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In Nepal, Gender-based violence (GBV) affects one in five women aged 15-49, while one in four ever-married women are reported to have had experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence by their spouses during their life time (NDHS, 2016).  

Violence against women and girls face can take many forms and can affect them not just physically but also emotionally and psychologically, thus affecting their mental health. Anecdotal evidence shows that GBV is closely linked to long term mental health issues such as PTSD, depression and anxiety and can also lead to suicide - something that was seen particually during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

To get the support required, aside from coming out and dealing with the trauma they faced, victims/survivors may have to spend a great deal to access specialized services. While several organizations have been working to support survivors of GBV, the commitment of the Government of Nepal has been commendable in allocating what is called the GBV Violence Elimination Fund. 

The Fund is supposed to operate at all three levels of Government - Federal, Provincial and Local, yet there are inconsistencies in the access and availability of the Fund across the entire country. 

Take for example Chisankhugadhi, which is one of eight municipalities located in Okhaldhunga District of Province No. 1 of Nepal.

Chisankhugadhi, with a population of approximately 15,100 people, is an area where there are several reported cases of GBV. In the fiscal year of 2021/2022 a total of 57 GBV survivors were reported to have received services from One-Stop Crisis Management Center (OCMC), and 7 from the Safe House. 

While the Fund and the corresponding guidelines were set up in 2020, overtime the process became defunct, hence the funds received from Provincial and Federal Government were kept on hold and not mobilized locally, to respond to the immediate needs of the GBV survivors. This means, survivors only had access to the free and confidential services offered at the hospital-based One-Stop Crisis Management Centers (OCMC). But for the people in Chisankhugadhi, the OCMC situated at the Rumjatar Hospital is approximately 40 KM away, so many survivors were hesitant to make the journey to the OCMC due to heavy private transportation costs and lack of public commuting options. Understanding this issue, UNFPA and the partners involved in the Gender-based Violence Prevention and Response Phase II Project* (2020-2024) began lobbying for the operationalization of the GBV Elimination Fund at the Local Government . After almost a year of advocacy, the Chisankhugadhi Palika has taken the initiative to institutionalize and roll out the Fund with an allocation of NPR 1,25,000.00 for this fiscal year, which has already benefited approximately 10 GBV survivors by providing them with travel, accommodation and medical costs.  

43 year old Bel Kumari** from Chisankhugadhi, is one of the 10 survivors who have had access to this fund since it came into effect in May 2022. 

She got married at the early age of 17 and had two children. After 12 years of marriage, when she was 29, her husband left her for another woman, leaving her to fend for herself and her children all on her own. She struggled to make ends meet but somehow managed with daily wage work, just for the sake of her children. Yet, this came at the cost of her own physical and mental wellbeing. While her laborious work was taking an emotional toll on her over the years, she also found herself starving and avoiding the necessary medications just so her children could have food on the table. She remained hopeful however that the sacrifices she is making for her children will help them have a great life but overtime her worries grew. Her daughter eloped at the early age of 18 and following this, she had many more recurring troubles caused by her children - further aggravating her mental health. She was frustrated, fed up with what life had to offer her and completely depressed.

While Bel Kumari was in this state, she met Kesh, a Community-based Psychosocial Worker (CPSW) who visited her home and inquired about her wellbeing. Bel Kumari had never shared her worries nor had she ever opened up to anyone about her life’s struggles. She had silently endured it all for many years. So she found it hard to speak to the CPSW, but soon she got comfortable and started sharing her life journey. Hearing this, the CPSW immediately coordinated with a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that operates a UNFPA-supported Safe House in Okhaldhunga District and through this NGO Bel Kumari was provided with some food rations, a gas stove and a cooker equivalent to the value of NPR 20,000.00. The CPSW also managed to tap into the GBV Elimination Fund where Bel Kumari was provided cash support for transportation to visit the OCMC in Rumjatar where she received urgent medical treatment for her physical ailments and counselling for a period of time until she was feeling much better. 

“There is a clear need for sufficient budgets to be made available for GBV survivors at the Palika, Provincial and Federal Government level. When these funds are institutionalized and efficiently implemented, survivors like Bel Kumari can get the support that they require when they need them the most” says the area CPSW Coordinator, Basanti Rai.    

Bel Kumari is now starting afresh and is grateful for a chance to change the course of her life and write a new future for herself. 

Eternally grateful for the effort of the CPSW, Bel Kumari says crying happy tears "I am here today only because of Kesh and the Chisankhugadhi Municipality, who helped me physically, psychologically and financially get back on my feet. I was helpless, and had no support from anyone and in this context the CPSW was truly God-sent. I am confident that I can live a better life now.” 

The GBV Elimination Fund is now being effectively implemented in Chisankhugadhi, and this is a result of continuous advocacy by the Project partners and due to support from Local Government leaders like the Vice Chairperson of the Palika, Mr. Santosh Babu Thapa, who says, “There will always be a scarcity of resources, but this municipality is committed to respond to GBV survivors through the management of these Funds. To make the disbursement of funds more effective, we rely on the CPSWs to identify, serve and coordinate with the relevant survivors, other stakeholders and the Palika”. 

CPSWs play a crucial role within communities to both identify and provide referrals to those who are going through violence both in their homes and in their neighborhoods. Government bodies also equally play an important role to ensure state support is continuously provided to survivors who come out to seek help. UNFPA, through this project, is bridging the two actors, to ensure no woman is left behind. Having confidence in the Government and Non-Government GBV Response mechanisms in place will not only encourage the help-seeking behavior of the survivors but will also assure them that they can and will receive the support services, including mental health support, when they need them the most. 

As the world commemorates World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2022, UNFPA remains committed towards the continuous provision of psychological support to survivors of GBV.

As this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is “Make mental health for all a global priority”, let’s commit to break the stigma around this and ensure everyone has access to mental health support - because GBV is not just about sexual or physcial violence but also inlcudes psychological violence and can take a huge long lasting emotional toll on victims/survivors. 


*UNFPA’s Gender-based Violence and Prevention Project is funded by the Government of Norway and the Swiss Development Cooperation under a funding envelope of USD 11.2 million. With several partners on the ground, the Project is implemented in Provinces 1 and 7 (Sudurpashchim) in Nepal from 2020-2024.

** Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality. 

If you feel like you need help in relation to your mental health, please contact,
1) your nearest OCMC
2) The suicide prevention helpline 1166
3) CMC Nepal: 16600185080
4) TPO Nepal: 16600102005