We can speak up and claim our rights.

Santu was grieving the loss of her husband and looking after her five small children when the earthquake hit Nepal in 2015. On top of the hardships she already faced, Santu lost her house to the earthquake and was left with nothing. With support from our partner Women for Human Rights (WHR), Santu joined a group other women affected, who now run their own vegetable farming business and earn their own income.

Santu stands in a field of long grass and flowers in Nepal, with a beaming smile on her face

“When I was 32, my husband was diagnosed with kidney failure and I had to sell our field for his treatment. Before he got ill, he was a teacher and after he died, I faced a great deal of hardship; my children were very small and surviving each day was really tough. We’d been married since I was 19, I was grieving, but I had to get up and earn some money, I had to work in other people’s fields so I could clothe and feed my children. It was torture, but I couldn’t give up for my children.

As a widow, I faced discrimination. If I spoke, everyone would laugh and clap at me. I was harassed by my own sister-in-laws – they taunted me about running away with another man and marrying again in secret. I didn’t have a choice but to just tolerate it, I didn’t have anyone to talk to or to help me. I felt ashamed and desperate.

When the 2015 earthquake struck, I was inside my home eating a meal. I closed my eyes and had to wait for the ground to stop shaking before I could escape. Our neighbour’s house next door collapsed immediately but somehow I wasn’t hurt. My house collapsed later on and all of my belongings were buried. My situation had been scary enough before, but then it got worse; I realised I had even less than before. I felt lower than I ever had. I was heartbroken, my house was all I had - everything I owned was gone in seconds.

My uncle-in-law is blind and my granddaughter is disabled so I care for both of them. We had to stay outside in a temporary shelter and I found it difficult to look after them as well as myself; I always came second. We rented a house for 2-3 months when I was rebuilding my own. I was given 10,000 rupees ($100) and then 15,000 ($150) from the government but that only covered the cost of removing the rubble on top of my home, it wasn’t enough. The government needs to do more for women, especially single women who are supporting their families financially whilst also caring for family members and children.

I didn’t have any income after the earthquake. All of the villages collected food and shared it around. 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 ask for what we needed. If a woman is single, she will be told to keep quiet because she doesn’t have a husband.

Women for Human Rights (WHR) helped 15 of us to build a bamboo shelter so we could start up an agriculture business. They provided us with pipes for water supplies, buckets and so on. Prior to that, WHR also gave us dignity kits and blankets for warmth in our temporary shelters.

At the start of the business, we were earning 5,000 rupees ($50) a week from growing tomatoes and spinach. During the monsoon season, the tomato farm was destroyed but we are planning to rebuild it with help from WHR. We work hard to help ourselves and one another. We are happy to be working, it feels good to be earning an income for ourselves after all the challenges we have faced.

Finally, someone has helped us. Someone is listening to what we need. Now, we have an income and we don’t need to go to each other to take out a loan. We are independent.

Thanks to WHR, we have formed a group and as a group, we feel strong and confident. We can speak up and claim our rights. I plan to expand the farm; I want to support my children in whatever they want to do.” 

  • Women for Human Rights (WHR)

    Nepal, Asia
    WHR strengthens the lives of single women (widows) through their economic, social, political and cultural empowerment in order to enable them to live their lives with dignity and respect. It believes there should be "no discrimination on the basis of marital status".