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A Picture of Girls’ Health in Nepal

Nepal; a developing country has been doing a lot of progress in meeting health care needs of population and the millennium development goals. But despite the vigorous effort and lot of expenditure of money from national and international sources, the adolescent and youth health status in Nepal is undoubtedly poor. It is a common fact that youth and adolescent health status especially that of girls is mostly ignored in front of huge problems of maternal and neonatal health problems in developing country.
That is a typical picture of girl’s population in Nepal. Girls Population in Nepal consist 49% of the total child population. The Literacy rate among the girls is 42.8% as compared to 65% in the boys. In Nepal, primary school going girls is 74% compared to 86% with the boys. The child marriage practices is rampant in Nepal, 21% of total marriages in Nepal is held with girls below 16 years and 7% of child marriages are held with children below 10 years; 41% of girls give birth to a child before the age of 19.
Girls bear the heaviest burden of work in home, most of the household chores and child rearing activities are the responsibility of girls. Girls aged between 10-14 works double as compared to boys in the same age group. In Nepal, 26 lakh (10 lakh=1 million) children are working in different fields of labor. Among this, 56% are reported to be girls.
Girls trafficking form Nepal to different adjacent cities of India and even in the cities of country has been growing especially from rural districts of Nepal. Girls are trafficked for different purposes including sex trade, domestic work, and marriage, carpet weaving and for forced beggary. About 20% (i.e. 40,000) of the total trafficked women for sex trade are girls below 16 years. Around 12,000 girl children are trafficked in a year. Almost 60% of survivors of child sex abuse and rape are girls below 18 years. Most of them are abused either at home, educational institution, work place or any given place. They are insecure in all these places.
Living standard survey of Nepal has revealed that 31% of Nepalese population is below the poverty line. The burden of poverty is especially heavier in girls and women. Malnutrition in Nepal is 56.2% in which the state of girls is more vulnerable than boys. Biologically boys are vulnerable to diseases but because of the societal behavior, girls tend to be vulnerable. Because of decade long conflicts and associated problems of poverty and ignorance, the problem of street children is growing especially in cities and towns. Out of total 5000 street children in Nepal around 5% are girls.
The stereotypical male roles and patriarchal societal structure, discrimination of girls is rampant in every sector of society including education, economy, health care and work wage. Women and girls are regarded as "untouchable during menstrual period. In some parts of far western Nepal, they are not even allowed to stay inside home and forced to stay outside, mostly in the cattle house. Despite legal prohibition, sexual exploitation of girls in the form of traditional and religious customs, such as Deuki, Badi, Jhuma still exists in Nepal.
Armed Conflict In past 12 years, 475 children have died due to internal armed conflict. Among them 139 are girls. In the course of armed conflict many incidences of sexual abuse of girls has been made public. Similarly, many children including girls have been displaced to city areas and are involved in exploitative labor sectors.
After the peace process, the consequent interim constitution of Nepal has been drafted with health right of people as fundamental rights. The free health care services have become a boon for the poor and needy proportion of population to enjoy the health rights. Among them girls has benefited a lot, but still because of the structure of health setting and lack of skill in health care providers in providing health care services, girls feel shy and uncomfortable in reaching and getting health services.So there has to be done serious exercise in policy, organizational and functional level to make the health care services girls friendly and society conducive to women’s health in all sense.

References: UNICEF, Central Bureau of Statistics, CWIN National Recourse Centre