"What we suffered during the seven wars of the insurgency would be a bad dream for most people, for us it was cruel reality, which is why we fear the peace negotiations breaking down." This is the overriding concern of most Nepalis who have experienced the horror of civil war at close quarters.
"The nation must have peace, and we must be able to voice our grievances at the peace talks," says Daisy Singh Sijapati, widow of late SSP Parameshowr Singh Sijapati. "We lost our husbands for the sake of our country, now the state cannot turn a blind eye to our suffering," she added. Radha Bhandari, who was married to late Subedar Krishna Bahadur Bhandari, is also concerned that war widows may not be on the agenda. With four young children to raise, she asks, "If those who can legitimately plead with the government for assistance are in such dire straits, how much more terrible must it be for the rest of the people?" The Nuwakot resident also said children orphaned by the war should receive free education, and widows should be given skill training and interest free loans to make them independent.
The pain of loss and helplessness has taken a toll on women from both sides of the insurgency. Janaki Tharu of Bardiya was married to Krishna Tharu who was killed by the security forces for allegedly being a Maoist. "There should not be any more widows and orphans," she says, calling for the representation of war widows in the proposed peace talks. Janaki's neighbour Shanti Tharu cannot agree more. Her husband, a Nepali Congress supporter, was killed by the rebels for allegedly being an informer. With the responsibility of rearing and educating eight children, Shanti has often wondered if it may not be easier to just commit suicide. "I did not come here to bemoan my fate, but to see peace return. My hope now lies in that," says Shanti.
Far too many women have lost the heads of households and sole breadwinners, the fathers of their children: today they are in need of help and assistance, the future of their children hangs in the balance. It has become critical that the petition of these war widows is represented in the peace talks between the government and the rebels. Rights workers from various organisations like Rita Thapa of Nagarik Awaz and Lili Thapa of Human Rights of Women Group are pressing for their inclusion in the agenda.