24% women malnourished, 36% anaemic with IDD in Nepal
UN Committee asks Nepal to implement Women's Rights, Health
With the release of its concluding observations addressed to Nepal, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) asks for a better implementation of women's rights in the country.
The Committee, which periodically reviews state reports and highlights gaps and failures in the implementation of international obligations of State Parties under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, for the first time clearly referenced the right to adequate food in its findings.
According to recent estimates, up to seven million Nepalese - 25 per cent of the nation - go to bed hungry every day. Almost 40 per cent of children below the age of five suffer from malnourishment. Twenty-four per cent of women aged 15-49 years are malnourished, falling below the healthy limit of 18.5 on the body mass index.
Another 36 percent of women are anaemic. Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD) has been a major public health problem in Nepal for decades. The prevalence of clinical IDD, as indicated by the prevalence of goiter, is observed to be very high with a total goiter rate of 50 per cent among women.
FIAN Nepal presented the UN Committee with a parallel report about the right to adequate food of women in Nepal, highlighting severe inadequacies in the implementation of this right. These include endemic discrimination and social exclusion; insufficient and insecure access to, and ownership of, productive resources, in particular land; and discriminatory access to income and employment under fair conditions.
Three specific cases highlighted insufficient access to social security of women suffering of HIV/AIDS, lack of fair remuneration and working conditions for women, and limited access to safe drinking water.
In its report FIAN asked the State of Nepal to take measures to ensure sustainable and fair conditions of employment, and to provide access to income for poor women. The report also stressed the need for the adoption and implementation of targeted programs to ensure women's participation, equitable access in policy-making processes and enjoyment of access to and control over natural resources such as water, land and forests.
The necessity of ensuring the provision of social security and safety nets for poor women, especially single women, and women affected by HIV and AIDS was highlighted. FIAN further recommended the State of Nepal to adopt all necessary measures to ensure adequate provision for the right to adequate food in the nation's new Constitution.
In its Concluding Observations on Nepal, the UN Committee expresses concerns about "the living conditions of women living in poverty", in particular "lack of access to land, adequate food, safe drinking water..." The CEDAW Observations recommend the government "address the structural causes of poverty...towards achieving people-centred sustainable development", with a focus on "women's economic sustainable empowerment, including the promotion of women's access to land and credit".
Concerns are raised with regard to the high proportion of women working in the informal sector, and it is recommended that measures be taken to "regulate the informal sector to ensure that women are not exploited". The Observations also recommend that the State "ensure equal access of women to resources and nutritious food ... providing women with land ownership and facilitating women's access to safe drinking water and fuel".
Ana María Suárez Franco, permanent representative of FIAN International at the UN, welcomes the Committee's Observations: "FIAN acknowledges CEDAW's clear recognition of the human right to adequate food and the special interest of Committee members on the issue during its constructive dialogue with the State of Nepal. We are sure the Committee will take into account this precedent for upcoming state reports".
FIAN Nepal will closely monitor State action in regard to compliance with the recommendations made by the UN Committee on the country level.