Nepal, 2 years after the earthquake

Grace Gaywood | Apr 25, 2017
Women from Nahar Tole, Godawari, are members of the Saathi savings group
Two years ago today, on 25 April 2015, Nepal was hit by one of the most devastating earthquakes in the last decade. The earthquake measured a magnitude of 7.8 affecting over 1.4 million people, killing around 10,000 people and seriously injuring at least 21,000 people. Those who survived saw their homes, communities, businesses, livelihoods and families destroyed.

The disaster left women increasingly vulnerable with many displaced and forced to live in insecure tents and facing a much greater risk of violence. The crisis also led to an increase in the trafficking of women and girls. Women continue to be among those who are most severely affected, with their disproportionate burden of care falling upon them to support the rest of the family. Many lost their homes and were left widowed, having to fend for themselves and support their families.

Since the earthquake, thanks in part to our generous supporters who raised funds in our emergency appeal, Womankind’s partners in Nepal - Women for Human Rights (WHR), Saathi and Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) - have supported women to rebuild their lives, by supporting them to gain financial independence, empowering them to assert their rights and driving the campaign to end violence against women and girls. Our women’s rights partners were able to provide relief to women in remote, isolated communities by distributing tents, mats, blankets, food, first aid kits, clothing, medicine and personal hygiene products.

Single women continue to face high levels of discrimination and sexual violence in Nepali society and are often outcast by their communities. In many cases, widows are considered misfortunes to the families and are even blamed for their husband’s death. Following the earthquake, the government vowed to support those affected; however, access to resources and support services for single women remains significantly limited. Rupa, who has been supported by our partner WHR, said: “the relief efforts giving out materials prioritised the people who could go out and speak, mainly men. Single women couldn’t go; we weren’t allowed to say what we needed. If a woman is single, she will be told to keep quiet as she has no husband.”

Our partners’ impact

Santu Kamari Maharjan was supported by our partner WHR Nepal

Santu is a widow, she lost everything during the earthquake and was left feeling depressed and alone. As a single woman, she was left to care for her blind uncle and her disabled granddaughter, with minimal support from the government or her community. She has been supported by our partner WHR to rebuild her life: “I received $250 dollars from the government to rebuild my home but it only covered the cost of removing the rubble. It wasn’t enough. WHR gave us dignity kits with blankets for warmth in our temporary shelter. They helped our group of 15 to build a bamboo shelter so we could start up an agriculture business, now we have our own. We are independent.”

Two years on and some women who were affected by the disaster have only now received financial support from the government. Although a lot of progress has been made by grassroots organisations to support the women affected, there is still much to more to be done both in combating the discrimination single women face but also improving their access to aid relief and support.

Our partner FEDO works closely with Dalit women, discriminated for their so-called “untouchability”, to help break down social stigmas and barriers and campaign for equality. Following the earthquake, Dalit women were severely marginalised, finding themselves last in line for support services due to ongoing discrimination they face in society. Our partner FEDO, has managed to ensure 2,427 Dalit and single women households were provided with essential household, hygiene and medical supplies after the earthquake. A further 1620 Dalit women who lost their homes received temporary shelters. In addition, five ‘women and child safe spaces’ were opened in Kathmandu, allowing women and children a safe place to go to after the earthquake where they could access essential support and psychological services.

It doesn’t stop there

As the humanitarian relief aid response now shifts more to development, Womankind’s partners are providing training for women to become financially independent, alongside raising awareness of violence and trafficking, especially against single women. This includes educating women on their rights and offering free legal advice. Babita (picture at the top) was supported by our partner Saathi when her home and family business were destroyed by the earthquake. Since then, she has joined Saathi’s savings group and meets with other women who have been affected. She said: “I received training on how to make the Lapsi candy, bead training, leadership training, advocacy training, water and hygiene training, a training on how to write applications for funding, a training for trainers. Now, I am a leader.”

Even now, there is still much more to be done as rebuilding a business, community and livelihood is a slow process. But women are working together, in groups run by our partners, and are driving their agenda forward. In rebuilding their lives, often from scratch, since the earthquake many women have recognised their rights to land and property and are feeling more able to fight for this in their own right, lobbying the government to recognise them as landowners.

Thank you to our supporters for donating towards our Nepal earthquake appeal, and continuing to support our partners as they champion women’s rights.

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