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What does it mean to have your whole childhood taken away from you? A negative turn of events can sometimes simply take it all away in a flash. This is exactly what happened to Nimala*. 

A 12 year old girl from the Bajhang District, in the Sudurpashchim Province of Nepal, Nimala was part of a family of 6 - her grandmother, mother, father, brother and sister - all living together under one roof. Times were tough with finances and resources scarce for the family, but they were happy and loving to each other. As the children continued to grow, so did the household expenses, and so Nimala’s father decided to move to India to find work as a labourer. Her mother also worked as a daily wage earner near the homefront, leaving Nimala to take care of the rest of the family members, including the cattle they were rearing. She cooked, cleaned and took care of the household while both her parents were working to earn a living. But she did all this with a smile on her face - happy to help out in any way she can.

One fateful day, things took a turn for the worst for Nimala. As part of her daily routine after school, Nimala went out to get some fresh grass to feed the cattle when suddenly one of her relatives came up to her and asked to borrow her sickle. He then asked her to join him at a nearby house where they can watch a movie together for the price of NPR 500. Nimala immediately refused but not taking no for an answer, he took the sickle away with him forcing her to follow suit simply to retrieve the sickle. He then cornered in her in an abandoned house and raped her. Unable to cope with what was happening to her, Nimala passed out only to wake up hearing the screams of her mother calling out for her in the night. He had hidden Nimala under a pile of grass hoping no one would be able to find but hearing the voice of her mother, Nimala woke up and reunited with her, both in tears from what had happened. 

Nimala’s mother immediately took her to the nearest police station where she was then referred to the hospital-based One Stop Crisis Management Center (OCMC). Here she was examined for her injuries and she was also supported to file legal action against the perpetrator. Having completed a thorough check, Nimala’s mother urged her to go home and get some rest while she finishes the final paperwork. But Nimala refused to go home saying,

“I would rather jump in the river and die than go back to the village and relive the same nightmare. I am so ashamed, I can’t even face my friends anymore…”

Nimala was therefore provided a safe haven in a shelter in the same District and months after she was given counselling, nutritious food, clothes and care, she was finally starting to feel like herself again. Today, with a referral from Saathi, she is enrolled back in school in Kathmandu, determined to complete her education and pick up from where she left off.

Nimala is one of many who have been offered an opportunity to start afresh thanks to the dedication of committed organizations like Saathi who run shelters across Nepal. Saathi is one of 14 organizations working with UNFPA to end violence against women and girls in Nepal with funding support from the Government of Norway and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation in Nepal. 

Girls like Nimala can never get their childhood back. They may also never fully recover from the trauma they faced. But with support and resources from organizations and from the Government, they can alteast have a fresh start!

This International Day of the Girl Child 2022, let's ensure girls can be girls!


*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

**With a wide-range of partners across Nepal, UNFPA is currently implementing a project in Nepal which strengthens the Prevention and Response of Gender-based Violence (2020-2024) in Provinces 1 and 7, with support from the Government of Norway and the Swiss Development Cooperation under a funding envelope of USD 11.2 million.