Women and the earthquake

Why are women more vulnerable after the earthquake?

IMG_5653When 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.

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IMG_5782 Over 8000 lives were lost in the earthquake on 25.4.2015. Rebuilding is going to take years.

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Maya Nepal’s local volunteers have brought relief to the remote areas.

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Maya Nepal’s women’s shelter is founded in 2014 for socially and economically excluded women with their children. The women get support and training for a fixed period until they are able to be independent.

 

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
Receiver: Maya Ne
pal ry
Reference number: 2
20

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New direction for Sunita and her son

Martta, her daughter and Maya Nepal’s kids

A letter from Martta Myllylä, who lived in Kathmandu for six months, and followed the birth of Maya Nepal’s Women’s Shelter: 

‘When I first saw Sunita´s one-year-old son Sharon, I was really worried. We helped Sunita to move her stuff to the shelter from their previous apartment, that I actually wouldn’t call an apartment: it was a cramped, dark room without daylight and with a permanent smell of gas. Sharon just stared at us, without any moves in his face. He didn’t run, he didn’t laugh, he didn’t even make many movements as children in his age usually do. The darkness, breathing in the smell of gas and malnutrition had affected him, but I was not worried only because of those reasons.

One big problem was that sometimes he had to stay alone, locked in, when her mother went to work in construction site. His mother left him home because she had lost her another child who fell down from the third floor of the construction site that she worked in. The problem was that she didn’t have anyone to look after the child.

This was really touching me, especially because I have just few months younger child and I could see that Sharon’s development was lugging behind. For days after meeting Sharon I couldn’t stop comparing my daughter’s and Sharon’s lives – the past, the present and the future. Two same aged children, as innocent, born into vastly different circumstances.

Two months later, we stayed a night in Maya Nepal home with my daughter.

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In the morning Sunita came there with Sharon. Hari, one of the boys of Maya Nepal, was waiting for them. Sharon ran into his arms and stayed happily when his mother left to the work. Many of the kids came to kiss and hug Sharon and he rounded from lap to lap. These two small children seemed happy to have the same aged company.

In the evening I sent a message to Heli, one of the founders of Maya Nepal, who had seen Sharon only few times after he moved to the shelter: 

”You don’t know how Sunita’s child has changed! In Maya they have taken him as their own, all are kissing and taking care of him. And Hari is also so serious with his duty of taking care of Sharon, with eating and sleeping routines and so on, and yesterday he took him to the zoo. Sharon runs and laughs and is alive! The Women’s Project has changed his life.” 
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Sharon got daycare in Maya Nepal’s children’s home while his mother was at work

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* After staying five months in Maya Women’s Shelter, Sunita found a job from Kathmandu and wanted to move on with her life.  She also found her sister after being left out from her family for a long time and they are going to live close to each others. However, Sunita’s and Sharon’s connection to Maya Nepal is still strong, as they need some counseling and the supportive relationships that gave a new direction to their life.

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Burning barriers

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A carrying basket in flames. The social and economic loads that women in rural areas carry are often heavy.

Documenting the roots of Maya Women’s Shelter: We travelled back to the beginning, to the villages where we spent 6 months last year.IMG_6888Bhawani’s previous home. Her husband, his new wife and parents live some meters above her house. They never entered her house neither talked to her. They fed her and her daughters by hanging the food outside of her door. 

IMG_6868Back to the place where we found Mamina lying in fatal condition a year ago. May her rest in peace.

IMG_7048Sunita’s property packed up in her room where she lived with her one-year-old son. She is from untouchable caste, which made her neighborhood to discriminate and ignore her.  

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On the way… IMG_7151

…To Maya Women’s Shelter in Balkot, Bhaktapur:

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Let’s make it home!

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Bhawani is going to handcraft training in the beginning. She is dreaming of nursing education later on, to get independent and offer good education for her daughters. IMG_6948

IMG_6952Sunita (left) and Bhawani are the first residents of the Shelter.   

Get along and become a supporter!

Receiver: Maya Nepal
Account number: 
FI04 5534 0520 1109 78

For further information, 
contact us on: 
women@mayanepalry.com

 

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Women’s Shelter

How we met Sunita: read here                     Pawani’s story

IMG_6701‘I would be dead now if I didn’t meet Bikash the last autumn’, said Sunita, 35. Since that, she has got ‘first aid’ from Maya Nepal’s women’s project.

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Pawani’s (left) life has got unbearable in her home village since her husband and his family are discriminating and ignoring her because she couldn’t fulfill the duties of a ‘good woman’.

   

This week we took a big step ahead: We are founding a women’s shelter in Balkot, Bhaktapur. To avoid Mamina’s fate (the woman who we found on the street in fatal condition), Pawani and Sunita are going to move together, to form a team. We rent a flat for them to get a place to stay, and start looking for suitable training and living for them. Furthermore, we reach for their dignity and self-esteem so they can work for their dreams to become true, and to fulfill the love and care that they feel towards their children.

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Some financial details:
Monthly rent for three rooms: 45€ (6000 Nepali Rupees)
Salary for Sovan Khatri (a treasurer and handler of the practical things: 35€ (5000 Nrs) / month 

Community approach and a hole in it IMG_2151

During the last winter, we did a field research with women’s communities in the rural Nepal. We learned a lot about women’s strengths, communal coherence and shared actions for common good. On the other hand, we faced the women left out from the communities, women who were discriminated because they did not fit in the social norms.

As the strongest social security in Nepal is formed by families and nearest communities, many of the development projects target the well-being of entire community. That is very reasonable and those projects have got great results, as for example Women’s Bank or micro-credit programs .

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However, if we have a deeper look into the communities, we face internal hierarchies where the most powerful individuals have a voice over the people of lower social positions. In the worst cases, the community-based projects are launched only for the leader’s economic interests, and the poorest and the most vulnerable women are left out from every kind of social security.

Mamina’s fate showed us the weak point of communal approach. She had fallen through the hole of the system into the loneliness and injustice. After her death, we decided to start covering this hole from our part, and ended up with the idea of women’s shelter.   

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One day on the street of Balkot

Hey everybody,
 
We are having heavy rain here (as it is the beginning of monsoon-season), Kathmandu is under the water, this is really extreme city in many things. Anyway I was writing to let you all know we are under our plan with Nanimaya and Pawani, I have often been in contact with them, it would be nice to go and visit once more after I get money for women project to buy some more thread to make more bags and like that.
 

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Here in Balkot (Bhaktapur) I met one woman around age 30, so weak, she has one 6 months old son and she is renting a very small room with the baby… She was working in construction buildings which is physically extremely hard and with too little rest. Her husband died. She seems to have some mental problems but it might be just because of her horrible situation.
 
I was talking with her and she told she has disease but she can’t tell to a man what kind of disease so I was guessing it is something to do with cervical cancer. She doesn’t have money to go and have medicine, her face and all shows like she is not going to live for a long time, it might be cancer there and she is totally lack of support.
 
I THINK WE CAN DO SOMETHING to help her, in the beginning taking her to hospital…
 
If she is fine also now she can’t work in construction work anymore, I will try to find some small job but first thing is to find hospital for her.
 
What you all think please let me know.. I really feel we have to do something for her. She needs our support, the chance to live. We don’t want to take this small child to the children home; We want to keep them together..
 
– Bikash
 
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You can support her by donating on the account 
of Maya Nepal: 
Receiver: Maya Nepal
Account number: FI04 5534 0520 1109 78

(Fundrising Permission no: 2020/2012/3762, valid in Finland (except Åland) 15.2.2013-10.9.2014)

For further information, contact us on: 
women@mayanepalry.com

 

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A way out

Pawani’s husband took a new wife into their house a week ago, because Pawani wasn’t considered as a good wife enough. She told she wants to be independent – as long as she is depended on husband, she has to stand them sharing a room with her… But without economical power she is bounded in a community that ignores and discriminates her.

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We met Pawani in Kathmandu for doctor’s check up. She has taken antidepressants for ten years but hasn’t visited doctor for a long time.

She surprised us with the bags that she had made. And there we saw it: The way out! These bags will definitely find a buyer. In the beginning we’ll provide materials for making them more and the next we’ll start selling them.

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Bags are weaved by hand from thick nylon sting. Later on, we prioritize ecological and recycled materials.

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Pawani visited Maya Nepal Home and made an impression with the bags.

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Our aim has been to find strengths of the women. We haven’t got any ready-made formula to work with, we didn’t want to come here with the project for women to choose on. We wanted to create it with them. It took all six months, but it was worth it.

This wasn’t the easiest way. We have faced a lot of barriers, moments of despair, we have got to encounter the hierarchies in the villages and go through thick walls.

We are not completed, but the way is open.IMG_2595

As the time has come for us to move out from our ‘base camp’, we continue by regular visits to work on the plans made with Pawani and Naanimaya. And later on with other women, too.

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They want to stand on their own feet

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Sceneries in the villages are magnificent. But for their people, those sceneries are everyday life, framing rural reality in which hard physical work is the only way to survive. And most of that work is done by women.

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There are a lot of duties that a ‘good woman’ has to fulfill: She has to give a birth to a healthy son(s), be strong enough to work in the field and take care of a husband and his parents. Obviously life is not always favorable for all of the women with these demands:

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Pawani, 28, is a woman with full of love and care towards her two small daughters. But her story is touching: She has not fulfilled the duties of a ‘good wife’, as she is not physically strong enough to work in the field, neither has she given a birth to a son. So, husband and his parents are blaming and ignoring her, by recently ending up with getting another wife into their household. Her voice has been totally ignored.

Pawani knows her value, and she couldn’t just accept these things happening to her. She reacted the way that anyone in her situation would have done. From those actions she got a stigma of ‘mad woman’, which is reason enough to discriminate her in a community.

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Naanimaya‘s, 38, marriage was love-based, which is not quite common in these communities. Her luck changed when she lost her husband in motorbike accident three years ago. Now she is taking care of her son (10) and daughter (12) alone. She faces a lot of difficulties specific for single mothers, as blames of her husband’s destiny as well as difficulties to be self-sufficient.

Naanimaya’s biggest aim is to ensure a good life for her children. At the moment she produces and sells alcohol for her living. Income is not enough to get her children a proper education. ‘My main support was gone when my husband died’, she says.

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What these women want the most, is to stand on their own feet. This wish is a good beginning, and we will work together to make it become true.

Maya Nepal’s women’s project has now practically started. We will discuss the solutions for Pawani’s and Naanimaya’s situations and also look for the sponsors to make these solutions possible. 

If you want to join us with your support, contact us on: 

women@mayanepalry.com

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