Posted by Richa Pokhrel
If you asked an average mother how much they care for their children, I bet the answer would be a lot. It would be so much
that there would be no number value for it. I ask this question because here in Achham we have come across some instances where human lives, especially those of children, are not valued as much as I had assumed they would be. Before continuing this post, I would like to say that my observation does not reflect the sentiment of all mothers here in Achham, and it would be unfair to stereotype them all in one category. It is known in rural Nepal that female children are not as cherished as their male counterparts. This is not unique to Nepal, and happens in other countries as well. However, I wasn’t aware that the apathy expanded to male children too. For example, we recently had a mother give birth to a premature baby and while the doctors were frantically trying to save his life, the parents happily dozed off. The doctors checked on the baby every hour while the parents showed no concern. The parents left two days later with their dead baby in a plastic bag. Another example includes a child with pneumonia. The parents are very eager to take him home, but the clinical staff members insist that they stay until the baby gets better. The parents ask often if they can go home; they even commented that if the baby was going to die then he should die. We have mothers here who are okay with their children dying, they are okay with not giving them medicines. They show no emotion when the child is suffering. Being a non-mother myself, I always thought the connection mothers have with their children was something so powerful that it was indescribable. Perhaps this kind of suffering is not new to the mothers of Achham; perhaps they have dealt with bigger issues. Maybe it is their own society that prevents them from expressing their emotions, or possibly it is poverty that tells them that it is okay if the baby dies because they will no longer have to worry about feeding another mouth. I keep trying to figure this out; I am trying to find the right answers. It makes me angry because I want the system to change. I can’t decide if education is the key or whether economic development is what we need. Unfortunately, I do not think I will ever understand what these mothers go through and it’s unfair for me to judge them for not showing concern when one of their children dies.
Richa was born in Nepal but grew up in Iowa. She is currently the Director of Evaluation and Research at Nyaya Health. Richa has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Pittsburgh.