The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing country lockdowns have had devastating effects on families, economies, and women in particular. In the context of Nepal, where gender violence, women's rights, and education for girls are already in critical condition, the pandemic has exacerbated the situation. According to a survey by the literacy group Room to Read, half of Nepal's girls may drop out of school even after schools reopen. Before COVID-19, there was already a long way to go in order to reach gender equality in and through education. Currently, the gap has widened not only because of the halt in education but also due to the aggravating factor of gender-based violence (GBV).
Realising this, on 6 September the UNESCO-UNFPA-UN Women Joint Programme, with support from KOICA, organised its fifth Community of Knowledge programme in partnership with the Forum for Women, Law, and Development (FWLD). This programme’s goal was to explore and understand the efforts of the Government of Nepal in ensuring an effective digital response mechanism for sexual harassment and GBV through online mediums and ensuring women and girls’ re-engagement in education through digital mediums. The programme included a dialogue session with representatives of the Health and Education Committee (HEC) of the House of Representatives, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoST) and the Cyber Bureau, Nepal Police.
Surakshya K.C., Police Inspector at the Cyber Bureau, shared that during the lockdown period, many complaints were filed claiming sexual harassment on social media. She explained details of the overall increase in cybercrime, including fraud messaging, photo mutilation, and so on. As a response, the Bureau has created a Facebook page, and people can also complain through the website https://nepalpolice.gov.np/ which includes the Bureau's contact details and email address.
Similarly, Deepak Sharma, Joint Secretary at the MoEST, explained the equity strategy in education, an initiative of the Ministry. Under this strategy, the government created an index to identify the areas where more children were out of school and where gender inequality in education persists. According to this strategy, the various factors affecting education include geography, poverty, the digital divide, gender equality, gender-based violence and the special needs of children with disabilities. Thus, in line with these observations, the Ministry has been engaged in ensuring an education accessible to girls and women as much as to men and boys.
Another speaker, Honorable Jayapuri Gharti Magar, President of HEC, spoke about the digital divide is more evident during the pandemic. She mentioned that the situation of education is extremely grim in rural parts of Nepal, let alone in areas that are affected by floods and landslides.
Even though the pandemic has worsened the state of education and equality, the speakers were optimistic about taking this as an opportunity to work to achieve technological and scientific advancement in Nepal.
The program was broadcast live through FWLD's Facebook page. It received around 58,000 views, along with 693 reactions, 55 comments, and 20 shares.
“Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women through the Provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education and a Safe Learning Environment in Nepal” is a Joint Programme led by UNESCO, UNFPA, and UN Women with support from KOICA aiming to empower girls and young women through an integrated approach to education, health, and gender equality. For more inquiries, contact the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu at firstname.lastname@example.org