FEATURED STORY

I Know I'm Not Alone Anymore

Supporting gender-based violence survivors in the aftermath of a crisis

Larissa Schneider, International Medical Corps Media and Press Officer Photo Credit: Thomas Van Houtryve

Bishwajyoti* married her first husband when she was 18 years old. They were happy, and she described him as a “clever and hard-working man”, before he suddenly committed suicide. To this day, Bishwajyoti does not know why.

“After his death it was very difficult for me to earn a living and take care of my family”, she said. “I felt really lonely. I had to take care of three children on my own. My financial situation was very poor.”

A few years later, Bishwajyoti remarried. “My new husband has not accepted my children from my first marriage. He does not treat them well.

“When my husband gets drunk, he scolds me, beats me, and hits my children. Sometimes, while I am asleep, he tries to force me to have sex, while all the family members are sleeping together.

“After the earthquake things have become worse. As we lost our home and now are living in a temporarily shelter, there is little space and practically no privacy. It is wet and cold at night due to the raining season. I need to get up early to collect firewood to get and seek water for cooking. My husband seems more worried and angry than ever.”

One day while returning home from Health Post, Bishwajyoti met two Didi’s (sisters). They told her about the female friendly space, set up by International Medical Corps, where she could come and be with other women. They also told her that she could have access to counselling support.

“When I visited the female friendly space, I felt well received and comfortable. There were other sisters like me. I learned about GBV (Gender-Based Violence) and it helped me understand my options. Right now I don’t want to divorce, but at least I know I can go to the police and seek help when my husband gets violent. They also helped me to seek help from my mother in law.

“Now I feel more confident to talk about my concerns. I always thought that I was alone in this world full of my personal problems and sufferings. Now I know I am not alone any more.”

*Names have been changed to protect identity of those concerned

The two earthquakes that hit Nepal in April 2015 have taken a terrible toll, killing more than 8,600 people and injuring more than 16,800. Some 8 million people were affected including 2.8 million who were displaced from their homes. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, where primary healthcare is the main concern, gender-based violence can easily go unnoticed.

International Medical Corps supported Women Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) to establish 10 Female Friendly Spaces, 5 each in Gorkha and Dhading districts, open to all women and girls, offering services such as psychosocial and protection services, health information, consultations, and referrals. Since the beginning, over 18,000 women and girls have been reached through these services.