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Schoolgirl, Nepal Girl learning at temporary learning centre built by Plan International. Plan International / Max Greenstein


Nepal is a small mountainous country wedged between China and India. Best known as the home of Mount Everest, the country is home to over 20 million people—who represent 125 different ethnic groups. Hit by a massive earthquake in 2015, Nepal has struggled to rebuild. About one quarter of the population lives below the poverty line and about one quarter are adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19. Nepal has a remarkably decentralised government, which allows local communities to set their own priorities and opens up interesting ways of working with young people.

Education and learning: girls and boys are now equally likely to enrol in primary school, however, because girls are assigned far more chores than boys, their actual attendance rates are lower.  Girls are also far less likely than boys to be sent to higher quality private schools.

Bodily integrity: there have been significant improvements in child marriage rates—while nearly 20% of women aged 45 to 49 were married before the age of 15,  only 5% of girls currently aged 15-19 were married by 15. Trafficking rates are estimated to be very high, with up to 12,000 Nepalese girls trafficked each year—mostly to India. Rural girls are the most vulnerable.

Sexual and reproductive health: Nepalese adolescent girls face a variety of restrictions while they are having their periods, including chhaupadi--a practice in Western Nepal where girls are prohibited from participating in normal family activities (such as eating with the family) while they are menstruating. In addition, while 43% of adult women use modern contraception, only 8.9% of adolescent girls practice family planning--abortion rates among adolescents beginning to increase.

Nutrition: adolescent girls are also vulnerable to undernourishment--a quarter have a low Body Mass Index (BMI).

Psychosocial wellbeing: mental ill-health is a significant concern among adolescent girls--  21% of suicides in Nepal are by females aged 18 and under.

Social norms, voice and agency: in Nepal there is evidence of change in a more gender-egalitarian direction.  Girls are increasingly likely to complete their lower-secondary education, child marriage rates are declining, and there is increasing space for girls to voice their own opinions about whom and when they will marry.

Economic empowerment: among 15-19 year olds, employment rates for girls and boys are similar (48% and 46% respectively). However, girls are much more likely to be working in agriculture than boys (83% versus 49%) and boys are more likely to be employed in skilled jobs than girls (15% versus 4%).