Mixed picture for Nepal’s children
Nepal has made progress in most areas related to children, like health, education, street children welfare, but challenges remain in nutrition, child marriage, and sexual violence, according to a report released on 20 November.
The report was released on the occasion of International Children's Day and the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by UNICEF Country Director Elke Wisch, Women's Commission Secretary Dipendra Kafle, Ministry of Women, Children & Social Welfare Secretary Chandra Ghimire, and Child Rights Activist Gauri Pradhan.
"Nepal has improved access to education, sanitation, and was the first country to explicitly ban corporeal punishment for children. It is time to celebrate these achievements, but also remember there is much to do. This report is a call for action to ensure the rights of all children," said Wisch of UNICEF.
Nepal's progress on children's health and nutrition has stalled since the last census, and the problem of sexual violence has grown worse. It was also pointed out that some challenges are not mentioned in the report: the threat of pedophiles who target Nepal's children's shelters, and the fact that the Children's Act bans children under 14 from child labour, leaving 14-18 year old children at risk.
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"We have made considerable progress in education in general and girls' education in particular, but the situation of nutrition and sexual violence is still not good," admitted Krishna Bhusal of the National Child Rights Commission, adding that the government's recent initiative to manage street children will be expanded out of Kathmandu soon.
Child rights activist Gauri Pradhan felt that the biggest achievement is the change in people's mindsets. "The tradition of educating only the son has now all but disappeared, as we see that girls have an equal presence in schools. Also, child labour has become a stigma now, and teachers using physical punishment are stigmatised too," said Pradhan.
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Secretary at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare Chandra Ghimire noted the demographic trend of decreasing percentage of children in Nepal, and pointed out the nation's additional responsibilities.
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"At the moment, the population under 35 is the largest demographic group, but due to the decreasing percentage of children, by 2075 we will become an elderly society," he said. "Nations develop fastest when there is a large youthful population, which means now for Nepal.”
Nepal passed a separate Act for children in 2018 which ensures 13 rights of children. Children below 18 form 42% of the population, and 27% of children between 10-18 years are already married.
The mortality rate for children below 5 is 39 per 1,000, infant mortality rate is 32 and neonatal mortality rate is 21. More than one-third of children under five are stunted, 10% have wasting, and 27% are underweight.
Nearly 40% of children between 5-17 years of age are involved in child labour, and there were 1,420 reported cases of children becoming victims of sexual abuse, up 995 last year. There are 82 children living in jails with a parent, and 821 children living in eight child rehabilitation centres across the country.
There were 3,730,602 children joining primary school this year, with 39,820 of them with some form of disability. Half the students from grade 1-12 are girls.
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