Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October 2014, 13:47 GMT

Nepal: Tough times for displaced women in Kathmandu

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 26 May 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nepal: Tough times for displaced women in Kathmandu, 26 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a1f8c7a1.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

KATHMANDU, 26 May 2009 (IRIN) - Thousands of men and women, displaced by 10 years of civil war, are destitute in Kathmandu, but it is the women who are particularly vulnerable.

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council's Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 50,000-70,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are dispersed across Nepal, mainly in the cities, even though the armed conflict and localised inter-ethnic violence which had caused their displacement, has ended.

The IDMC said about half this number were women. The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction (MOPR) estimates that of the 50,000 conflict-displaced in Kathmandu, roughly half are women.

However, in a society where most women already suffer from discrimination, displaced women, and in particular those who have lost their husbands, are especially vulnerable to exploitation and impoverishment, and often exposed to significant protection and health risks, according to a 2008 IDMC report.

"Nobody cares about us any more. We feel abandoned," 22-year old Sushmita Basnet, told IRIN. She fled to Kathmandu in 2001 when she got injured in a shootout between Maoist fighters and government forces whilst tending to her cows. Permanently disabled, she now lives in a shelter run by Raksha Nepal, a local NGO.

Most girls who fled the countryside and sought refuge in urban areas had no skills and so could not get jobs. Many ended up working in exploitative conditions and at risk of physical abuse, the report said.

Government "indifference"?

More than two years after a peace agreement between Maoist rebels and the Nepalese government, little has been done to help these people, say aid workers on the ground.

"The increasing indifference by the government is putting many women at high risk as they have no choice but to take up any job for their survival and to feed their children," said Menuka Thapa, director of Raksha Nepal.

By "high risk", Thapa clarified that many women were now working in massage parlours, cabin room restaurants or other establishments where they are subjected to sexual abuse, exploitation and even trafficking.

NGOs said they were providing shelter and support with limited resources, noting, however, that international humanitarian aid for the displaced had been diminishing; projects were being phased out and responsibility was increasingly switching to the government.

Government officials said they had made progress on helping IDPs by developing a national policy aligned with the UN guiding principles on internal displacement, but NGOs said they had not seen any evidence of government programmes on education, health and vocational training targeted at displaced women and children.

"The government has to immediately start employment skills programmes so that helpless displaced women can start a new life," Yuvraj Thapa, director of Conflict Victim and Disabled Society (CVDS), a local NGO.

According to IDMC, the sustainability of IDP returns was being undermined by lack of assistance.

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