The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in coordination with the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen (MoWCSC) and relevant provincial and local authorities has launched the second phase of a project that seeks to reduce Gender-based Violence (GBV) and discrimination against women and girls in two provinces.

Issuing a press statement yesterday UNFPA informed that the GBV Prevention and Response Project Phase II will provide GBV survivors in 19 municipalities across eight districts in Sudurpaschim and Province 1 with essential services that support their safety, health and access to justice.

“It will empower communities to challenge beliefs and practices that encourage GBV, and support local and provincial governments in the project-supported locations and the federal government to promote policy reforms that will improve women’s empowerment.”

The project aims to reach almost 300,000 beneficiaries over the next four years.

“Phase II of the project comes at a critical period in Nepal when the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened gender inequalities and GBV,” said Yam Kumari Khatiwada, Secretary, MoWCSC.

Ending GBV and harmful practices against women and girls is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as per UNFPA.

“GBV is a genuine crisis in Nepal and globally. It undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence. Phase I gave us a lot of hope and encouragement that change is possible with sustained support,” the statement quoted Lubna Baqi, UNFPA Country Representative in Nepal, as saying.

Violence against women and girls, be it emotional, physical, sexual or financial is borne from deeply-rooted discriminatory practices that value men and boys and normalize violence against women and girls, the statement reads.

The project is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and the Norwegian Embassy in Kathmandu.

“Promoting gender equality and non-discrimination is one of Switzerland’s key priorities and therefore we are keen to support this project which will work with men, women, boys and girls to address such negative social beliefs and unjust practices,” said Silvana Hogg, Chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal.

Nepal has made significant strides towards ensuring gender equality and ending gender-based discrimination and violence through policy and legislative measures. However, more still needs to be done to put the provisions of these legal instruments into reality on the ground.

“Advancing women’s rights and gender equality is an important priority for the Government of Norway. Violence against women can never be accepted, never excused, never tolerated,” said Lasse Bjørn Johannessen, the Ambassador of the Norwegian Embassy in Kathmandu.