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Alumni in Nepal promote importance of eliminating violence against women

Posted: 9 December 2021

Nepal, Alumni, COVID-19, Impact, Inclusion,

25 November each year is designated as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. To mark the occasion in 2021, the Australia Awards Women in Leadership Network – Nepal organised a webinar on violence against women and its impact on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in Nepal’s COVID-19 context. The event featured two Nepalese Australia Awards alumni in conversation: Dr Laxmi Tamang and Dr Neeti Aryal Khanal.

Dr Tamang, a two-time Australia Awards alum (PhD in Public Health, University of Sydney, 2015; Master of Public Health, University of New South Wales, 2006), is President and a founding member of the Midwifery Society Nepal. She has contributed to the introduction of undergraduate nursing study programs at Kathmandu University, National Academy of Medical Sciences and Karnali Academy of Health Science. She is also one of the two Vice Presidents of the Association of Nepalese Alumni from Australia.

Dr Aryal Khanal, also a two-time Australia Awards alum (PhD in Arts, Monash University, 2019; Master by Research in Arts, Monash University, 2009), is an Assistant Professor at Tribhuvan University, where she teaches sociology. Her research has covered women combatants engaged in armed conflict, motherhood experiences, violence against women, disability, marginalisation and reproductive health.

The webinar, streamed on Zoom with more than 80 virtual attendees, began with opening remarks by Her Excellency Ms Felicity Volk, Australian Ambassador to Nepal. “Violence against women is a key factor in maternal mortality,” she said. “It has a direct impact on sexual and reproductive health. It’s a grim scenario and it requires concerted action in response from all of us.”

Dr Tamang expanded further on this topic, sharing her professional experience with gender-based violence (GBV) in Nepal and how it has escalated during the current pandemic. The wide-ranging discussion was led by questions and prompts from Dr Aryal Khanal, drawing on her relevant research.

Dr Tamang spoke about her career trajectory in the GBV space, initially learning about trafficking of women and girls through their painful stories. She has countered cultural taboos to deliver SRH awareness and services in Nepal and to empower women.

Stating that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an “intersectional gender impact,” Dr Tamang explained through data and anecdotes how the sudden halt of SRH services created negative consequences, including increases in maternal death, psychosocial violence, unwanted pregnancies and suicides. During the pandemic, she mobilised midwives for grassroots-level community support through SRH hotlines but said that this effort addressed only one small portion of a much larger and more pervasive issue.

Dr Aryal Khanal also questioned Dr Tamang about COVID-19’s impact on activism and advocacy against GBV and how GBV can be eliminated. The discussion underlined the urgency—especially in a pandemic crisis—for governments, organisations and individuals to act swiftly against GBV and combat systemic issues for tangible change.

Ambassador Volk encapsulated the significance of the webinar during her opening remarks when she commented on the positive contributions of Australia Awards alumni working against GBV, saying, “l’m proud that we have experts from the Australia Awards alumni community in Nepal both to lead our discussions on this pressing issue and contributing to policy development in this space.”

A selection of images from the event can be seen in the gallery below. View entire gallery