Towards a more Equal Nepal with WOREC
Women and women human rights defenders are widely discriminated against in Nepal, even by male human rights defenders. Since 2006, KIOS’ project partner WOREC has with KIOS’ support improved the status of women human rights defenders and women’s rights in general. In 2010 KIOS extended WOREC’s funding for the fourth time, thus providing WOREC a possibility to continue on with the important work.
After a ten-year conflict that ended in 2006, the political situation in Nepal is still unstable, and the positive impacts of democratic development are mostly restricted to the capital, Kathmandu. However, in April 2008 a constitutional assembly was elected, and this has remarkably improved the possibilities for women and other discriminated groups to participate in the peace building process. As a culmination of the work of the constitutional assembly, the new constitution was due to be accepted by May 2010, but this objective was not attained and Nepal has now faced a deep political crisis.
“We are subjected to triple forms of discrimination and stigmatization because of who we are, what we do.”
As Nepalese women in general, also the women human rights defenders face discrimination, even by their colleagues within the human rights movement. Starting a campaign for protection of the rights of women human rights defenders, WOREC in 2006 became the first NGO in Nepal to raise the issue into public. WOREC was found in 1991 and the focus of its work lies in prevention of trafficking, promotion of women and children’s rights, and community development work. Advocacy in different levels of governance is also an important part of WOREC’s work.
In 2007, KIOS granted 22 100 euros for WOREC’s campaign for protection of the rights of women human rights defenders. The objectives of the project were to promote and advocate for the rights of women human rights defenders at national and grassroots level, and to increase the possibilities for women to participate in the decision-making in their communities.
During the project, a network for women human rights defenders was established, and more than 1100 women have joined it. Members of the network were trained on the inclusion of women in peace building. The training also included the international guidelines and national means for protecting human rights defenders. Public authorities and political party representatives were trained on the rights of human rights defenders. Radio air-time was used to inform the general public about the campaign and the threats women human rights defenders face. In addition, a support system was developed for women human rights defenders in sudden crises. The project was continued in 2008 and KIOS supported it with 23 900 euros.
Women human rights defenders working at grassroots level around Nepal took actively part in the project and they are committed to develop the work of the network. In addition to deeper human rights knowledge, the project gave women human rights defenders a possibility to tell about the violence they have faced. They also learnt how to document these cases. Women human rights defenders have gained a lot of publicity and received recognition from the authorities, international actors and other Nepalese civil society actors. Several women human rights defenders were elected to the constitutional assembly. Thus, they have a direct possibility to advocate for better inclusion of women’s rights in state structures and legislation.
“Women Human Rights Defenders are agents of change”
The situation of women human rights defenders has improved, though slowly, and the women human rights defenders are still being harassed. In the beginning of 2010, KIOS granted 59 100 euros for WOREC in order for the organisation to continue its support for the network of Nepalese women human rights defenders. In addition to increasing the capacity of the women human rights defenders, the project aims to increase cooperation with both other human rights defenders and public authorities. WOREC wishes to increase the publicity of the work of women human rights defenders. It would also be important to increase the women human rights defenders’ families’ support for their work.