Why are women more vulnerable after the earthquake?
When the earth shook, and Kabita’s (18) home became just a pile of bricks, the last pieces of her security were gone. She had lost her husband for lightning a year ago, and now she remained homeless with her five months’ old baby. Her husband’s family has planned to send her to India – she does not know where and for what – but she’s dreaming of finishing her school that she left after she got married at the age of fifteen.
Being a young uneducated widow in Nepalese remote countryside, she is marginalized in many ways. Even generally, women are more vulnerable to rape, sexual exploitation and violence during natural disasters (UN Women). As Kabita’s home is just a pile on the ground, so is her future unknown, as she lacks the main social and economic support of a woman in Nepalese countryside – a husband. The less a person has resources – income, community’s support or education – the harder it is to stand up again. Marginalized people are the most affected in the catastrophes. Divorced, abandoned and widowed women and their children belong to that group.
‘We will rebuild’ – local solidarity and divisions
When a devastating earthquake struck Nepal, local people didn’t stay idle. The slogan ‘we will rebuild’ spread in social media, but was also seen in local initiatives for helping ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, as Nepalese call each other. For example, a woman started a community contributing free tea and eggs to local hospitals in Kathmandu, the other one traveled to the most destroyed areas to bring medicine, blankets, food and tents to the people who had lost everything. They used their energy and frustration to the action. Communality and solidarity increased.
However, some of the divisions grew too – as hungry and desperate people started competing about the scarce resources, the organizing of relief was partly improper and people pointed the government. Long-term rebuilding calls for professional expertise and local knowledge to overcome harmful hierarchies. In this process, the most vulnerable and marginalized people should be set at the center.
You can support Kabita and other Nepalese women in need by becoming a monthly supporter to Maya Nepal’s women’s project:
Account number: FI0455340520110978