The family has been increasingly recognized as uniquely important in government and civil society efforts to advance sustainable development. According to a report from the UN Secretary-General in preparation for the observance of the 20th Anniversary of the International Day of Families, the family is “the fundamental unit of society” and “offers a comprehensive approach to solving some of the persistent development challenges.”
The 2014 International Day of Families theme, “Families Matter for the Achievement of Development Goals,” affirms the critical role of families in promoting intergenerational solidarity, social integration, education and poverty reduction. Furthermore, it emphasized the importance of family-friendly policies in securing international development goals.
A forum held on May 15, 2014 hosted by Global Peace Foundation – Nepal examined the challenges facing the family in the Himalayan nation, while highlighting successful programs that support families. Guest speaker Mrs. Finu Singh, President of Housewives Association and a program sponsor spoke in detail about family relationships and values. She observed, “Families indeed play an important role in the development of the nation.”
Ms. Bambie Panta, Chapter Representative of Global Peace Women (GPW), introduced a number of GPW programs in Nepal that focus on educating women, men and children on key family values, as well as social and economic programs for women’s empowerment and literacy. GPW’s Clean Cookstoves initiative, in particular, has provided an alternative to common home fire stoves that deplete resources and are leading cause of respiratory illness and childhood mortality.
Such programs have been instrumental in addressing the many challenges that families in Nepal face. Er. Ram Rohan Panta, GPF Nepal President, noted that while progress has been made with technology and communications, it has also placed additional strain on the family. To lessen this impact, Mr. Panta urged parents to be active in their children’s lives and to be diligent in “mak[ing] sure that the family culture is intact.”
The UN report also called the family a primary agent of securing intergenerational solidarity. An aging population has led to a rise in elder abuse, and numerous studies have found that intergenerational extended families foster sensitivity and are the most natural and safe environment for elder care. Mr. Krishna Prasad Pandey, a speaker representing World Prediction, told the forum that “the joint family is important as there are many members in the family who can work as a team.”
Speakers noted that the family has also been recognized as a primary place for social integration. Addressing issue like gender inequality and education are most effectively resolved in the family. “Women play the most important role in making a family ideal,” noted panelist Menuka Rai. “When the woman in the family has good moral values then she can keep her family happy and lead her children to good path.”
Another speaker, Mrs. Yamuna Shrestha, urged parents to treat sons and daughters with equal value. When children are treated as equals within the family, communities will follow the standard set within the home. As families play a crucial role in establishing positive community cultures, educating the family must become a priority of peace and development, she said.
Participants and speakers were able to share experiences of family rearing as well as discuss the needs of the community and family. “Such programs are important,” said Mrs. Ambika Padney, “it made me realize that when a family life is successful then it can bring success to the nation and its people.”
The family is a central area of focus for the Global Peace Foundation. The family represents the most intimate of human relationships, and thus serves as the school where one learns how cooperate and appreciate diverse characters and qualities. GPF Nepal and GPW Nepal continue to work with local communities to educate and collaborate on what else can be done to support the family.
-Contributions from Bambie Gadon Panta, Global Peace Women, Nepal