Nepal: How women can learn to speak out

Sukha Maya at a meeting of the women's group

“Sukha” in Nepali means “happiness” – but that wasn’t Sukha Maya’s life.

Married at a very young age to a violent man with a drinking problem, Sukha Maya, from the Gorkha region of Nepal, says she “spent every night crying, regretting, and feeling helpless”. She thought that was just the way it was:

I remember my mother telling me that only boys had a choice to live life according to their wishes. But for girls, we didn’t have a choice.

That was until she was invited by a CARE Nepal facilitator to join a women’s group. She says:

The first time I participated in the ReFLECT group, I was so scared. I didn’t even utter a single word. But I listened to the stories of survival and violence from the other participants, and realised that I wasn’t alone.

As the weeks went by, she grew to realise she didn’t have to put up with this. She says:

I decided to revolt. Speak up. For myself and for my daughter.

With support from the ReFLECT group facilitator, Sukha Maya convinced her husband to join the ReFLECT men’s group, where he and other men would discuss concepts of toxic masculinity and violence. His behaviour has now changed, says Sukha Maya.

Before, Sukha Maya didn’t speak out against the violence – because, she says:

I didn’t know. No one told me this is wrong. Also, I didn’t have anyone to talk to.

Now, she is a vocal advocate of women’s rights, and a core member of her ReFLECT group, inspiring women like her to break the culture of silence and seek support to end the vicious circle of violence. She says:

Women too have a choice, but we have to demand for it, act on it, and work hard to defy the unrealistic rules written for us by society.

Sukha Maya, a woman in Nepal

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The SAFE Justice project

The ReFLECT groups were part of CARE’s SAFE Justice project in Nepal.

Access to justice is a major issue for the poorest and most marginalised groups in Nepal. Informal barriers include deeply entrenched norms and practices in Nepali society such as patriarchal family values, cultural norms, public gender discrimination, and caste-based social orders. Poverty, discriminatory implementation of legal provisions, under-representation of women and marginalised groups in the judicial service, physical distance to service providers specifically courts, and a lack of awareness of legal avenues are also major obstacles. CARE’s Strengthening Access to Fair and Equitable Justice (SAFE Justice) project has been working to build trust between poor and marginalised communities particularly women and girls and formal and informal justice service providers, in order to enable marginalised populations to access fair and equitable justice.

The SAFE Justice project was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented in five districts in Nepal (Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk, Accham and Bajura) between October 2016 and September 2019, as part of the DFID-funded Integrated Programme for Strengthening Security and Justice in Nepal.

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