Action Works Nepal (AWON)
Instances of sexual violence in public spaces in Nepal have been on the rise. In some instances public gang rapes have occurred, as in the case of a 21-year old nun who was gang raped on public transport in June of 2011. In August 2011, two invigilators/proctors sexually harassed university students during their final exam period. Although the students reported the event to the authorities, no government agencies took their testimonies seriously; and those taking the side of the lecturers consistently threatened human rights organization Action Works Nepal (AWON), its volunteers (who are survivors of sexual violence) and the media for disclosing the issue and advocating for the students. In some instances, anonymous people followed and took photographs of fourteen members of AWON. In response, the organization requested funds to initiate an awareness-raising campaign to bring attention to the issue. It plans to hold a large press conference to involve the media and petition to government ministers. It also plans to engage academics and lawyers to gather support for policy change to punish sexual harassment, and disseminate information on the topic via radio programs, distribution of stickers and flyers, and workshops.
AWON is a young, committed, dynamic, enthusiastic, and multi- disciplinary group of people working for peace, prosperity, and a just society in Nepal and beyond. AWON focuses on human rights, specifically women’s and children’s, as well as climate change and natural resource management.
AWON used the funds for their sexual harassment prevention and response campaign. In November, AWON organized two press conferences to raise public awareness about recent incidents of sexual harassment against girl students and women’s rights activists. By submitting a petition to major political parties and to the university in which the student harassment took place, AWON contributed to two cases being registered in the district court and the police office, one about sexual harassment in educational institutions, and one about harassment in public transport. Also in November, AWON conducted well-attended educational sessions for unions, researchers, media, lawyers, taxi divers, lawmakers, and university representatives on the issue of sexual harassment.
Another major component of AWON’s campaign was partnering with a media group to produce and broadcast a radio program on sexual harassment. Thirteen episodes will be aired, containing interviews with human rights activists, lawyers, school representatives, lawmakers, and a police deputy, and will also be available online. So far, AWON has received very positive feedback about the radio show, and is getting requests for consultation and assistance, which has enhanced the confidence of the AWON activists working on the campaign and renewed their commitment. By also linking their campaign very closely to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, AWON was able to integrate their work into the larger human rights movement and broadened the scope of their outreach.