UN Deputy Secretary-General visits UN Women multipurpose centre in Nepal
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson received a warm welcome from women affected by the earthquakes in the Chautara multipurpose women’s centre in Sindupalchowk district in central Nepal on 1 May.
Accompanied by a delegation of senior UN officials, Mr. Eliasson arrived in Chautara around midday and started with a tour of the multipurpose women’s centre set up by UN Women with support from the Government of Denmark, where women affected by the earthquakes benefit from counselling and trauma assistance, awareness-raising and information dissemination, including through messages on local radio and through social mobilizers deployed in the community on relief and recovery-related activities. The centre equally provides referral services, such as to legal organizations that support women and girls who have experienced violence.
“This is a very different experience for me,” said Mr. Eliasson during the visit. “I met with women and young girls who despite all odds are getting on with their lives. This is a sign of resilience. It is important for them to be able to clear the rubble and rebuild their lives. The UN is always together with the earthquake victims of Nepal, and Nepal’s experience could present a lesson to the rest of the world, most importantly, in Istanbul in May during the World Humanitarian Summit.”
Mr. Eliasson is visiting areas affected by the 2015 earthquakes in connection with the UN World Humanitarian Summit scheduled to be held in Istanbul, Turkey from 23-24 May and to take stock of the post-earthquake humanitarian situation in Nepal. Sindhupalchowk is described by the Nepali Government as the most affected of the 14 earthquake-stricken districts.
“Women’s greatest challenge after the earthquake was lack of a safe space to share their traumatic experiences with the earthquake,” said Ganesh Chaulagain, UN Women’s District Gender Coordinator for Sindhupalchowk. “Our centre offers a safe space for women and adolescent girls to share their traumatic experiences in a supportive environment and feel physically and emotionally safe and empowered.”
During the visit, Mr. Eliasson met with a number of women beneficiaries including 19-year-old Sita Shrestha, who shared her experience with the mysterious drying up of natural water spouts after the earthquake, and how a leadership training programme offered by the women’s centre helped her fundraise, organize women and men villagers, and ultimately supply water to individual houses. She is happy that women and school-going children now no longer have to walk for hours for water.
“The training and this project have changed my life. I am more confident and have started thinking about how else I can help my community and plan for the future,” said Ms. Shrestha. “I am graduating from high school this year. I want to study social work. There is a lot of satisfaction in helping others, and therefore I want to join a humanitarian organization like the UN in the future.”
Mr. Eliasson applauded her efforts as an excellent example of leadership and urged her to keep up the good work.
As part of his visit, Mr. Eliasson also quickly toured the temporary shelter of Bishnu Maya Dangal, and inquired about the challenges she is facing post-earthquake. Ms. Dangal showed him around her shelter, including her cooking place, her little bed and a pen for goats, all couched together in one tiny room.
She explained how staff from the multi-purpose women’s centre in Sindhupalchowk helped her get a senior citizens’ card by contacting the local administration, filling out the necessary forms, and obtaining signatures and proof of citizenship. “Since then, my husband and I have been receiving Rs 500 (USD 5) each, every month, which is enough to buy basic supplies like sugar, salt, oil and medicine.”
In the changing humanitarian-development continuum, the multipurpose women’s centre in Sindhupalchowk district, as well as two more in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts, have moved towards delivering more sustainable services. The centres will now focus on enhancing the capacity of local women’s groups to ensure gender equality is integrated into longer-term disaster recovery, reconstruction and preparedness initiatives.