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Justice Institute Nepal Faculty (L to R, seated: Gigi Scoles, Director of Human Rights at Vital Voices; Supreme Court Justice Sushila Karki; Appeals Court Judge Meera Khadka; standing: Christopher Mallios, Attorney Advisor at AEquitas; Attorney General’s Office Prosecutor Sanjeeb Raj Regmi; Cindy Dyer, Vice President of Human Rights at Vital Voices; Sapana Pradhan Malla, Senior Advocate – Supreme Court of Nepal and member of the United Nations Committee Against Torture; Rishikesh Wagle, Judge and faculty at the Judge Society Nepal; and Shreekrishna Mulmi, Director of the Judge Society Nepal)

It was less than a year ago that a delegation from Vital Voices and AEquitas traveled to Kathmandu to hold the very first Justice Institute to Combat Gender-Based Violence. Now, as Kathmandu struggles with a natural disaster of tragic proportions, we think our friends there-our partners in the fight against gender-based violence. Some we have heard from in the aftermath of the tragedy. Some we have yet to hear from. With the death toll having surpassed 5,500 as of the time of this writing, like many others with friends or family in Nepal, we nervously continue to await news.

Our program in Kathmandu was focused on Domestic Violence. During that one week in Nepal, many things happened. Important conversations were had. Eyes were opened to the scope of the problems women in Nepal face. As would be expected when dealing with such a difficult topic, there were many very heavy, serious moments. But there also were much more lighthearted moments-like when faculty and participants alike spontaneously broke out into song and dance during a discussion of Nepali culture. But most importantly, friendships were formed. Human connections were made.

In this time of struggle, we think of our friends in Nepal, and hope for their safety because even as the aftershocks begin to subside a bit, the crisis continues.

In addition to the Justice Institute, Vital Voices, via the VVLead Fellowship Program, organized and implemented a Peer-to-Peer Exchange in Kathmandu, Nepal last August. Hosted by two Nepalese fellows, the VVLead team and fellows from across the globe experienced the beauty, hospitality and innovative resolve for positive change that embodies the Nepalese people.

Natural disasters and any other event that leaves people homeless or displaced can lead to very dangerous times. Past crises have shown us that the most vulnerable parts of our societies become even more vulnerable at times like this. Problems like domestic violence and sexual assault can become intensified in displaced populations. We need to stay vigilant to protect these vulnerable populations.

Furthermore, since the earthquake, fellows working on relief efforts have shared of the specific challenges faced by women. VVLead Fellow Monika Chaulagain, President of ‘We’ for Change, shared, in particular, the plight of pregnant women who lack nutritious food, potable drinking water and shelter. Additionally, mothers who just have delivered newborn babies lack access to relief as many hospitals and clinics are shuttered and/or destroyed and recovery and caretaking are now occurring in tent shelters with few supplies.

As concern grows about the circumstances for survivors and response to the earthquake, and questions are being raised about the sufficiency and speed of humanitarian aid, our friend and partner, Sapana Pradhan Malla tweeted this message:

Please help by retweeting this message to make sure that everyone who needs police assistance in Nepal can receive it. And let’s all try to send any good wishes and positive energy we can spare in Nepal’s direction.