The Norwegian government has partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to strengthen the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and rights of women and girls in Nepal.
The $3 million project focuses particularly on adolescents, youth, people living with disability and those left furthest behind in underserved municipalities in the Madhes and Sudurpaschim provinces.
The agreement was signed between Kristine H Storholt, Deputy Head of Norwegian Embassy in Kathmandu and the UNFPA Country Representative Won Young Hong. Storholt said she was pleased that comprehensive sexual education was a substantial part of the new project.
She added: “Many young people in Nepal lack the necessary knowledge to make responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. It makes them vulnerable to coercion, child marriage, diseases, and unintended pregnancy. Through this project, UNFPA and Norway commit to strengthening sexuality education both inside and outside schools.”
The Project titled ‘Reproductive Health and Rights for Accelerating Impacts (RHEA)’ will be implemented from December 2022 – December 2025 to reduce the unmet need for family planning and strengthen the delivery of quality of SRH services.
Norway is the third highest contributor for UNFPA’s work worldwide and the agreement comes in the midst of the marking of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
During the Covid19 induced lockdowns, Nepal saw a dramatic spike in domestic and sexual abuse with girls and women trapped at home with their abusers. Between 2021 July to 2022 July there were over 22,500 cases reported to the Nepal Police but this is just a tip of the iceberg, say activists.
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Studies have found that only one in three women report an incident of abuse, sexual or physical. Oftentimes, the perpetrators are people that the survivors were familiar with, making it even more difficult for the girl or women to seek help or report the crime.
Said UNFPA’s Won Young Hong, “Ending the unmet need for family planning is a core area of UNFPA’s work both in Nepal and beyond. In Nepal we know that modern contraceptive prevalence has stagnated at 44%, far from the 2030 target of 60%. Adolescent fertility rate continues to be highest in the region, which is fuelled by the high incidence of early and child marriage and limited utilisation of modern contraceptives.”
Indeed, Nepal saw a dramatic improvement in contraceptive prevalence which now is at 53%, but is a long way from meeting the government target of 75% by 2030. Labour migration is one of the leading factors with men away in the Gulf, Malaysia or India most of the year.
Lack of adolescent friendly services is another which needs to be strengthened with public awareness and education to also prevent early marriages and unwanted pregnancies.
According to the latest census results of 2022, Nepal’s total fertility rate is now approaching replacement level — 2.3 children per mother. Even so, Nepal’s poorest regions, far west and Madhes, have higher fertility rates.
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