KATHMANDU, Oct 10: Nepali Adolescents and Youth Survey carried out by the Population Division of Nepal Government, Ministry of Health and Education in 2010/11 cites that nearly one in every five adolescents (18%) reported of having used liquor, followed by use of cigarettes/tobacco (13%), and major drugs (6%).
Adolescence, referred to the age group from 10 to 19 years of age, is the phase of transition from dependence to independence. During this time, it paves way for physical, mental, psychological and emotional changes.
The period of adolescence is that of curiosity and exploration and to do that within the norms and values of the society creates conflicts in the minds of young people.
Seventeen-year-old Bikalpa Kattel shares, “My major problem is lack of concentration in studies. My mind deviates to other things like internet and sex.” Apart from that, Kattel says peer pressure and eagerness to establish relationships with girls are other major distractions.
Rashmila Shakya, National Coordinator of Girl Power for Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) highlights the problems in her way thus:“The communication gap between parents and adolescents gives way to depression in many cases. The conflict between what the family and society expects and the adolescent’s influence invites mental and emotional problems. The diagnosis of mental problems especially catering to adolescents should be facilitated.”
Pravin Bhushal, 15, of Butwal, says he is sensitive and extra emotional about even petty things.
“When I started sharing these problems with my friends and brothers, I found out that they, too, are going through the same problems,” he says. “The constant advice that you get from elders, especially from parents and teachers, is annoying. Opening up to anyone is very difficult in this age.
“I go check websites about my problems. Sometimes you get to discuss these things with teachers as well,” says he, who himself is in his adolescence period.
Associate Professor of Psychology at Tribhuvan University, Ganga Pathak, says, “Adolescents can’t deal with their problems themselves. They need guidance and supervision from someone, say, a role model in whom they can confide their problems, or they can read inspirational books for tips to analyze their own problems and maintain self-control,” she adds.
According to the October 2006 data of Informal Sector Service Centre on Human Consequences of Nepal’s Armed Conflict, 13,270 people were killed and 1,147 disappeared during the 10-year period of the disturbances. Many adolescents lost their parents and were forced to lead their families. This led to heavy economic crises and a huge burden on the young shoulders.
Four out of 10 children (41.7%) work in Nepal and six out of 10 child laborers are girls. Out of 1.7 million children engaged in economic activity, 127,000 are involved in hazardous works, such as bonded child laborers, domestic workers, child porters and rag pickers.
Due to poverty, families in rural areas expect economic support from adolescents. This is why many young people opt for foreign labor migration.
“Children as young as 12 years go abroad, especially to India and the Gulf countries, with forged birth certificates and citizenships,” says CWIN’s Rashmila Shakya.
In the picture, a woman lives in a hut while she goes through her regular menstrual cycle. This practice, called the ‘Chaupadi Pratha’, can still be seen in many rural parts of Nepal. During the monthly cycle, women are considered untouchables and are separated from their family and friends and forcaed to live alone in a hut.
Nepal is the third country in South Asia with maximum cases of child marriage: 34% of total marriages in Nepal correspond to girls below 16 years and 7% of child marriages take place with children below 10 years while 38% of these adolescents are already parents by the time they are 18 or 19 which results in health issues like uterus problems, rise in child and maternal morbidity rate.
“Dropout rates are also higher in rural areas, especially because of early marriage and load of household chores. Lack of proper sanitation in schools has led to girls dropping out as soon as they hit menstruation,” says Mamata Bisht, Woman Development Officer at the Department of Women and Children at the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Adolescents who are unaware of the physical and mental changes they go through find it difficult to cope with them. Thus, schools should focus on informative curriculum in early grades so adolescents know what changes they will be going through and how they can deal with them. What could be the remedy to the problems of adolescents?
Being a visually impaired adolescent, I can tell that we have a lot of problems compared to other groups. For example, when women start menstruating, visually impaired adolescents will not know what’s happening because they can’t see. And also it’s because of the belief that “girls are untouchables” during the menstruation period. In such cases, it becomes even more difficult for visually impaired young girls. It is also thought that visually impaired and physically challenged people can’t do anything. But that’s not true. The only remedy to this is change in people’s mentality.
Jaya Ram Lamichanne, 17, Kaski
The biggest problem in Makwanpur, especially in the rural areas where women are illiterate, is when traffickers show them money, they are lured to it because of poverty. Hence, most of them land up in the cities in Nepal and India. Another big problem in Makwanpur is child and bonded labor. Our seniors in the village say that child labor is a crime and that it shouldn’t be practiced. But they themselves have young ones working in their houses. I also think that the remedy to this can only be sought when people change their mindset and that people are made aware about trafficking and its consequences.
Binita Paudel, 18, Makwanpur