A devastating earthquake has struck Nepal-and the epicenter is in Gorkha, where EDWON has long been working with the most impoverished women. Villages have been leveled and people have lost everything. EDWON, a human rights organization, is working at the grassroots with women of the "lowest" castes--who are profoundly discriminated against--even in disaster relief. EDWON is channeling desperately needed help to the community through our long established Dalit women's groups.
In the devastation created by Saturday's 7.8 earthquake in Nepal, thousands of people need help rebuilding their lives. Gorkha is home to thousands of villagers who have lost their homes and livestock, whose harvest is threatened, their children's schools in ruin. Outside assistance, if any arrives, typically goes through traditional channels: agencies dominated by high-caste men. So adequate help is not assured to reach women and children, who are marginalized under the best of circumstances.
EDWON has been organizing 35 autonomous women's groups of 750 women over 15 years in collaboration with field staff, who are deeply rooted in their rural Gorkha communities. Members of these groups rely on their collective savings in times of need. They desperately need access to funds beyond their current savings as the rebuilding begins. Grants will be channeled through these groups, as the women know best what their families and communities need and are best suited to make decisions.
As the chaos of this disaster subsides, and the international relief agencies end their task, the women's groups will prevail. In spite of losing all earthly possessions, their social capital, the spirit of solidarity and cooperation survives. By giving women grants for rebuilding, we are not only helping with material needs, but also strengthening their influence in the community. Women's catalytic effect on social change and their focus on family, justice and community will only grow.