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FEATURE STORYJanuary 19, 2024

A Source of Warmth and Dignity

Raibun Khatun from Rajbiraj Nepal

Raibun Khatun 

Aayush Niroula/World Bank


  • Raibun Khatun depends on the government's Social Security Allowance program to fulfill most of her needs from buying medicine and food to warm clothes during the harsh winters of the Terai.  
  • Nepal government's Single Women Allowance helps Mana Kumari Nepali to raise her family after the death of her husband. 

Raibun's story

Raibun Khatun, 61, lives in Ward No. 2 of Rajbiraj Municipality. Her husband passed away in 2019 because of heart disease.

She says life has been a difficult ever since. She is herself ailing because of respiratory illnesses as well as heart problems. 

She says if not for the monthly government allowance of NPR 2660 ($20), life would be much more difficult.  

"I buy essentials such as medicines, flour, and cooking oil with the money," she explains. She is also able to use the money to rent a small shack from where she runs a modest tea stall.

The earnings are barely enough to turn into savings. "Most of the money is used to buy new stock of biscuits and milk," she says. She lives in a cramped corner of the tea stall as she had to sell her house after her husband's death to pay debts. 

She cooks her daily meals in the little stove she bought for the tea stall.  

Raibun says the allowance has been a blessing to the community. There are many women in her community who need the grant for daily expenses, as there have been many cases of excessive drinking and physical ailments among the men in the community, leading to early deaths. The women try to be there for each other and help in times of need.  

She hopes the government increases the allowance, especially for the winters, as the change of seasons greatly increases expenditures in the Terai.

 Raibun says she is looking forward to the next payment to buy some warm clothes for the coming winter. "It's very tough in the winters, and it would have been terrible to live through if not for the government allowance," she says. 

I buy essentials such as medicines, flour, and cooking oil with the money
Mana Kumari Nepali
Raibun Khatun
Recipient of the government of Nepal's Social Security Allowance
Two women from Nepal smile

Mana Kumari Nepali (right)

Mana Kumari's story

Mana Kumari Nepali's husband passed away in a tragic accident while on a trip to Kathmandu in 2016.  He intended to learn the Korean language in Kathmandu so he could apply for a work visa. He was only 22 years old.

Mana Kumari's face mellows in sadness remembering the incident. Left with two kids to raise on her own, she says she felt devastated in the face of the challenge. 

But there was no other option but to carry on.  

She currently lives in Raake bazaar of Ilam municipality with her children and extended family members. She says that the NPR 2,660 ($20) she receives as a widow from the government's social security allowance program has been a great source of help and relief after her husband passed away.  

"The money is useful for buying food, and to pay our share of the electricity and water bills," Mana Kumari explains. 

"The money is useful for buying food, and to pay our share of the electricity and water bills," she explains. 

She says that if it wasn't for the money, it would have been very difficult for her to live with her extended family. Being able to pay her share of the household bills gives her some dignity as a single woman raising a family.  

In Nepal, over 3.5 million people receive Social Security Allowance (SSA). All SSA beneficiaries— the elderly, single women (mainly widows), persons with disability, children, and those belonging to endangered ethnicities — now receive allowances directly into their bank accounts. The transfer of the SSA into bank accounts has reduced issues of duplication, potential leakage of funds due to ghost beneficiaries, and delayed payments. Alongside the improved delivery of SSA, delivery of civil registration has also been modernized. Similarly, over 97 percent of wards (local government units) have shifted to online registration of vital events such as births, deaths, marriages, and migration.

The digitization of the cash transfers and civil registration, which has brought significant improvement in the service delivery at local levels in Nepal was supported by the World Bank-financed Strengthening Systems for Social Protection and Civil Registration Project (SSSPCR)

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