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Jun 8, 2020

The lock down continues.

Young to old.
Young to old.

Dear friends and supporters.

Since our last report the Covid 19 pandemic has taken a grim hold in Nepal. New cases are expanding daily as the impact of economic migrants, trying to get back to their home villages in Nepal, takes hold. Stringent lock down rules have been imposed and schools closed. It is not possible for us to implement our project objectives at the present time. We have no idea for how long  and hope that it will be relaxed soon without too much hardship and suffering. Life in the hills is tough at the best of times.

Following is a personal report giving the reasons why this project is so important for women and girls and the future prosperity of Nepal.It highlights the historical beliefs and the barriers that make change so difficult to achieve.

'Fourteen year old Indira's biggest fear is getting a stain on her clothes while on her period. 'Once, at school, when I found out there was a blood stain on my white skirt I tried to cover it by pouring blue ink on it, but my male classmates saw me and made fun of me. I was very embarrassed'. At home too she has never discussed menstruation issues with the male members of her family.

When she gets her period she subtly informs her mother who then informs her father and brother by saying she has become 'na chune' - basically untouchable for the duration of her menstrual period.

Menstruation continues to remain taboo throughout Nepal and not just in rural areas where Chhaupadi persists. Chhaupadi is the practice of banishing menstruating women to sheds to live in isolation. It has highly prevalent in the western districts , including where the Nepal Trust is working, despite being outlawed in 2005 and criminalised in 2017 and continues to kill women each year. Even in urban areas and educated households, social ostracisation in the form of na chune remains.

According to gender rights activists the primary reason why such outdated practices  continue is because Nepal remains very much a patriarchal society. The male aversion to menstruation has to be addressed. Menstruation is rarely addressed by men so they lack knowledge and an understanding of the topic. It is a challenge for most boys and men to understand menstruation because of the secrecy surrounding it and the limited information they have access to, much of which can be very inaccurate. Since no one talks to boys and young men about menstruation they end up observing social practices at home and internalise the behaviour as normal. 'In reality, it is a form of violence against women'.

Even in school menstruation is not openly discussed and although there are lessons related to reproductive health and menstruation in the 8th Grade Health text book the topic is rarely discussed at length, with most teachers choosing to gloss over the subject due to their own embarrassment.

Dismantling deep-rooted practices such as Chhaupadi requires the active participation of men and their realisation that menstruation is a perfectly normal bodily function that leads to a healthy society and not one to be feared.'

These are the issues that need to be addressed before any real change is apparent. Once we get the all clear from lock down we will be working hard with our partners in Baglung district to educate men, boys and the old traditionalists to not fear what is a perfectly normal bodily function.

We are very grateful for your help and support and hope that you will continue with us. This is a big project that is trying to change a belief and a tradition that is deeprooted in society. The seed is there - we just need to water it!

Namaste 

Mother and baby
Mother and baby
Group of ladies
Group of ladies
Girl washing her clothes
Girl washing her clothes
Growing up
Growing up
May 26, 2020

Lock Down.

Solar Lighting
Solar Lighting

Dear Friends and Supporters.

This is a difficult time for everyone in the remote areas of the Hidden Himalayas. Particularly so in Humla, Nepal's remotest district and the only one without road access other than expensive air travel. 

The government has implemented strict lock down rules to try and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The virus has yet to reach Humla but, as already noted, it is now expanding at an increased rate particularly from the southern districts bordering India. As economic migrants flood back to Nepal there is an urgent need to get back to their home villages further north. This is very understandable but difficult to manage. It seems just a matter of time.

The lock down has meant the closure of our Renewable Energy Service Centre in Simikot. Our delivery partner, Local Initiative Development Support Consultancy Agency (LIDS) are unable to carry out any repair, consultancy or service work for now. Hopefully this will not last for long and we can get back to normality and serving the local communities.

Fortunately, before the official lock down, we were able to complete the installation of power to the three clinics we have built in the southern part of the district. These our now part of the government health service run by the District Health Officer. The Service Centre is now fully stocked with machinery and supplies ready to go again!

It is worth reiterating what this unique project is all about. Renewable energy has been used in this remote district for many years and has contributed to improved health and environmental benefits. However, frequent breakdowns happen and maintenance and repairs not often implemented because of cost (services are an expensive flight away) and a lack of the necessary skills. The Trust alone has built 7 microhydro plants and 11 community solar projects including the district hospital. Our new Service centre project was seen as a way to ensure the reliability of all these projects providing a cleaner and better future for all inhabitants. This thinking earned us a world leading award - the Premio Italgas Award for Projects in the Environment - chosen by Nobel prize winners!

For now we can do very little but wait for the virus to go a way, hopefully soon. We still need your help and support for this valuable project and we ask you to stay with it and encourage your friends and colleagues to join us. We still need donations to see the new Centre through to viability so please help if you can.

Namaste and Stay safe

A cleaner home
A cleaner home
Ghoti MHP Penstock
Ghoti MHP Penstock
Chhaduk MHP Controls
Chhaduk MHP Controls
May 12, 2020

Battling Covid-19 Pandemic

Dear friends and supporters

We hope you are all keeping well at this difficult time. Restrictions and lock-downs are a necessary part of life at the moment if we are to pull through safely.

Imagine the added difficulties of living in one of the remotest corners of the world with no easy access to frontline support. That is the reality of living in Humla in the far north west of Nepal bordering China/Tibet and officially the poorest district in Nepal. There are no roads to access services further south and air travel is limited and too expensive for the majority of inhabitants. However, these resileant people have survived centuries  of dealing with disasters of all sorts and are doing so now with a remarkable spirit.They have embraced the government restrictions and are doing all they can to ensure their safety. But,they are surrounded by possible hazards and must be forever vigilant.

The government has set up a special fund - District Covid19 Prevention and Control Fund - to help support government clinics in each Rural Municipality (RM) to provide necessary medicines and equipment. The Nepal Trust contributed NRs 110000 and our implementation partner, Self Help Initiative Promotion Centre-Nepal (SHIP), NRs 55000.

SHIP, who manage our 5 clinics, have carried out a full survey and awareness programme providing all necessary medicines, materials and equipment. The exception is the clinic in the remote Limi valley because the high passes were still impassable but this will be rectified very soon as the trails open up. SHIP have also established Help Desks and Quarantine facilities at each site.

The Nepal government have managed very well to keep a cap on the overall infection rate and, as I write, there are only 120 infected people and no deaths in the whole country. This is quite remarkable given the country's location sandwiched between China and India. However, there is sufficient evidence to suggest more cases are arriving in the country as migrant workers return and attempt to get back to their home villages. This is the case as infection rates are increasing in the likes of Nepalgunj and Surkhet south of Humla. More severe travel lock-downs in these areas will have an enormous impact on travel to, and in, Humla.

The Chinese government have closed the border with Humla and stopped all cross boarder activity. This has already had a severe impact on the local economy. Cross border trade is a major economic lifeline for the villages of north Humla. Malnutrition and starvation are already becoming evident and expected to get worse. We are expecting requests for help as the situation gets worse.It is very important that we all remain very vigilant and help these fragile and remote communities to survive the pandemic.

We know that requests for help are everywhere and it is difficult to prioritise from limited resources but if you can help with a donation we would be very grateful. We expect the demands on our resources to increase as the pandemic takes a firmer hold. Please tell your friends and colleagues about the foregotten parts of the world like the 'Hidden Himalayas' and encourage them to support us. 

Namaste.

 
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