Working on Lodegad Bridge, Achham.
Photo: Tekendra Kunwar/SEBAC

04.09.2018

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Nepal’s new 2015 constitution guarantees full and equal rights for women, giving them formal equality with men. Yet in practice this status remains barely imaginable to most Nepalese women. This article considers the extent to which the provisions of the constitution are reflected in the government’s trail bridge programme, which provides remote rural communities with vital access to schools, health centres and markets.

The rugged mountainous terrain of Nepal has long impeded access to rural communities, and hence development opportunities. Although rural road construction has proceeded apace in recent years, many citizens still travel by foot, along winding trails rendered long and hazardous by gorges and ravines. Trail bridges are an important means of shortening distances and making travel safer. There are now over 7,500 in the country, with up to 500 more being constructed each year (see also article A small effort and a big impact – From pedestrian to tractorable bridges).

The Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC), with technical assistance from Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, has supported trail bridge building in Nepal for over 50 years – initially through direct implementation overseen by Swiss engineers, and subsequently by training Nepalese engineers and assisting with policy and guideline development, in part through a community-based approach. Nepal’s trail bridge programme is now fully government-run, with technical assistance being provided by Helvetas staff from the Trail Bridge Support Unit (TBSU), a body still financially supported by SDC.

Meetings can take place at short notice, and this lack of notice makes it difficult for the women members to attend.
Mina Kumal, Treasurer of the Bhorleghat Bridge user committee andDalit woman, Arghakhachi District.

 

Some ten per cent of trail bridges are so-called long-span bridges; they are technically complicated and constructed by private contractors.

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