In the year since Nepal’s devastating earthquake that killed more than 9,000 and destroyed nearly a million homes, Nepalese women have taken a leadership role in helping to clear debris, rebuild communities, and return to work and school. The United Nations estimates that more than a quarter of Nepali households, about 318,000, are headed by women, since many men leave the country in search of work. After the earthquake, Oxfam America set up a Cash for Work program that paid higher wages than many women were used to earning in the Nepali marketplace for services like debris cleaning, trail repair, and the construction of water and irrigation systems. Nearly 50 percent of the program’s participants were women.
- Women build an irrigation channel. Dachi Nkali municipality, in Kathmandu valley was hit badly by the earthquake. There are a total of 25 cash for work programs in the area, reaching a total of 600 direct beneficiaries. Other cash for work programs include debris clearing and road repairs.
- A woman works on an irrigation channel. Groups of 30 women are being paid 575 rupees per day (total of 8600 rupees) to work for 15 days building an irrigation channel for the hillside fields where local communities grow rice, wheat, mustard, peas, cucumber and other vegetables.
- Women carry rocks along a mountain ledge. The communities living in Ghairung, Ghorka take part in an Oxfam funded Cash for work scheme to rebuild a 5km trail. The trail connects two villages, a health centre and a local market and will benefit 1140 households.
- “After the earthquake occurred the irrigation channel that was here went down the drains. People couldn’t even walk along here. Now we’ve been doing this work for about seven days and people are already able to walk along here again. By the time this work is done the irrigation channel will be prepared and people who own land around here will have water for their crops again.” – Bimala Balami, 27
Since women own only 19 percent of housing and land in Nepal, the Oxfam program also ensured that women were not left out of the economic recovery, particularly vulnerable women including the elderly, those suffering from HIV/AIDS or handicaps, and windows and single women. They opened eight women’s centers to offer legal and psychological counseling, private bathing and bathroom spaces, and “dignity kits” including underwear and sanitary napkins.
The program helped 14,000 families earn money in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and quickly start the country’s rebuilding process.
Read more at Oxfam America.