Gittisham woman explores women’s rights in Nepal

Deborah Underdown works for charity Care International, which is supporting projects that are empowering women.

HOW can a woman who has been beaten and raped by six men be empowered to campaign for women’s rights?

It is something that a Gittisham woman has travelled to Nepal to find out.

Deborah Underdown, 27, works for charity Care International and recently travelled to central and western Nepal to collect stories about women who have been empowered to use the system to fight back.

“Nepal is just coming out of conflict after a 10-year civil war, and violence against women is quite common,” said Deborah, a former pupil of Feniton Primary School and The King’s School, Ottery St Mary.

“During times of conflict, violence against women tends to go up. When the conflict ends, the violence continues because it has become normalised.”

Care International is calling on governments around the world to protect women.

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It is petitioning Foreign Secretary William Hague to support the campaign.

Deborah was amazed by the story of one woman, Pushpa.

“She was married and had four children, but only one of the children was a boy,” she explained.

“One boy wasn’t enough for her husband so he married another woman, which is illegal in Nepal.

“The husband paid for six men to beat her up. They raped her, broke her leg and she sustained back injuries when she was hit with a hammer.”

But Pushpa survived the ordeal and, thanks to a project supported by Care International, is now empowering other women.

“She is so positive about her future,” said Deborah. “She has joined a women’s group, supported by Care International, and is now campaigning and encouraging victims to go to the police.

“Thanks to Care International, she has learnt about women’s rights and has filed a legal case against her husband.”

Child marriage is another issue being tackled by Care International in Nepal.

“We are trying to educate communities about the negative effects this can have,” said Deborah.

“I met one woman who was married at the age of 15 and beaten on a daily basis.

“She was expected to cook and clean for her husband’s family, but she wasn’t sure what was expected of her.

“The legal age for marriage in Nepal is 18, but it is very hard to police.”

Out of every 100,000 births in Nepal, 280 women die due to complications during or following labour. In the UK, that figure is just 13 deaths per 100,000.”

Care International is training voluntary health workers to provide support and education, and is providing equipment.

Visit to find out more about Care International’s work.