“Need to find solution for ageing population soon”
KATHMANDU, March 7: A top UN official has said Nepal is a very progressive country in terms of formulating policies favorable to address issues related to women empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, adolescents and the concerns of LGBTI and other minority groups.
“Nepal is a very progressive country. Legal provisions, policies on sexuality and reproductive health are very advanced in Nepal,” UNFPA's Regional Director for the Asia and the Pacific Bjorn Andersson told Republica. “It's a fact that you have progressive laws and policies. Abortion is legal in Nepal. You don't have any stigma around family planning matters. Nepalis have very positive thinking.” On issues related to sexual and reproductive health, Nepal has a good policy framework, he added.
He also applauded initiatives taken in Nepal for women empowerment. “Women can make choices, can decide about her own body legally. Nepalis are very open to LGBTI issues as well,” he said. “That's one of the main reasons why movement like She Decides chose to convene its flagship international event in Nepal [last week].”
He however was quick to add that it's a question that whether everybody has access to it but that's the matter of effective implementation and that Nepal has to allocate sufficient resources for effective implementation of the policies at the local level.
Stating that since Nepal formulated progressive laws and has remained a very strong ally to UNFPA and its ICPD [International Conference on Population and Development] program of actions, Andersson stressed that it is high time Nepal invested on younger generations and health services.
“That's something which we as UNFPA can have dialogue with the government and we do make clear as to why invest. We have studies that show, if you invest in family planning and in reproductive health that pays off later on,” he explained.
Describing the challenges of a developing country like Nepal, he said adolescents and their issues like pregnancy at an early age have so many challenges. “It becomes more problematic when they marry at an early age, get pregnant but not having access to education.”
He said there are a number of cross-border issues like migration, urbanization, environment and pollution in the Asia Pacific region and that they can be better addressed together.
“Given that Nepal has such a young population, you have window of opportunity. If the government makes right investments in young people, the access to education, access to health, and in particular in sexual and reproductive health,” he said.
He also underscored the need for giving attention toward the changing demographic dynamics in developing countries like Nepal.
“The fertility rate in Nepal is already in replacement level. The more women come out in the labor market and you have better health so the fertility rate continues to drop,” he said.
At one point of time one needs to find ways to encourage women and men to have children by making it affordable and making sure that women who come out in the labor force also have access to childcare. “Because with the changes in society the traditional way of your grandparents looking after your children may change and often elderly people are in rural areas and their children are in urban areas,” he said. “This is challenging in a country like Nepal where population ageing is happening rapidly. In many other countries, people have pensions or healthcare centers to address such problems.”
It's a challenge of a developing country and it's different than in European countries. “At the end of the day, Nepal needs to find solution to its unique situation of population ageing. You have a combination of younger people, urbanization and small families living in small apartments and expensive living in cities makes life challenging. They can't take care of their parents and they are in rural areas.”