Nepal offers $650 for marrying widows

Nepal has to get some credit for creativity with its public policy.

Following an official's recent suggestion of pocketless pants as a method to reduce airport corruption, the Nepalese government has a new plan. To keep widows integrated into society the government will provide a $650 grant to men who marry them.

The government says that "single women," as widows are known in Nepal, are often neglected by society, particularly in rural communities. The subsidy is supposed to help by reducing the stigma attached to widows, who traditionally lose their status when their husband dies.

Widows and women's groups however, were less than thrilled, and around 200 marched in protest yesterday in Kathmandu (pictured at left) telling the government to reverse its decision.

From AFP

Women chanting slogans and waving placards that read "We don't want government dowries" and "Don't put a price on your mother" marched to the government's headquarters to hand over a letter of protest.

The BBC coverage a few weeks ago helps explain the widows' point of view:

Widows like 29-year-old Nisha Swar, whose husband was killed by Maoist fighters six years ago, say the policy of offering payment for remarriage could lead to discrimination.

"Men could want to be with us for the sake of getting the 50,000 rupees. It is like putting a price tag on our head and we are very humiliated by this," she says.

Her friend, 30-year-old widow Poonam Pathak, agrees.

"I feel embarrassed because now anybody walking on the road could say, look, there's a widow! I could get 50,000 rupees if I married her," she says.

So far, the government has defended its decision, but even if it is overturned the publicity is a good sign: at least Nepal is concerned about improving the status of widows.



Can Afghans fight the drug trade by growing wheat?

Afghanistan is the biggest opium supplier on the planet, responsible for over 90 percent of the world's supply. While Andrew Exum remains skeptical about including the fight against drugs as part of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, limiting the effects of the narcotics trade could be as easy as installing an irrigation ditch, some say.

From my good friend Bilal Sarwary, a longtime BBC correspondent from Afghanistan:

Sheen Goal was among the hundreds of farmers in Sherzad -- a mountainous district in Nangarhar, once counted among Afghanistan's biggest poppy producing provinces -- who gave up poppy cultivation more than two years ago and embraced other crops after they were promised a road, an irrigation channel and a clinic for their village.

The farmers did so despite a threat from the Taliban, who wanted them to continue with poppy cultivation.

The farmers have largely kept their part of the bargain.

But the government has failed, says Sheen Goal.


"I guarantee that no farmer will grow poppies if they were helped with irrigation and fertilisers," says Rashid, a farmer in Gandomak.

It may still be too early to tell, but what we're observing could represent a continuing trend; as many as 20 out of Afghanistan's 34 provinces were declared "poppy-free" last fall by the United Nations -- seven more than the year prior.