight the need for addressing menstrual taboos in Nepal.

Making Living Conditions Worse

As a country suffering from extreme poverty, chhaupadi only serves to make living conditions in Nepal worse for girls and women. The poverty rate in Nepal stood at 17.4% in 2019. What’s more, the World Bank reports that development in Nepal is slower than usual in 2023, and this is due to import restrictions, monetary policy tightening, higher inflation and shrinking government expenditure.

Many women who had to practice chhaupadi have come to great harm or even death. The deaths of these women are often not recorded, so there are no reliable means of getting the exact death toll. But these deaths from menstrual taboos in Nepal are indeed happening, despite the lack of recordings. Recorded deaths include the case of Parbati Buda Rawat in 2019; she died from smoke inhalation after the blanket in her hut caught fire and the authorities took her brother-in-law Chhatra Raut into custody after suspecting he forced her into the hut.

Nepal outlawed chhaupadi in 2005. Yet, the practice has continued due to deeply entrenched social norms and traditions and a lack of legal enforcement from the side of authorities. According to a 2019 article, 77% of 14-19-year-old girls surveyed still actively practiced chhaupadi.

Social Norms and Traditions

The idea behind the social norms and traditions of menstrual taboos in Nepal is that a menstruating woman is impure, and is at risk of causing harm to those around her. The main reason that people in Nepal still seem to practice chhaupadi is social pressure. Jennifer Thomson, a lecturer at the University of Bath and an author of the aforementioned study, stated in a report that while criminalizing chhaupadi is a good first step, altering some of the people of Nepal’s outlook on it could be a different story: “We found that arresting somebody is a quick and easy measure, but changing attitudes, changing mindsets, changing practices, is going to take years.”

These pressures may come from external sources like family members pressuring young women in the family to comply with tradition. Comparatively, pressure may come from internal sources, with the menstruating girl or woman feeling the desire to stick to social normalities.

Eradicating Chhaupadi

Eradicating chhaupadi and making menstruation safe for women in Nepal is a challenging endeavor. The chhaupadi practice is deeply woven into their society, with thousands of women going through the experience every month. But recent trends suggest that putting an end to this practice is possible. The outlawing of chhaupadi was the first step and now organizations fighting against it continue to make progress toward freedom from period poverty and stigma.

For example, ActionAid, a charity for women and girls, has set up support groups in Nepal for women to discuss how chhaupadi impacts them. So far, the organization has encouraged more than 1,400 women to stop practicing it altogether. It has also managed to cultivate 11 chhaupadi-free communities in Nepal. The women who take part in these support groups often go on to create their own groups and continue making efforts to put an end to chhaupadi after ActionAid’s interventions.

Also, Radha Paudel, a nurse from Nepal, set up The Radha Paudel Foundation in 2016 to educate the public about periods, and to help push back against the myth of menstruation being dirty or impure. Paudel expressed her frustration with the perceptions of periods as such while aiming to make a difference. She was also frustrated at the origins of chhaupadi and its intrinsic connection to gender bias. Paudel said of chhaupadi to NPR that “these taboos perpetuate the idea that women are less powerful than men. This is about human rights and dignity,” NPR reports.

Looking Ahead

Efforts to eradicate the dangerous practice of chhaupadi in Nepal are making progress, offering hope for a future free from period poverty and stigma. Organizations like ActionAid are providing support groups and interventions that have empowered several women to abandon the practice. The Radha Paudel Foundation is also working to educate the public and challenge the misconceptions surrounding menstruation, emphasizing the importance of human rights and dignity for all.

– Jess Wilkinson
Photo: Unsplash