Cross-generational forum in Nepal explores new solutions to gender-based violence and discrimination

A series of dialogues has allowed Nepalese women of different ages to share their experiences of violence and discrimination, many of them related to the 10-year civil war, and find new ways forward. The Intergenerational Dialogues, supported by UN Women, were held in all seven Provinces across the country over five months.

Date: Monday, November 4, 2019

Author: Naresh Newar

Young and old generations participate in UN Women-supported Intergenerational Dialogue in Chitwan district of Nepal. Photo: UN Women
Young and old generations participate in UN Women-supported Intergenerational Dialogue in Chitwan district of Nepal. Photo: UN Women/Naresh Newar

Chitwan, Nepal — Kali Gurung’s husband was killed in crossfire between the rebels and government forces decades ago. But her struggles did not end with the conflict, and she explained how conflict-affected women like her had difficulty moving on even after the peace was restored in the country following the 1996-2006 conflict with the Maoist rebels.

“Women of my generation have suffered violence not just during the armed conflict. I hope by sharing my experiences today can provide lessons to the new generation of women so that they will not have to suffer like us.”

Gurung was speaking during an Intergenerational Dialogue (IGD) organized on 19 September 2019 by UN Women’s partner Digital Broadcast Initiative Equal Access (DBI EA) with The Story Kitchen in Chitwan district, Province 3 of Nepal.

The methodology of the IGD is unique in the way it empowers diverse individuals and communities to unpack issues of discrimination and violence faced by women and excluded groups, and to develop a common set of actions to address these issues.

Two generations of women brainstorm on how to address serious concerns by analyzing the case studies of gender-based violence and find solutions. Photo: UN Women
Two generations of women brainstorm on how to address serious concerns by analyzing the case studies of gender-based violence and find solutions. Photo: UN Women/Naresh Newar

Through the IGDs, a range of issues were discussed, including: gender gaps in control over resources, leadership and decision making; polygamy; son preference; child marriage; the isolation of menstruating women and girls under the taboo known as chhaupadi; unequal gender division of labour; dowry; and mobility restrictions to women and girls. Actions to address these issues were negotiated and adopted by the participants.

“I feel this is a great initiative bringing the two generations together,” said Poonam Thapa, a radio journalist half Gurung’s age, who was also invited to take part.

“How the violence affects us young generation is very different, but we are also not completely free from it. And we have so much to learn from each generation.”

This was the last of the series of dialogue events held over the last five months in all the seven provinces of Nepal. Over 600 people with ages ranging from 19 to 60 actively participated to discuss about gender discriminatory social norms, harmful traditional practices, sexual violence, in addition to many forms of gender violence both during and after the armed conflict.

During these dialogues, people from diverse groups were invited, including conflict victims, people with disabilities, single women (unmarried, widowed, and divorced), men, transgender persons, people living with HIV, religious leaders, journalists, human rights workers, lawyers, government officials, locally elected leaders and police.

In each dialogue session, the participants were divided into different groups, each comprising members of young and old generations from diverse professional, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Each group was provided with fictionalized stories based on real incidents. They worked as a team, encouraging every member to actively participate to discuss, analyze and address the issues while finding solutions to the discriminatory social norms and harmful practices.

Srijana Adhikari, locally elected leader from Bharatpur Municipality of Chitwan district, says she wants to encourage local government to organize similar initiatives to promote Intergenerational Dialogues. Photo: UN Women/Naresh Newar
Srijana Adhikari, locally elected leader from Bharatpur Municipality of Chitwan district, says she wants to encourage local government to organize similar initiatives to promote Intergenerational Dialogues. Photo: UN Women/Naresh Newar

“I felt so relieved sharing my experiences as this seems to be a very understanding group of people, whom I felt never judged me,” said one participant who asked not to be named. “I felt a lot of empathy and moral support offered by them.”

Many participants also shared that this was a unique experience because in most of the interaction and seminars or workshops, usually only people of same generation (old or young) are invited to participate in such knowledge and experience sharing programs. This was different in a way that diverse groups of all generations shared a common platform, discussing about discriminatory social norms, harmful practices and gender-based violence during the armed conflict and current situations.

“In our society, the young and the old hardly share each other’s experiences, and this is such a great opportunity to gain understanding and knowledge, creating a culture of empathy within the society, which can help in the healing process especially for the women who suffered violence,” said Anu Upadhyay, DBI EA's programme coordinator.

The Intergenerational Dialogues encouraged participation of young men to create understanding on discriminatory social norms and harmful practices in Nepal. Photo: UN Women
The Intergenerational Dialogues encouraged participation of young men to create understanding on discriminatory social norms and harmful practices in Nepal. Photo: UN Women/Naresh Newar

Participants shared how such dialogues between the different generations should be nurtured at household levels too, and they said that was one of the main take-home messages for them.

“In each household, we still practice discriminatory social norms and we need to raise awareness within our own families, and this is a battle that the new generation have to fight,” said Bishnu Adhikari, a Hindu priest. He told participants that the Hindu scripts never endorsed any discriminatory social norms and harmful practices, which were falsely created by the patriarchal society. The participants applauded his comments and majority of them agreed that the priest should share his views to more people in the mainstream society.

“I had never been to such an event and I feel this was so unique and fresh,” said Srijana Adhikari, a locally elected leader who is ward member of Bharatpur Municipality of Chitwan district. She added that the initiative to hold Intergenerational Dialogues was an eye opener, and said she wants to encourage the government to organize similar initiatives. “We should use this tool in women’s empowerment-related workshops.”

Expert trainer Sunita Sharma facilitated UN Women-supported the Intergenerational Dialogues in all seven provinces. She said that continuation of such dialogues can inspire more organizations to use these tools, eventually creating a culture of sharing in society to unify against violence and discrimination against Nepali women.