“We know we shouldn’t carry heavy loads but for us it’s compulsory”

Hira Devi B.K. (left), who married when she was 16.
© Amnesty International

In the second instalment from our team, recently returned from Nepal, Kathryn Ramsay from Amnesty’s Gender Programme recalls a meeting with Dalit women in Mugu district.

Hira Devi B.K. is 16 years old and studying in class 6 at school. She was the only teenager among the group of Dalit women we met in Mugu, a remote mountainous district in mid-west Nepal on the second leg of our research visit there. Hira Devi was also recently married – her husband studies in class 10.

The group of 12 Dalit women met us as part of our research into gender discrimination which lies at the root of the factors which lead to Nepali women having an increased risk of uterine prolapse. Early and multiple pregnancies – which frequently follow early marriage – are some of the factors that contribute to the condition.

Sushila Pariyar, aged 36, like many of the women we spoke to, had married when she was very young. She told us that she had already had her first baby by the time she was 16.

Hira Moti B.K., aged 35 said she was forced to get married at 13 and had her first child two years later. ”My now brother-in-law brought a proposal and at first my parents didn’t agree,” she said. “They told him, ‘No, our daughter is very young’. But they came under pressure from my brother-in-law and I had to get married”.

Physical and emotional burdens

The contrast between Mugu and Kailali, the first district we visited, couldn’t be greater. Kailali is hot, flat, with roads to most areas. To get to Mugu you either have to fly to a gravel airstrip on the side of a mountain or walk for 10 days. In the distance, snow-capped mountains emerge periodically from the clouds. Paths, many at impossibly steep gradients, are visible across the mountains, as are the women who constantly walk them, carrying massive, heavy loads supported by a strap around their heads.

A woman carries a typical load for Mugu district – as well as a small child.
© Amnesty International

Medical experts say that carrying heavy loads during pregnancy and soon after giving birth increases the risk of developing uterine prolapse. The Dalit women we spoke to work as porters – carrying loads of more than 50kg from the airport to the main town of Gamgadhi, (a walk of two to four hours depending on the load) or between the various villages in the area. It’s the only income they have. Many of their husbands are unemployed. Those who do work, said the women, often spend their earnings on alcohol.

Some of the women knew that carrying loads could cause uterine prolapse. Several in the group had experienced the condition or knew women who had it. But with their income dependent on their work as porters, they believe it is impossible for them to do anything to change their exposure to this risk factor. As one woman said: “If we don’t carry heavy loads, where will we get money from? We know we shouldn’t carry heavy loads but for us it’s compulsory.”

From what we heard and saw, it was clear that Amnesty’s forthcoming campaign must not only call for women to have access to information about health, but also  address their need to have the power to make changes in their lives.

This work is supported by the Swedish Postcode Lottery (Svenska Postkod Lotteriet).

Hills around Gamgadhi, the district headquarters of Mugu.
© Amnesty International

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Posted in Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Rights, Nepal, Women | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

  1. Charlotte Meares says:

    Women are humans and have rights, too.

  2. Carita Vallinkoski says:

    Better treatment and equal rights are basic human rights!!!!

  3. Patricia Tetzel says:

    please rethink this barbaric inhuman methods!! It is time for it!!

  4. Costas Giannakenas MD, PhD says:

    Civilization and human rights still have a long way to go it seems….

  5. parviz says:

    they should take care more about the women in Nepal they are really hard workers and innocent people

  6. Zoran Markovic says:

    lets free the world from haevy work, our technology should be able to provide that

  7. Kyle Bracken says:

    I once had a friend from Nepal, she was so independent and smart and trustworthy and hard working. She owned a shop and even lent/gave me items when I was in a bind to give as gifts. This part of the world and its people are so beautiful and Nepalese people have been so friendly to me. From what I read recently Nepal is having its share of economic troubles and sometimes having children is not what people want or what is best to suit peoples wishes. A woman’s choice is always a difficult one but it is ultimately her choice and should be supported by everybody around her, this includes her government. Please that is my humble opinion, I am a male. Please support women’s reproductive choices and rights.

    • Shiromi Pinto says:

      Thanks for sharing, Kyle.

    • harishchandra Manandhar says:

      Dear Kyle Bracken,
      Namaste!

      I am a teacher from Nepal. I am very much touched by your words. thank you for sharing your experiences and feelings about Nepal. Actually nepalese are fighting for Womens’ right. AI Nepal, Group 43 is also working on womens’ right. We had a Signature Campaign on My Body My Right, My reproductive right is my Human Right” to aware womens and peoples of my local area (Banepa).

  8. Elsie Qi says:

    Please, protect womens’ sexual and reproductive rights now!

  9. Gina says:

    Human Rights for everyone!!

  10. janalyn brock says:

    I would like to ask why the women are carrying the loads and not the unemployed men. This is a human travesty that so many women are forced into this situation which is so detrimental to the their health and the health of their unborn children.

  11. Mariya Ragland says:

    I loved this article about my country’s women conditions. Its hard to swallow the truth for my people when they will read this true study,but this is a real problem and they don’t have any choice.
    Lack of education and unawareness of humanity. I strongly support this article and loved to hear more about the next step.My country’s women must get education so they can understand what is life and how to survive?
    Thankyou for this beautiful true article and I understood their when i had my baby here[USA] felt their pains.I know very well my country’s leaders are so busy for their CHAIRS, nobody has time to understand poor women’s pains and their needs. Somebody has to come forword.
    Thankyou for this great help for my country’s women. GOD BLESS YOU ALL. Praying for this dreams to come true.
    S. Ragland

  12. Jorge Tezcucano says:

    Estas mujeres tienen que saber cuantas personas en el mundo las apoyan y que no estan solas.

  13. Zeeshan ali says:

    I dont know why they dont respect women.women are human and have equal rights.women are like pearls, and pearls are kept safe with care.

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