FightVAW is helping reduce violence against women in Nepal

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According to the World Bank 2014 regional report, Violence Against Women and Girls: Lessons from South Asia, gender-based violence is an acute problem in Nepal, with women being subjected to different forms of violence, namely, physical intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, rape and forced labor. At the same time, the Nepal Telecommunication Authority reported over 80% mobile usage.

The prevalence of violence against women and the impressive penetration of technology in Nepal prompted a one-day Hackathon on Violence Against Women (VAWHack) intended to generate applications that could address the issue of gender-based violence in Nepal. The VAWHack, the first such event in Nepal, was organized jointly by the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, YoungInnovations and the Computer Association of Nepal. It brought together private sector representatives, gender experts and young techies to create ICT tools able to help survivors of violence against women and civil society organizations working to reduce its effect on society.

The hackathon produced FightVAW, an ICT-based initiative that provides survivors of violence against women with an alternative means of reporting their cases, via phone call, SMS and online. It enhances coordination among civil society organizations that provide care and services. With an organized case-management system that records complaints and forwards cases to different institutions providing related rehabilitation and legal services, FightVAW uses technology to address a social issue.

FightVAW is the first project of its kind to use ICTs in providing end-to-end solutions to problems involving violence against women in Nepal. It has the additional benefit of reducing survivors’ trauma by sparing them the need to repeat their negative experiences in every organization they reach out to. It also serves as a one-stop site for information on organizations working to prevent violence against women. FightVAW provides a platform for sharing the inspirational stories of women who have moved on in life after such unfortunate incidents.

Through government involvement and the inclusion of private and public organizations working in this field, FightVAW aims to work competitively towards successfully putting an end to violence against women in Nepal.

Complied from WSIS Stocktaking: Success Stories 2015

5 Reasons Why Mahabir Pun Could Change the Face of Himalaya

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Mahabir Pun is a Nepalese teacher. In 2002, he launched the Nepal Wireless Networking Project. His dream was to connect the remote villages of Himalaya to the World Wide Web. Here is how he did it. In less than a decade…

  1. He had a visionary father

Unlike most men of his generation, Pun’s father believed in education. In the Himalayan village of Nangi where he was born, most pupils dropped out by the age of 12. With no textbook and unqualified teachers, the students would often lose motivation to study, and the boys preferred to become Gurkhas like their dad. Albeit a former soldier himself, Pun’s father did not want his son to join the army. Instead, he sold his belongings, moved to the city with his family, and sent Pun to high school.

  1. He committed to improve the education of Nepalese children

In 1989 Pun got a scholarship to study at the University of Nebraska. This experience transformed him! In Nepal he had been teaching for several years, mostly to support his siblings. In America, he committed to help disadvantaged Nepalese children get a better education.

After graduating in 1996, he moved back to Nangi, where he had not been for the past 24 years. At the time, local leaders were establishing the first high school of the village. With his experience and education, Pun soon became a driving force of the project. He organized things, taught, and connected the village to the world. Once a month, he would travel to the nearest town of Pokhara, eight hours away from Nangi. This way he could have access to the Internet, keep contact with his friends abroad, and promote his school online.

  1. He understood remoteness was the key issue of his people

For Pun, isolation was the main reason why Himalayan villages were underdeveloped. It would take hours to go from Nangi to the nearest city, but also to the nearby villages. Moreover, the Maoist rebellion was still active in the end-1990s, and the region was dangerous. For decades the main source of income was the pension money from retired Gurkhas. For the youth, the only hope of a better life was to join the army or move to the cities. And since they had little education, their prospects were rather poor…

  1. He was determined to connect his village to the Internet

When he moved back to Nangi, Pun was already aware of the potential of the Internet. That’s why he dreamed of connecting his village to the web. Of course, with neither electricity nor telephone line, this was a bit of a challenge!

Luckily in 1997 Singaporean climbers stopped at Nangi. Before leaving to Mount Everest, they donated two small hydro generators. Pun installed them and could finally power the used computers he had just received.

The Internet issue proved to be more difficult to solve. Pun first used a radio phone, but the quality was terrible. Unable to find an affordable solution, he contacted the BBC and exposed his dilemma. The broadcaster publicized his question, and he got answers from all over the world. This is how he heard for the first time of the wireless technology.

Two Europeans in particular decided to take up the challenge and, despite Nepal’s political unrest, flew over to Nangi to help him. They brought wireless equipment and supported Pun in establishing a wireless connection. In September 2003, they finally connected the village to Pokhara. For the first time in history, a Himalayan village was part of the World Wide Web!

  1. He has unleashed the potential of his people

In 2006, the government and the Maoist rebellion signed a peace agreement. This enabled Pun to expand his Nepal Wireless Networking Project. Today 175 villages are part of it, and it has brought local people many benefits.

  • Education: the Nepal Wireless Network has addressed the scarcity of qualified teachers. Mountain students now attend online classes, access educational material, and have pen friends abroad. As for the teachers, they can easily exchange tips and ideas with their colleagues.
  • Health care: the network has improved the villagers’ access to health care. Whenever someone is sick, he goes to the local clinic. Whenever they have a doubt, health workers can ask doctors in Pokhora and Katmandu for advice.
  • Economics: the Nepal Wireless Networking Project has allowed mountain villagers to create income-generating activities. They sell their products and offer ecotourism services to the trekkers visiting the Annapurna.

And this is all made possible by the Internet. No wonder Mahabir Pun received the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award in 2014!

Apply Now for 2015 eNGO Challenge

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The 2015 eNGO Challenge Award aspires to create an ecosystem by recognizing and honouring NGOs which are using Information Communication Technology (ICT) and digital media tools for good governance and practices that are benefiting societies and communities at large. It is a joint initiative of Public Interest Registry (PIR) and Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF).

The eNGO Challenge is open in six categories for best use of ICT, mobile, digital media & new or social media by an NGO for:

    • Best Use of Website & Internal Tools (Website):website
      This category focuses on NGOs that are using website to showcase their activities, projects and local content to get networking and support from funding agencies. This category also welcomes NGOs that create awareness on certain issues through campaigning.

 

  • Best Use of Mobile content & Apps (Mobile):mobile
    This category focuses on NGOs that have used mobile tools/Apps for their internal &external communication to drive social change. For example,an NGOis eligible to apply under this category that uses connectivity through mobile phones, sms, video calling or any other means to engage and empower communities at large.

 

 

  • Best Use of e-Commerce (e-Commerce):ecommerce
    This category focuses on NGOs who have used ICT and digital media tools such as e-Commerce, mobile phones, online shopping and social media networkssuch as Facebook & Twitter to promote their business meant for the benefit of a community. For example, an NGO is eligible to apply under this category that usesa website or social media networks for the promotion and trading of products for the benefit of a community.

 

 

  • Best Use of Software Automation & Networking (Tools):tools
    This category focuses on NGOs that use digital media tools for improving and enhancing their organizational efficiency by using networking and software tools such as Wi-Fi, Skype, Tally etc. For example,an NGO is eligible to apply under this category thatuses video-conferencing technology to connect with their regional partners or does staff capacity building program with various ICT tools.

 

 

  • Best Use of social Media (Social Media): Slocial Media
    The category focuses on NGOs that use social media as a tool to get solutions for and from the communities. For example, an NGOis eligible to apply under this category that uses Facebook and twitter to engage communities or inform them about issues.

 

 

  • Best use of e-Content (incl. Audio / Visual / Radio): econtent
    The category focuses on NGOs that empower people to use video or radio to help communities raise their voice for their problems. For example,an NGO is eligible to apply under this category that facilitates people to record video or participate through community radio to share messages or register complains or highlight social issues.

 

The eNGO Challenge Award is open to any registered NGO from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. There are no charges applicable for the eNGO Challenge Award Nomination process.

Your NGO should fulfill the conditions of being an active & ICT based organization. Interested entities can take part in eNGO Challenge by either applying online or contacting expert panel for the nomination process through engochallenge@gmail.com

Facebook Safety Check for the Nepal Earthquake

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Like many of you, I started to receive Facebook notices on Saturday telling me my friends in Nepal were “marked safe” on Facebook’s Nepal Earthquake Safety Check feature. Launched on the 3rd anniversary of the Japanese Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the feature is designed to help Facebook users know who of their friends is accounted for in a natural disaster.

Safety Check looks to be a great feature. By alerting others to someone’s post-disaster status, Facebook users can speed up the process of response and recovery. While we often focus on the physical disruption in a disaster, there is an equal or larger emotional disruption.

In the 2014 sinking of the Korean MV Sewol ferry, the entire nation of Korea was traumatized, partly because parents didn’t know which children died and which survived. A Facebook Safety Check could have helped reduced the immediate impact of the capsizing.

For the Nepal earthquake, knowing who is safe, and alleviating worry, is a great benefit for everyone. Thank you Facebook.

Bridging Nepal’s Urban-Rural Divide in Maternal Healthcare

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Nepal’s reduction in maternal mortality is one of the major success stories hailing from the World Health Organizations’ Millennium Development Goals. In 1990, Nepal suffered 790 maternal mortalities per 100,000 live births. By 2013, that number dropped an astonishing 76% to 190 maternal mortalities per 100,000 live births.

While this progress is no doubt phenomenal, much of it occurred in urban areas. About 90% of Nepali women living in urban areas had at least one care visit prior to birth, and 79% had their births attended by skilled health personnel. The experience of rural Nepali women was much different, where only 56% of women had at least one care visit prior to birth and only 37% of women had births attended by skilled health personnel. Simply put, there aren’t enough traditional resources available to provide rural Nepali women with adequate maternal care.

Amakomaya, or “Mothers Love,” has developed a mHealth platform intended to fill this void. It not only maximizes the efficiency of health providers in rural areas, but also provides educational material to pregnant women who would have no access to it otherwise.

Providing Education

Early marriage is a common occurrence in Nepal. While the legal age to marry in Nepal is 20, the median age of first marriage for women aged 20-49 is just 17.2. In rural settings, many of these young women lack access to any sort family planning or maternal health education. Amakomaya intends to provide these at risk women with a variety of educational materials via an Android based mobile phone application (available here). Mobile penetration in Nepal is over 83%, and a large portion of the population have access to a smartphone.

Additionally, where smartphone resources are unavailable, Amakomaya is donating smartphones to Female Community Health Volunteers (FHCV’s). These volunteers will register pregnant women in their local communities for the Amakomaya program, and distribute the programs content.

Once a user registers for the app, she will begin to receive educational materials tailored to her phase of pregnancy. These materials come in the form of audio, video, and text content, and are all provided in Nepali. It educates the user on what is physically occurring during her pregnancy, what she can expect, and steps she can take to improve her health, and the health of her child. The entirety of the program can be downloaded from the Amakomaya website here.

Another critical driver for the success of the Amakomaya program is that at week 28 of pregnancy, the entire family is incorporated. The material is shared with the pregnant woman’s husband, involving him directly in her care.

Amakomaya for Medical Professionals

In addition to educating pregnant women, Amakomaya also increases the efficiency of care offered by healthcare professionals in rural areas. Any advantage that a provider can gain is of serious import in Nepal, where there are only .29 healthcare workers per 1,000 people. This doesn’t come close to the WHO’s guideline of 2.3 healthcare providers per 1,000 for basic lifesaving care.

Healthcare workers who are registered for Amakomaya can view data regarding the number of pregnant women in their local populations, as well as how far along they are in their pregnancies. This data is gathered when women register for Amakomaya, as the program asks for the date of their last menstrual cycle. It allows rural healthcare workers to adequately prepare for upcoming births by notifying them as local women approach their anticipated due dates.

So far almost 1,000 pregnant women have registered for Amakomaya in 15 different health posts, with plans for expansion. While the program can’t substitute for in person care, it can provide rural Nepalese women with the information they need to properly educate themselves about their pregnancies.

Improving Adolescent Sexual Health in Nepal with m4ASRH

m4ASRH

Child marriage rates in South Asia are the second highest in the world. Despite stiff penalties for marrying under the age of 18, including up to 3 years in prison, this trend holds true for Nepal. A recent survey performed by Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population showed that 41% of Nepalese women aged 20-24 were married before turning 18. The health impact of childhood marriage is significant. According the World Health Organization, pregnancy and childbirth complications are the second leading cause of death among 15-19 year olds globally.

Additionally, an estimated 26% – 38% of recent births in Nepal are from unintended pregnancies. In this region, women whose pregnancies are unintended are more likely to receive reduced pre and post natal care, resulting in negative health outcomes for both mother and child.

Taboos associated with sex and sexuality remain commonplace across Nepal. According to the Family Planning Association of Nepal, this results in a lack of subject specific teachers to teach sexual health in schools. If educational materials are present, they are often far out of date or in disrepair. Despite the lack of education, Nepalese adolescent pre-marital sex is increasing, creating a population vulnerable to HIV infection.

The Mobile Solution

The Nepali Health Ministry has taken a new approach to providing young people with sexual health and family planning education, launching an mHealth initiative called Mobile for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (m4ASRH).

The program, which got underway September 18, will reach out to at least 300,000 youth.

The m4ASRH initiative is performing four different types of outreach:

  1. On-Demand Information (Encyclopedia) – Adolescents will have access to an online encyclopedia, where they will be able to find the information and answers that they need, in a safe setting.
  2. Role Model Stories – Stories tailored specifically the adolescents’ age and gender which highlight the actions of role models will be sent. The recipient will have the capability to choose the path of the story and see different outcomes.
  3. Quizzes – To drive engagement and interaction, quizzes based on the content of the on-demand information and role model stories will be sent.
  4. Hotline – m4ASRH will provide adolescents with a hotline where they can talk directly to health care workers, allowing access to expert advice and guidance when needed.

There are several factors at play in Nepal that could help the m4ASRH initiative succeed. Despite being a mountainous country, Nepal boasts high mobile penetration. According to a September 2014 report from the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (available here), over 83% of Nepal’s population are mobile phone users.

Additionally, there is a rising tide of support from within Nepal for family planning awareness. The m4ASRH initiative was launched by Khaga Raj Adhikari, Minister for Health and Population, on Nepal’s first National Family Planning Day in Kathmandu.