Resilience, hope and women's leadership: Nepal one year on | ActionAid UK

Natalia Fricker

Digital Communications

Today marks one year since the people of Nepal suffered the catastrophic death and destruction caused by the first of two massive earthquakes.

Women outside an ActionAid women friendly space in Nepal Women supported by ActionAid following the Nepal earthquakes - many of whom are helping lead the rebuild in their community.

Thankfully, because ActionAid has been working in Nepal for over 30 years, we were able to respond to the situation straight away through our networks on the ground and get life-saving help to the most vulnerable people. Thanks to the generosity of the UK public in giving to ActionAid's emergency appeal, our colleagues in Nepal have been able to continue this support. One year on, they have shared with us many encouraging stories and images of how supporters' money has helped, as well as some of the challenges people are still facing.

Putting women at the centre of our work

Since the earthquakes, ActionAid has set up 16 permanent women-friendly spaces. These spaces act as a safe place for women to meet, learn and share ideas and discuss issues that are important to them, such as gender-based violence, and the changes they want to see in their community.

Women's friendly spacesWomen getting together in one of the 16 permanent women-friendly spaces that ActionAid has built following the Nepal quakes.

After talking with women about what they needed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, ActionAid distributed over 7,000 dignity kits to women, containing essential items like underwear, soap and sanitary pads. Vulnerable women were also given solar lamps and central solar charging stations.

Women's friendly spacesThanks to ActionAid's women-friendly spaces, women are taking a leading role in planning how to rebuild their communities.

By offering women a safe place to have discussions and enabling them to become leaders, we make sure that women are at the heart of rebuilding their communities. This means their needs will be met by the new plans for their villages, and that they develop skills and confidence to take a more active role in society going forward, and gain their due respect.

Putting a roof over people's heads

The earthquakes destroyed over 600,000 homes. Maiya, pictured below, lost her home and all of her livestock in the earthquake of 25th April, 2015. She and her family slept outside for 15-16 days after the quake struck.

Maiya ShresthaMaiya, standing proudly outside her temporary shelter, built with support from ActionAid.

The same happened to Kanchhi Maya, pictured below. Luckily, she and her family members survived but her cattle did not. Kanchhi's family were left with no way of earning an income, and had to live under a basic tarpaulin for many months. 

Kanchhi maya: Rebuilding a life after the earthquakeKanchhi has received support from ActionAid, both in building a temporary shelter and earning an income again.

ActionAid provided Maiya and Kanchhi with the tools and training to build their own temporary shelter and gave Maiya goats and Kanchhi an ox so they could both earn their own money. Kanchhi said:

It was dreadful after the earthquake, we didn't even have a place to sleep. Luckily ActionAid helped us rebuild our lives. I don't know what we would have done.

Since the earthquakes, ActionAid has given food support to 18,500 families, and emergency shelter to 7,000 families.

Rebuilding permanent homes

Though temporary shelters have been vital, they are not a permanent solution. But rebuilding permanent homes is a complex task, and involves clearing tons and tons of debris first.

Communities clearing the rubble and starting to rebuildA man carries a heavy load of bricks on his back as communities continue to clear the rubble.

Sadly, bureaucracy and a long trade embargo has meant that the Nepalese government has not yet fulfilled its promise to give people 200,000 rupees (approximately £1,300) each to rebuild permanent homes. This means that, a year later, most of the people made homeless by the earthquakes are still living in temporary shelters. 

As you can see from this photo taken in rural Sindhupalchowk, there is still a long way to go before Nepalese streets are safe and habitable once again.

Communities clearing the rubble and starting to rebuildCommunities starting the slow process of removing debris so that permanent construction work can get underway.

Keeping education going for kids

Because so many schools were damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes, as well as homes, ActionAid has helped to build over 50 temporary learning centres for kids to study.

AA Distributing warm jackets in temporary learning centre to childrenOne of hundreds of girls who have received a warm jacket from ActionAid, in one of our temporary learning centres.

This smiley girl is one of many children who have received a warm jacket from ActionAid, which we've been handing out to the kids at our centres.

We've also given out 9,580 education kits to school children, including things like books, bags, pens and PE kits.

AA Distributing warm jackets in temporary learning centreChildren standing around excitedly after being given warm jackets at one of ActionAid's temporary learning centres.

Getting women back into business

Businesses were of course badly affected by the earthquakes too. On top of Parvati's home being badly damaged by the earthquake of 25th April, the shop and cafe which she used to run was destroyed as well.

We gave Parvati the materials and help she needed to construct her shop again, and immediate food and non-food items such as rice, oil and blankets to get her through the first few weeks after the quakes.

Parvati ShresthaParvati making tea for ActionAid staff in her shop that we have helped her get up and running again.

A year later Parvati is earning good money and says that her business is doing well. With the support ActionAid provided, Parvati was able to also buy new tables and chairs for customers to use.

Until now, people seem to think my shop is really good and they come regularly. I don’t know what will happen later, but until now this shop has supported me. People really like the tea in my shop so a lot of people come to drink tea here.

ActionAid is also helping women who've lost their previous source of income start businesses together. For instance, we've helped Laxmi and nine other women in her village set up a community mushroom farm.

Laxmi Thapa Aryal - Mushroom FarmerLaxmi tending to her mushroom plants, on the farm that is now financially sustaining her and nine other women.

"We are earning very good money from this mushroom farming," Laxmi says. "After investing in this tunnel and doing various different things, we have already earned 70,000 rupees [approximately £450]." She also explains how the farm is giving women more independence, since though all the women are used to working hard, for some of them this is the first time they have earnd their own money.

Laxmi is very excited by this: "If we help more women do business, women’s status will get uplifted."

Read more about how we've been helping women earn a living since the eathquakes.

Not just rebuilding, but rebuilding stronger 

Despite the immense destruction, Nepal remains a beautiful country full of breathtaking landscapes, vibrant colours and a positive people determined to overcome the devastation that they have suffered.

Rural landscape in Sindhupalchowk Rural landscape in Sindhupalchowk district, one of the 14 districts most highly affected by the earthquakes.

There are still many challenges ahead: the Nepalese government urgently needs to release funding to provide homes, and with the monsoon season fast approaching in June, urgent provisions are needed for the thousands of people still living in temporary shelters, such as blankets, tents and tarpaulins.

But ActionAid is not going anywhere. We will continue to support Nepal - not just to rebuild, but to rebuild stronger - both in the sense of buildings that are more resilient to earthquakes, and in the sense of women gaining the confidence to earn their own money, become leaders of their communities and take control of the future of their lives, their villages, and their Nepal.

As always, we'd like to thank everyone who makes this support possible.

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Photo credits: Bisesh Sangat/ActionAid and Jo Harrison/ActionAid