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Page last updated at 10:04 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 11:04 UK

Pop star launches Nepal campaign

By Joanna Jolly
BBC News, Kathamndu

Geri Halliwell in Nepal
Ms Halliwell wants to promote better maternal healthcare

British pop star Geri Halliwell has launched a campaign to stop violence against women in Nepal.

Ms Halliwell is in the country as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund - promoting maternal health and women's rights.

She met PM Madhav Kumar Nepal and secured his support for her campaign.

Ms Halliwell has been in Nepal since Sunday, visiting women in remote districts in the south-west to look at the effects of gender-based violence.

The former Spice Girl met women who were about to be sold into prostitution, but were rescued and taken to a safe house.

She also met rape victims who had taken refuge at the shelter.

Violence against women is a serious issue in Nepal.

A recent survey of two Nepalese districts by a local women's organisation found that more than 80% of women had been abused by their husbands.

At a press conference on Tuesday in the capital, Kathmandu, Ms Halliwell urged Nepali men to use their power to encourage and look after women.

'Embarrassing issue'

"When we empower women and take care of them, everyone benefits," she said.

As well as highlighting violence against women, Geri Halliwell said she wanted to promote better maternal healthcare.

Geri Halliwell with Nepalese women
The former Spice Girl has won much respect in Nepal for her campaign

According to the UN, a Nepalese woman has a one in 31 chance of dying because of conditions associated with childbirth and this rises for women living in remote areas.

In particular, Ms Halliwell said she wanted to draw attention to the condition of uterine prolapse, which affects one in 10 Nepalese women.

"It's an embarrassing issue that no one wants to talk about," she said.

"It's a symptom of when a mother is not taken care of particularly after she's given birth. Basically her womb comes out, which is quite a horrific thing to experience. But it's so preventable."

Women are particularly vulnerable to developing uterine prolapse if they have children at a very young age or in quick succession, or if they return to hard physical labour too soon after giving birth.

Ms Halliwell said sufferers often had to live in pain for years without medical intervention, even though a simple surgical procedure could correct it.

She said she hoped her visit would highlight the need for more education and information surrounding this often hidden condition.



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