Deputy Executive Director, Geeta Rao Gupta, lauds role of technology and results for children in Nepal Visit
© UNICEF Nepal/2013/PMathema
DED Geeta Rao Gupta plays with 6-month-old son of Roshani Pariyar, who was delivered at the Dapcha Birthing Centre
*This story was first published in ICON at: intranet.unicef.org
By Robin Giri
KATHMANDU, Nepal, 29 April – On her first visit to Nepal, Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta lauded the role of technology in accelerating equitable development to empower children and women.
During her three-day visit she met with the President of Nepal and other high ranking government officials, staff members of UNICEF Nepal, and travelled to the field to see how UNICEF’s support is promoting and protecting the voices and rights of Nepalese children and women.
Under a brightly lit tent to ward off the pre-monsoon showers, the DED was greeted by staff in bright costumes representing the myriad Nepalese ethnic groups, and displaying innovative ways to showcase various aspects of UNICEF’s Country Programme in Nepal.
“We must learn to innovate; learn to skip technology in order to be more effective," said Ms. Rao Gupta in her address to staff of UNICEF Nepal. "SMS services are already boosting birth registration, and technology and innovation can create learning tools and apps for children and adolescents. It works perfectly because children are more comfortable with, and easily adopt and adapt to new technology and learning methods.”
During her visit to the Nepal Country Office, Ms. Rao also met with three former child combatants who participated in the People’s War. She was visibly impressed with their efforts at reintegration into society and working on income generating activities, and also continuing their schooling.
Travelled to the Field
East of the capital in Kavre district, Ms. Rao Gupta, accompanied by Ms. Hanaa Singer the Nepal Representative, met with young working children at a UNICEF-supported Urban Out-of-School Programme (UOSP) centre in Banepa. She heard from the children, some as young as 12, often living on their own and working as manual wage labourers or rag pickers – about how the UOSP programme has made a difference in their lives.
“The UOSP classes taught me to read and write and that has helped me a lot as a mechanic, because now I can also read instructions,” said 16 year old Krishna, who used to live on the streets, but now rents a small room with two other boys who work in construction.
The UOSP classes focus on out-of-school children and provide them with two 10-month bridging courses so that they can continue formal schooling.
The DED also travelled further afield to see a birthing centre and meet with Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) in Dapcha Village Development Committee (VDC).
© UNICEF Nepal/2013/KKPanta
DED Geeta Rao Gupta and Country Representative Hanaa Singer with President of Nepal Rt. Hon. Dr. Ram Baran Yadav
There she heard first hand from the women, how their community, spurred by one maternal death too many, joined hands to raise funds and labour to build the birthing centre.
“You women are brave, some of the bravest that I’ve seen and I am proud that UNICEF was instrumental in motivating you,” said Ms. Rao to FCHV Laxmi Shrestha, who told her about the past when expectant mothers were either carried by men or travelled a tortuous two-hour ride by tractor to the nearest road head.
FCHVs are considered the health sector’s front line warriors. After an 18-day training course they dispense knowledge on everything from diarrhoea to birth control, and immunisation to children’s schooling. They are also responsible for maintaining logs of all pregnant women in their community, and for ensuring pregnant women eat nutritious food, take iron tablets, and that they make the required antenatal visits and give birth - attended to by Skilled Birth Attendants.
She heard how many women died in the past, but with the establishment of the birthing centre, funded by the local VDC funds and those raised from the community, and spurred by training and equipment provided by UNICEF, maternal deaths were now a thing of the past.
“You are the invisible warriors, the indispensable warriors who make this a reality in order to improve the lives of children and women,” said Ms. Singer.
The DED and the Country Representative also met with and heard from the mother’s group that comprises the VDC level Paralegal Committee. They spoke about their protective role in the community and the number of cases of domestic violence and other issues they have helped solve.
"We are volunteers, no doubt, but we work with our heart and soul, because we are also women," said Kamala Paudel, Chairperson of the Paralegal Committee in Dapcha. "Sometimes our work invites threats and intimidation, but we forge on!"
UNICEF initially created the community-based Village Paralegal Committee Programme in 1999 as an anti-trafficking effort. Now, these women’s committees address all forms of violence and exploitation against women and children.
Wrapping up her visit to Nepal, Ms. Rao Gupta urged staff of the Nepal office to plan every activity with an eye on the results. “Never take your eyes off results – and their impact on children,” she said.