The unique thing about the year old Nepal Housing Reconstruction Project (NHRP), supported by the government of India, is that it ensures women’s involvement at every level, staring from policy making to construction. The project, implemented by UNDP, has been supporting post-quake rebuilding in Gorkha district. This International Women’s Day, we bring you some stories of the women involved in rebuilding in Gorkha.

Sita Devi Bhattarai (38), local trained mobile mason, Palungtar

“My family is unique because I work outside from 10–5 and my husband stays home taking care of our sons and tending to a farm. Sometimes I am so tired I cannot wake up early to prepare breakfast. My husband doesn’t say anything and prepares breakfast himself. My sons, 14 and 11, also surprise me sometimes by cooking dinner when I reach home late.”

Bimala Kumari Shrestha (35), beneficiary, Palungtar

“I was in a dilemma whether to give back the first installment of Rs 50,000 that I had taken to build the house. My husband is away in India and I have to take care of my children and the livestock. There is so much to do to build a house: carry building materials, hire people, get the map passed. But once I decided I’ll do it, things started falling into place!”

Sukmaya B.K (60), beneficiary, Gorkha Municipality

“I used to work as a mason when I was young but as I grew old, I could not carry building materials so I left my job. I used to miss working. Even though I have three sons and a daughter, not one of them live with me. So I started rebuilding my house on my own a year and a half ago. I thought I would not be able to do it, but I did it.”

Krishna Maya B.K (28), trained mason, Gorkha Municipality

“Even though my husband and I do same work from 8–6, I get paid Rs 700 a day whereas he gets Rs 800. Maybe because he is a man. It’s okay, I manage. I wake up at 5:30 am, cook food, get my two children ready for school, work here, and then head home to prepare dinner.”

Bishnu Maya Naharchi (67), beneficiary, Palungtar

“My daughter and two sons left me. They do not keep in touch. I took the initiative to build the house under NHRP and my neighbors helped me too. I hope I can spend my days sunbathing in my house when it is done.”

Chandra Maya Srimal (35), trained mason, Gorkha-Kaflebhanjyang

“In the nine years that I worked as a mason, it never occurred to me that I could make more money by learning how to lay bricks. I had only seen men do that job in Gorkha so I never questioned the norm. But now it’s been two months that I learnt how to lay bricks and I earn Rs 1,000 a day compared to Rs 750 I used to earn.”

Kushma Thapa, architect, Gorkha Municipality

“Some people in Gorkha look confused when I tell them I am an architect. They question my knowledge. Construction is a male-dominated business. When someone enters our office, I am the first person they are supposed to meet. I sit near the front door but people usually bypass me to talk to other males in the office. But I am glad to see more female presence in the business in the past four years that I have worked as an architect.”

Tikamaya B.K (57), beneficiary, Gorkha Municipality

“After my husband passed away last year, construction of our house stopped. Neighbors commented we couldn’t finish construction but I told them that I would do whatever I could to build my house. Even though my son and I don’t have any stable income source, I believe money is not enough to build a house. The courage to start doing it is as important. So I took the leadership and our house is done.”

Bina Kumari Shrestha, Deputy Mayor, Gorkha Municipality

“As most men in Gorkha left for foreign employment, women’s participation is high in reconstruction. Under NHRP, men and women are getting equal wages for same work. I think our society needs to change its perception on women’s potential. Women here are doing construction work from morning to evening and going home to cook food and take care of their family. For women to move ahead, women need to support each other.”

Shanta Adhikari (32), beneficiary, Palungtar

“My husband went to Dubai five years ago, leaving behind three little children and my mother. He was unreachable by phone after a year. In the 2015 earthquake, after our house was destroyed, I took my home apart stone by stone. I then arranged for us to live in a small tin house. I do whatever work I find. On days when we had nothing to eat, I borrowed money. But now I am involved in the construction of my own house, which is nearly done. All my children attend school. Life is good”

[The story originally appeared in the Annapurna Express on 3 March 2019. To visit, follow this URL]

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