On the occasion of the 72nd International Human Rights Day 2020 and the 12th Human Rights National Magna Meet, WHR held a panel discussion on 10 December 2020 regarding Social Security Rights of Single Women with due focus on contemporary legal and social aspects.
This year’s theme for the 72nd International Human Rights Day is Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Rights. The theme focuses on the devastating fallout of COVID-19 pandemic on the marginalized and underprivileged people along with women and children, while emphasizing on the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights, which is central to recovery efforts.
During the recent nationwide lockdown imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the government tried to constrain the social security benefits one or the other way, for instance by doing away with the social allowance to single women under 60 years of age and differently-abled people under certain conditions. Although the provision remained intact due to the widespread objection from civil society organizations including WHR, the participants of the panel discussion expressed discontent towards such a tendency of the government, while holding deliberation on the overall aspects of social security provisions in the country.
Following are the excerpts of the views expressed by the participants:
Govinda Shahi, Director, Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Center (KIDARC)
-Many indicators with regard to social security lag behind in Nepal compared to the international community, although the country is still considered underdeveloped, where a huge number of people live under the poverty line. Adding to it, due to the decade-long insurgency and various other natural disasters, many women in the country lost their husbands and family members while lots of children have been rendered orphan and homeless, for which they are in a dire need of social security schemes.
-State should come up with appropriate and necessary social security policies with definite implementation schemes, as currently the government seems more focused on provisions rather than their implementation.
-There is also a need for constant pressure and lobbying from social organizations like WHR, stakeholders and the public in general to the government authorities to ensure the social security rights of underprivileged and marginalized communities, as the country itself cannot develop unless the disadvantaged lots are provided with basic support from the government.
Gyanu BC, Rukum District, Single Women Leader
-The government was forced to amend the provision on social security allowance following several rounds of campaign activities from us all.
-The President’s ordinance has somehow come as a respite but doubts still remain if it would be fully implemented via necessary legal provisions.
Tika Dahal, President, Nepal Disabled women association (NDWA)
-The issues regarding social security and allowance are very relevant in recent times. It’s obvious that people expect from us to advocate and push the government for ensuring social security benefits. We are also happy that we have been able to achieve to this extent by now.
– WHR braved the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic and distributed relief materials and free meals to hundreds of people daily during the nationwide lockdown period.
-But, even while we were advocating, Acts were amended aimed at restricting the social security allowance, which were but later rectified due to widespread campaigning and pressure from the independent organizations like WHR involved in the social service sector.
-Local governments should take initiatives in making policies in line with their local needs in terms of social security.
-Mere allowance would not be enough, as other important aspects like education, healthcare, health insurance, economic empowerment ( low interest loans, affiliation with local cooperatives, etc.) programs as well are important, taking into consideration that many disabled women too are single with weak educational, familial and economic backgrounds. Also due to violence of different forms, they have been facing multiple forms of discrimination.
Baburam Bhusal, Under Secretary, Ministry of Federal Affairs & General Administration
-I would like to express my solidarity and best wishes on the occasion of the international human rights day.
-We have been assessing from our department the issues related to the single women since the past two years. Anyone can have access to the information provided by Department of National Id and Civil Registration (DoNIDCR) to know who are eligible and under what circumstances to receive the social security allowance.
-Along with relevant ministries and the stakeholders, we have been stressing on the need to addressing all the genuine demands related to social security schemes along with identifying problems and solving them and drawing effective plans for the future course. I do express solidarity individually and on behalf of my office in this regard.
Rajin Rayamajhi, Program Manager (Legal Department), WHR Central Office
-If the government and responsible individuals in authorities do not pay serious heed to gender sensitivity, it would be really disappointing for the ones who really need social security support from the government.
Nabin Maharjan, Social Protection Civil Society Network (SPCSN)
-Acts would address the social security issues, while only the ordinance could not do it and the parliament should move it forward.
-Also, we are bit concerned that why only ‘helpless’ women should receive social security allowance and not other single women. I think this issue should also be addressed.
Honorable MP, Mr. Prakash Pantha, National Assembly
-I think this program has been very relevant and effective in learning and discussing about the social security for single women
-We have witnessed monumental political changes and developments in the country. Almost all sectors and communities were taken into consideration while writing the new constitution to make it an inclusive one. However, the constitution alone cannot provide anything but people in the leadership are responsible to actually implement the progressive provisions of the constitution.
-Lack of integrity, sensitivity and dedication of the people in authorities often lead to obstacles and problems, which needs to be addressed
-Lack of sensitivity on the part of the state mechanisms on incorporating the spirit of the constitution in the Acts has also led to the setbacks with regard to the social security schemes
-The ordinance issued by the president says the ongoing social security schemes and the groups who are getting it should be continued, but it doesn’t talk about progressive schemes to address the social security needs of other people or communities.
Kunda Sharma, President, WHR
-We are happy have policy level changes and other practical achievements in terms of women rights and empowerment as of yet.
-We were devoid of the social security support for a few months during the nationwide lockdown period, but we have been able to revert the scenario with all our campaign activities and the support of the authorities and stakeholders.
-The constitution has managed to address many human rights and women rights issues but efforts continue for ensuring their implementation. We have forgotten that the provisions enshrined in the constitution are the human rights and we have struggled persistently to fructify such rights and have achieved many things, yet need to achieve many more things.