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Anti-alcohol Campaign and its impact on Children

The maoist rebels in Nepal have taken a strong stance against alcohol. The result of their campaigns has been the topic for a study by Child Workers in Nepal, Concerned Centre (CWIN), a partner of FORUT. While the anti alcohol campaign has made some impact, the study suggest that rather than taking a prohibition approach the campaign would be more sustainable if the communities were mobilised.

The study was conducted in Rukum, Rolpa and Salyan Districts of Nepal by a study team consisting of Research Coordinator Sumnima Tuladhar, Researcher Raju Maharjan and Assistant Researcher Abinash Rai.

The following are the conclusions and recommendations from the study:

"The family, the community, the company and the media all contribute to the spread and growing demand of alcohol, not only among adults but also among children in Nepal.

The anti-alcohol campaign was mainly directed towards prohibition approach with little attention to the cultural, religious and social values of alcohol in Nepal. They mostly relate alcohol use with the social crime and violence against women and children. The use of alcohol from socio-cultural and political perspective of the indigenous people, who belong to traditionally alcohol-user group—should be considered. The prohibition of alcohol in the context of its abuse related to delinquencies and deviant behaviour to poverty, deprivation, low level of education, social injustice, social isolation and cultural discrimination that are faced by people from ethnic groups, who differ from the mainstream of dominant culture—is a matter of reasonable concern, though. Our findings do indicate that regulation of alcohol consumption in consideration of different cultural norms is the best intervention approach for the reduction of excessive production, consumption and distribution of alcohol.

The anti-alcohol campaign initiated in the conflict areas has definitely made some impact on government rules and the drinking patterns and self-prohibition in different areas. The campaigns became national agenda as the political party that too, which has been waging an armed struggle in Nepal launched the campaign. However, if the campaigns are participatory rather than coercive, they could bring about lot of positive changes in the communities and will eventually have a good impact on the lives of children. Alcohol related law, rules and regulation is not sufficient and existing rules are not effective.

There are no company made alcohols easily available in our research areas but it is sold in black market. So, most of the people drank local homemade alcohol, which is of inferior quality. Therefore, the commercialization of alcohol should be targeted and the anti-alcohol campaigns should mobilize communities and work with them so that the movements are sustainable.

Almost all key-informants are concerned with religious and cultural values of alcohol use. Besides, political protection, lack of effective laws and ineffective implementation, open boarder, and easy access to alcohol are important reasons. They also blame the government for not being serious in implementing laws and regulations regarding the control of alcohol use, as for the latter it is one of the potential contributing resources of national revenue.

Besides age and gender, education appears to be clearly associated with alcohol use i.e., increasing literacy means decreasing the consumption of alcohol.

In patriarchal society like Nepal, the role of men in controlling alcohol consumption still remains imperative at the household level. However, women lead most of the anti-alcohol movements in Nepal, and their role in controlling alcohol should not be minimised.

Our empirical evidence shows that a substantial proportion of children were taking alcohol from their early childhood. Majority of parents are unsure that whether their children would drink in the future. Parents are also able to identify the impact of alcohol taking on their childrens life. The major impacts reported were violence and physical abuse, neglect and mental abuse, deprivation from education and children taking up alcohol habit. As a result, an overwhelming majority of the parents are in favour of prevention of children from using alcohol. Children themselves also recognize the problem of alcohol use through their adult family members.

Finally, the positive perception of the anti-alcohol campaign and its effect on alcohol consumption suggests that people, particularly children, desire alcohol regulation. Moreover, the significant number of children that viewed the campaign as “punishment-based” may reflect the tendency towards vigilante acts in support of the campaigners.

Recommendations:

First, the role of legislation is important. There is currently little legislation concerning alcohol consumption, and no legislation specifically targeting the consumption of alcohol by minors (except for the 18-year old age limit). More attention should be given to the subject of youth drinking, particularly legislation that does more to discourage the sale of alcohol to youths under 16.

Almost all of the key informants expressed concern over the religious and cultural values of alcohol use. Unfortunately, draconian measures and complete bans do not take into account the traditional role of alcohol in Nepalese society. Community-based projects that take form around the abuse of alcohol and its negative effects on the person, the community, and children are likely to be much more effective. While regulations provide a helpful framework, they are insufficient given the lack of institutional presence and support in these regions. A more comprehensive approach is needed, which takes the cultural/traditional roles of alcohol into consideration when determining regulatory measures.

Finally, alcohol awareness needs to be integrated into existing educational programs. Although most of the children recognized the impact of alcohol on their own lives and those around them, they may lack any direction on how to lessen alcohol consumption. Given the majority of children who drank, expressed a desire to quit or minimize their consumption. There are strong grounds for a preventative and rehabilitative curriculum to be introduced into communities."

 

Domnload the study (pdf):
CWIN: Anit-alcohol Campaign and its Impact on Children, CWIN, Kathmandu, 2005