Pain in Silence: #Unmarried Woman in Nepal

Pain in Silence: #Unmarried Woman in Nepal

by Radha Paudel
Triggers for write up on unmarried women:
Jan 31, 2016, Emergency Ticket Counter, Kanti Children hospital, Kathmandu
A woman: Can I go first, my baby was serious.
Ans: My baby was also serious so I am coming to hospital.
Jan 31, 2016, Emergency, Kanti Children hospital, Kathmandu
Doctor: what is your husband’s name and how old he is?
Ans: humm……he is 35 years old and in Chiwan.
Jan 31,2016, Observation, Kanti Children Hospital, Kathmandu
Mother from next bed: Isn’t his dad come along with you? How can you manage alone?
Ans: No. I can.
February 1, 2016, Special Cabin No 146, Kanti Children Hopistal, Kathmandu
Nurse: Is this your first baby? 
Ans: Yes.
February 1, 2016, Nursing station for steam inhalation by oxygen mask
Nurse: who was that man?
Ans: His grand dad. I mean my dad. He is very close with his granddad since birth. 
Nurse: baby, please didn’t bother your mamu.
Ans: silence!
February 2, 2016
Nurse: where was your husband? Didn’t he search his dad now?
Ans: huum……. He is in Chitwan, he is busy guy,will come soon.
February 5, 2016
Doctor: Oh, today, he had new mom.
Ans: yes (with smile), I just arrived yesterday evening.
The above statements raised the following questions;
1.      Should woman have traditional dress as an evidence of mother with child
2.      Shouldn’t unmarried woman have baby?
3.      Shouldn’t single mother take care of baby?
4.      Should woman have biological baby?

These questions are not only important in medical field but also crucial in the field of women’s right and empowerment in Nepal. Nepal has already moving fast forward regarding to women’s right in constitution (2015) and have a signatory country in order to align with international treaties and all. However, the mind set of people yet to change and long way to go. Asking these questions or statements is not big issue but they are very critical and compel to think about its underlying causes and outcomes. In Nepal, as everywhere, women have had secondary position at large from family to policy level though currently she possess head of state, speaker of the house and so many other positions are ahead for women at first time in Nepal.

The marriage is very important institution in Nepal, has politico- socio-cultural significance. The marriage age in Nepal is changing in urban or among educated societies. When I was doing Staff Nurse course, few of my friends have already married and with babies and few were got marriage during courses. I constantly face the questions of marriage while working in communities and hospitals. Usually, Nepali married woman have a symbol of marriage such as putting red powder in forehead, bangles, or red thread or garland or beads in neck. However, it is changing among educated, employed and urban young woman. The way of talking or responding was totally different once they knew about their marital status. They hid the history of their life and family. Though, very hard to tell them lie due to having quite young and also mentally not prepared. In other hand, it was a short term engagement with the people and kept on changing between 2 weeks so it was adjustable as part of study.

When I was in community as a Bachelor of Nursing, I started to tell that I am married and my husband is studying in Kathmandu. Usually, I put the red tika in my forehead so they easily trust me. It was very important because I was conducting a survey for my thesis entitled ‘Menstrual practices among Newari Educated and Uneducated Woman in Gokarna’. It is very sensitive issue even today. The women and girls were openly discussed with me, even they showed their clothes which was used by them during period. My lying position was unethical somehow but it is important again for the sake of exploring the reality on respective subject. In case, I was honest with them regards to my marital status they might not open and honest with me. It was dilemma yesterday and today. I had confident to tell this because I have already worked in Bharatapur hospital for four years as Anaesthetic Assistant where I had dealt with mostly with women who needed C-Section or any intervention related with pregnancy. Further, I continuously engaged with people as I can while doing Bachelor in Health Education in Saptagandaki Multiple Campus, Chitwan. More importantly, I had enough confident to talk about the motherly feeling due to taking care of few weeks to one years old nieces/Nephew since 9 years old.

Even among the educated women’s circle, I observed and experienced so much discrimination and stigma if someone recognized as an unmarried. I was waiting Mathura in front of her door and following the conversation between Mathura and her husband. Her husband was shouting that she followed me and interested to continue her education along with me. I pretended that I didn’t hear their debate. I motivated Mathura and finally she continued her education along with me though it was so tough to her. I had supported her in many cases while conducting big assignments including group works and thesis. Obviously, in Nepal, the paternal family hardly found cooperative to enhance daughter in laws career. And few women were so tough that they crossed all sorts of boundaries and continue their family and career. For instance my second sister Bindu, she lived in extended family for a long period after marriage, she took care of many household things, she had two children without intensive support from her husband (he is working far from the home, only returned to home in during weekends at fortnightly basis) and she continued her education. Now she is teaching in Universities and schools.

While I was doing bachelor in nursing, many of my friends were married and we often discussed about it when my marks were more than. Securing marks is influenced by many factors but the way of interpretating is very intimidating, stigmatize and discrimination. Meanwhile, getting so much offer, pressure for marriage from friends. Here, I remember an incidence of Nirmal Bhusal who insisted me to come her house at Kalanki for a long time and one day I went. Her intention was different or she wanted me in her relative’s through marriage.

In Nepal, if women don’t get marriage after about 25 years there are so many schools of thought to anticipate behind the reasons; could have love with someone so she is waiting while her family and friends would have tired. It is considered that telling about boyfriend or marriage is not usually acceptable during these days and even today in rural settings. Few may assume that she had broken relationship so she didn’t like to get marriage with other one. Few may assume that she is more qualified and not getting appropriate one. At the meantime, unmarried women get so many blaming in her life due to not having marriage. If she works or travels with someone, the community watched her and started to tag her with this boy or girl or anyone and create so many negative stories. In addition to, she always in vulnerable from the married and unmarried men by passing comments, sexual abuse and exploitation, receive unwanted letters, gifts, encountered with various forms of sexual, physical, psychosocial torture.Often family members of married men passed so many comments, sending emails threatening by phone calls, sending message through others. Often they block in facebook  or unfriend too. Here I have shared a recent incidence without mentioning the name.

10/24, 5:51pm ……………………(Name hide)
I need to talk to u
will i be able to get ur number ?
this is urgent
10/24, 7:05pm
Radha Paudel
Namaste chhori. What happened?  Where and how are you? Hope you have wonderful Dashain. My number is available in google if not here you go 9849596298.
October 25, 2015……….(Name hide)
I just wanted to clear out some rumours that are going around…I m coming to Nepal in December,I would like to meet u then
And so sorry,I tried looking up ur name for ur number but nothing came up
10/25, 4:39am
Radha Paudel
Good morning!  What rumors? Nepalese are smart enough for rumors. Would you share with me.i am curious.  Didn’t you find you can meet me any time if I would in kathmandu. Action Works Nepal is evolved from volunteer efforts and trying to make something happen which is very challenging. It is very hard to work specially in Nepal.  We are getting wonderful  support ( donation,internship,facebook campgain etc) from family of board members and family. You are also heartly welcome.  I have already given my number to 9849596298

10/25, 4:52am……….Name hide
Nepali are very smart for rumours as u mentioned but not all nepalese are that smart…sometimes those nepalese find a lot of evidence to start the rumour…. i m no problem with u so far but the rumours i hear when i go to nepal really hurt and has desrupted my family….i heard ur campaign works for women and children i hope u understand it very well
10/25, 5:52am
Radha Paudel

Can you write me in my email pls.i am in village using Mobile data.can you tell me what exactly you are telling

 I have so many evidences ( will share later).
I often charged due to tagging or referring the post in facebook. People considered them as educated, high profile, rich, elite but their mindset is very low in many ways. They neither think in other way around. Why did the blamed, accused, put low only for one side. What is the gurantee men or married men or married women are perfect as they thought for unmarried women. If someone really dedicated to work beyond the comfort zone, partnering with various gender, groups and communities is obvious but the people constantly pulling leg by accusing in negative manner which is so deep painful, depressive and sometimes compel to deviant from the destination.

When I started to work in Jumla, I found more problem in my marital status though my physical getup was look like married women. People often already explored and knew my status so hard to made them trust on my saying except few and in villages. In villages, usually people so innocent, they don’t trust the developmental stuffs but easily trusted about marital status and remain open to share their pain specially in marriage life. I got so much information or stories about the pain from the married life.  Since then I continuously stated to say that I was married and I have a girl child because Nepali society doesn’t care or count a girl child so I wanted to bring the message that I am ok with one girl child. Many women don’t imagine the life in the absence of husband so I kept on responding about status of husband on the basis of context. It means, sometimes I said he is teacher, sometime he is social worker, sometime NGO worker, sometime political leaders and sometimes student. They also kept on asking about his location, educational status, job, earning and so many things. It was not easy indeed. If I would say I am single, people constantly asked why, how, what is your parents stake ……. And If I say married the list of questions in not finished. I also tried to say that I don’t baby then people asked oh why it happened, did you consult with doctor, who has fault, is your husband ok with you ……so much stigma everywhere.  Based on marital status, the entire way of behaviour is different and most of the time a group formed and working hidden manner.

Remain unmarried is like fill in the gap. Everywhere should she reach without questions. Mostly, family and friends don’t consider the needs, interest and priorities. Unmarried woman often dragged in to the family conflict regards to responsibility and property. I have seen so many stories, I don’t like to share here. If everything going well, I would come up with different text.

Unmarried woman would get stigma and discrimination even in the international communities. I, myself, encountered with so many intellectual, activists at global meetings that they keep on referring the status of unmarried while talking in both formal and informal setting. I personally felt so embarrassed and tried to be as a lier. While I lie, I felt so guilt and humiliation within myself. First time, I told lie with Kamani but later I said what is my status. Likewise, I told same in few forums and still I have deep feeling of guilty. I have very good friend sister Ms. Janet Macdonald, in Canada trip 2015, we shared so many things but I told lie with her as well. In the beginning, I didn’t think that we would such closer but we had and hard to continue the conversation. One lie demands many lies. How can I make instant stories about my kid, husbands and associated matters? By personality, I am not lier person so I am alone in my journey of battle since childhood no matter where and how I worked. By this message, I sincerely begged for forgiveness whom I told lie no matter whether they from the international arena or rural parts of the country.

In Nepal, the word of single women is misinterpreted since the activism emerged. Due to no exposure, education, no property etc. very few women remain as unmarried. Usually, they remain as unmarried if they are the elder children and lose their parents while they were quite young in order to take care of their younger siblings. Otherwise, there is no say for deny the marriage. Now days, the number of unmarried women is increasing due to various reasons though they have constantly face various forms of stigma and discrimination and they are so much disorganized because the mobility of unmarried women is not accepted largely.

According to the UN definition, single women encompasses of widow, separated, divorced, unmarried, not divorced but living separately. But activism focused on women who have lose their husbands due to any reason. No one thinking or doing anything about the unmarried women. Unmarried women are more vulnerable by both sexes in many ways but ignored largely.


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