Women’s Role Crucial to Restore Peace and Democracy in Nepal

The violence, trauma and displacement that marked Nepal’s civil war, which carried on for 10 long years – from 1996 to 2006 – may be a distant memory for some, but the lives of those who were caught in the crossfire or were drawn directly into the hostilities, were changed forever. Over 16,000 were killed and at least 17,000 people were displaced during those years of bloodshed.

So how does a small country with inadequate resources work towards putting a conflict of this magnitude behind it? How does it try to reach out to sections most affected by the conflict? How does it move towards building an inclusive and sustainable peace? One of the ways the Himalayan republic of Nepal has chosen to do all this is by adopting a National Action Plan (NAP) on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 that focuses on women, peace and security.

The plan – one of the first initiatives taken by the new government that came to power in Kathmandu on February 6 – was first launched in Nepal on February 17. This was followed by a global launch during the 55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, jointly hosted by the Permanent Missions of Nepal and Norway to the UN, UN Women and UN Population Fund.

Speaking during the global launch, Nepal’s Secretary to the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, Dhruba Prasad Sharma, explained why he believed women were central to the peace-building efforts in his country. Not only they played an important role in the struggles to restore democracy in Nepal, they had been among the worst affected by the conflict.

  • “In view of the constructive contributions that women can make in the peace process, it becomes the responsibility of the State to increase their participation and ownership in the peace building process and to provide them security.”-Prasad Sharma
  • It is not often that governments think along these lines and that is what makes this launch historic. In fact, Nepal today is the first country in South Asia and the 24th in the world to have come out with a national plan on Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820.

  • “Women do vital work on the ground in conflict areas. They become the sole breadwinner as heads of households, they protect children, give support to victims, and they mediate between groups and reconcile communities. However, women are seldom present at high level peace negotiations.”- Norway’s Secretary Ingrid Fiskaa
  • Fiskaa saw this as not just unfair but unwise, because involving women in peace processes could bring a more inclusive view of security and help ensure that agreements – and peace – prevail.

    The voices of Nepali women who have suffered armed violence at first hand bear these words out. In fact, the NAP was formulated on the basis of observations from 250 conflict-affected women who had participated in 52 workshops conducted all over Nepal. These are women who had been maimed, mentally tortured, abducted or had lost sons, fathers or husbands to the violence. At least 14 types of impacts were documented through the discussions at these workshops – ranging from displacement and abduction to sexual exploitation and torture. This, in turn, suggested the five central objectives of the NAP: Participation, protection and prevention, promotion, relief and recovery.

    Stigma is another major source of demoralisation and Sadhu Ram Sapkota, Joint Secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, didn’t hesitate to flag it at the New York event. “Those who have survived (gender-based violence) are still suffering from stigma that society places on such forms of violence,” he remarked. In fact, Nepal’s women survivors of violence have spoken of being rejected, sometimes even by their own families, and of how local communities generally turn against widows, former combatants or women who return to villages after a long absence.

    “UN Women stands ready to support the government in the implementation of the National Action Plan. We hope Nepal inspires other countries in the region.”- Anne F. Stenhammer, UN Woman’s Regional Programme Director, South Asia