Helping women earn a living after Nepal earthquakes | ActionAid UK

Natalia Fricker

Digital Communications

Monday 25th April marks 12 months since the first of two earthquakes hit Nepal, claiming over 8,000 lives, destroying over 600,000 homes and causing pain and loss that cannot possibly be measured in numbers. The spirit and determination of Nepalese people to recover and rebuild has been remarkable though.

Thanks to your support ActionAid has been able to help hundreds of families to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. We spoke to some of the women we've been helping to learn how they are getting on, one year on.

Mayia, one of 120,000 people who ActionAid has helped in Nepal since the earthquakes last April. Mayia, one of 120,000 people who ActionAid has helped in Nepal since the earthquakes last April.

ActionAid has supported 120,000 people in the Nepal earthquake relief effort. Immediately after the quake, we supported communities with food relief, cooking utensils and sanitary kits for women.

Since then, ActionAid has built 23 mother and baby centres, supported the construction of temporary shelters for over 7,000 families, and constructed over 50 temporary learning centres. ActionAid has also provided livelihood support to hundreds of families, including women lilke Laxmi, Maiya and Buddhimyma.

Laxmi has become a mushroom cooperative farmer

Laxmi was out in the fields on 25th April 2015. She watched as her whole house completely collapsed, as well as her shed, killing her buffalo and five goats.

After the earthquake, ActionAid supported Laxmi with metal sheets and other tools to build a temporary shelter, 15,000 rupees ($140), and training in how to set up a community mushroom farm.

Ten women came together to use the money they received for livelihood support, to pool in and purchase a bamboo, mushroom seeds and equipment to set up their own mushroom farm. The women have been taking it in turns to water and sell the mushrooms in the local town of Malamchi, and have so far been earning more money than ever. 

Laxmi said, “We are earning very good money from this mushroom farming. After we have invested in this tunnel and done different things, we have already earned 70,000 rupees ($650)". She continued, “We collect the money that we earn from the mushroom farming in one place. We have a chair person for the group. We note down the quantity we sell and take the money, and together decide what we will do with the money. It may be that we do more business or support our household costs.”

 

Laxmi Thapa Aryal - Mushroom Farmer: Rebuilding livelihoods 1 year after the earthquakeLaxmi working on the mushroom farm, providing 10 women with a sustainable income after the earthquakes

Laxmi feels the mushroom farm gives her far more than just money; it gives her freedom. Her work rearing the animals and looking after the children is unpaid, but now with her earnings from the farm she has her own income and no longer has to ask her husband to buy things.

She said, “Women earning is a very good thing. After we work and earn, we can keep this money for our children. We always need to ask the men but these days we don’t need to ask the men for money. Not even a little. We have our say and don’t have to ask for money; that makes me very happy.

“It’s very good if women do business. Women are very hard working, but this kind of work is never noticed. We don’t see the fruit from this hard work. So if we help more women do business, women’s status will get uplifted because women are very hard working.”

Goats have helped Mayia to earn a living

Mayia, too, lost her home and her main source of earning money - five of her goats died when their shed collapsed on top of them. Luckily Maiya was able to rescue two of her buffalo. But with all of her money buried under her home, she felt desperate. "We didn't have a place to stay and the rains had just begun," she said. "The little food we had we cooked sitting under an umbrella and sometimes under metal sheets."

After a few weeks, ActionAid came to Mayia's village and worked with the community to build temporary shelters. It was the communities themselves who decided what kind of support they needed. We provided the most vulnerable women with the means to make money again, including Maiya, who was given some new goats.

Maiya Shrestha

Whilst Maiya now has a a roof over her head and can sustain her own livelihood, she says that water is now the community's main problem. The earthquake damaged a lot of water infrastructure which means Maiya now has to walk 1-2 hours a day on hilly roads to fetch water.

"It takes us two or three hours to fetch one galon of water," she says. "It takes a long time to fetch it and to come back."

Through the second phase of ActionAid's reconstruction programme, we hope to work with community's like Maiya's, to address their issues such as making water easier to access.

Julum can now support herself thanks to her new ox

52-year-old Julum Tamang lost her home and source of income too. A few months after the earthquake, Julum received the resources and funds she needed from ActionAid to construct a temporary shelter. As part of ActionAid's work helping people to earn a living again, she also received 15,000 rupees, which she invested in buying an ox.

She says: “The ox I bought has helped me a lot to support my livelihood. The cow farmers in the village come to my place to breed their cow. I charge them 500 rupees for that. Sometimes, we have to take the ox to the cow’s shed. For this I charge them 600 rupees.

Julum TamangJulum Tamang, 52 years old lives in Kavre, Nepal. She lost her home and livestock from the 2015 earthquakes, but cash transfer from ActionAid has helped her get back on her feet

Her ox provides Julum with a sustainable and reliable income. "At one time of the year, I earn more than 2,500 rupees in a day. At other times, the ox is hired to plough the field. I charge people 2000 rupees per day for that. So it has been a good economic source for me.” 

She feels very grateful to ActionAid as she says our support has really helped her to get back on her feet and improve her family’s economic situation. And she says she only expects it to get better in the days to come. 

The government of Nepal has promised people affected by the earthquake 200,000 Nepali rupees each to rebuild permanent homes, but due to a stifling bureaucracy and a five month long trade embargo, many have yet to receive the money to rebuild their permanent homes. ActionAid will continue to work with these communities to support their recovery and development, now and for the long term.

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Photo credtis: Jo Harrison/ActionAid