The great earthquake didn’t just cause buildings to collapse--the earth itself shifted and polluted formerly clean water sources. Add to that worsened sanitary conditions, the loss of latrines, and the monsoon---and you have the perfect storm for disease outbreak.
As part of EDWON's earhquake rehabilitation plan, we designed a two-day workshop to give Dalit women the skills to serve their communities as so-called “WASH mentors". WASH stands for WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene. The workshop was planned for November 2015 but had to be postponed till April 2017 due to the disruptions of the fuel blockade that lasted into February.
The workshop has now taken place, and all involved thought it a great success! We were lucky to have the expertise of two volunteer trainers: Tom from the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency, and Prakash, a public health engineer with Oxfam in Nepal. Tejendra and Gaura from newly established Center for Dalit Women managed the logistics to perfection. Oxfam generously shared their resource material with us. Thank you, Oxfam!
Gaura and Tejendra invited 21 Dalit and ethnic minority women from 11 different villages in Gorkha Distrcit to participate in the workshop, taking their level of education and leadership qualities into consideration. Some of the women cared enough to travel 6 hours from their homes to participate.
Among other public health issues, the women learned to address risk factors such as open defecation, shallow wells and poor hand washing habits, which can lead to outbreak of diseases like Cholera, Hepatitis E and Amoebic Dysentary. They were also taught different ways to treat polluted drinking water, how to recognize signs of disease outbreak, and how to act in case of a public health emergency.
Understanding the gravity of thier responsibilities, the women were attentive students and knew they were given crucial strategies for saving lives in their communities.
In addition, it is especially important for Dalit women to be perceived as authorities on matters such as water purity, as water is the center of untouchability and caste discrimination.
We couldn't have conducted this workshop without you--and thank you heartily for your support.
In Bakreswori, a village in Gorkha, 80% of homes were destroyed in the earthquake. Now it is the site of EDWON's first reconstruction project.
Our primary concern is to provide a dry, warm temporary home for every needy family; our second is sanitation: clean water, adequate sanitary facilities and awareness to prevent outbreak of disease.
Bakreswori has seen improvements already, and our partners, ADWAN, have begun work on 51 dwellings, 20 latrines and 56 wash stations.
Community involvement is key to effective and equitable reconstruction. That is why creating a local Women's Committee is step one: women now play an important role in organizing their community and as monitors of fairness and progress.
Tukumaya, a longtime member of Bakreswori Women's Group A and now on the Women's Committe, has helped mobilize volunteers to form work-teams, first to build shelters for families with infants or with pregnant, old or incapacitated members. While community members provide the labor and local building materials, ADWAN staff procures roofing material and cement and bears the overall responsibility for success. All workers and volunteers are served two meals a day, cooked by other volunteers.
Initially the project was plagued by a host of challenges: from difficulties motivating traumatized victims to dealing with delays and shortages of building supplies. But in a month, much has been accomplished.
Two thirds of the 51 temporary homes now have walls and a roof structure waiting to be covered by zinc sheets--the roofing material of choice. But for weeks now, the delivery truck has been delayed, caught up in roadblocks and violent protests against Nepal's new constitution. We are hoping for a breakthrough this week so that Bakreswori's most vulnerable families can move into small, dry homes of their own.
In the meantime, women have carried bag after bag of cement from the main road up to their village, which has been used to build 29 wash stations: concrete platforms to accommodate piped water and a drain for each household. Combined with new, additional latrines, and with so-called WASH (WAter-Sanitation, Hygiene) Training, the wash stations will represent a huge improvement over pre-earthquake conditions.
Thanks to generous donors like you, EDWON is able to fund similar improvements in two additional villages this fall: temporary homes, improved sanitary facilities and WASH training to give over 100 families (about 500 people) a dry temporary home, new and life-saving sanitary conditions, and much improved safety and comfort.
We have heard that villagers are truly moved by the generosity of far-away strangers and they wish they had a way to show you their gratitude!