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Rebuilding Fund for Rural Dalit Women of Nepal

by Empower Dalit Women of Nepal
Rebuilding Fund for Rural Dalit Women of Nepal
Rebuilding Fund for Rural Dalit Women of Nepal
Rebuilding Fund for Rural Dalit Women of Nepal
Rebuilding Fund for Rural Dalit Women of Nepal
Learning skills to save lives in their communities
Learning skills to save lives in their communities

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.

Board Members, Gaura and Sangita open the workshop
Board Members, Gaura and Sangita open the workshop
Classroom work
Classroom work
Sharing her understanding with the group
Sharing her understanding with the group
Testing the water
Testing the water
Hands-on water purification
Hands-on water purification
Trainers and trainees are pleased with the outcome
Trainers and trainees are pleased with the outcome
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Women's rebuilding committee, Gaura is on the left
Women's rebuilding committee, Gaura is on the left
Over 100 Vulnerable Families in Safe Homes
Dear Friends, Namaste,
We are much encouraged by our earthquake rehabilitation work: in the last few months, your generosity has enabled our Nepali team to give lasting comfort to hundreds of marginalized villagers in the hard-hit Gorkha district.  Emergency aid in the first weeks after the earthquake included blankets, food, tarps and solar lanterns for 750 families in 10 villages.  But more was needed to rebuild their shattered lives. Your support has made it possible for us to complete home construction in additional villages. In Bakreswori, Thulogaon and Kot Gaon we built:
  • 107 small, safe homes, plus
  • 80 sanitary facilities, including latrines and WASH Stations
--helping 500 poor villagers put their lives back together.
At the same time, 45 marginalized families in the village of Fujel are receiving technical help and zinc roofing to build safe homes for themselves.  An additional 80 families are getting new concrete WASH stations.  
 
Smoke Free Stoves
As part of the same project, our team has just finished a training program for 12 local women who have learned to build smoke-free adobe stoves. These women are fanning out over South Gorkha to construct stoves for 250 families. This means less air pollution, improved respiratory health and more efficient use of wood.
 
Difficult Working Conditions
Working in dysfunctional, post-earthquake Nepal--and with modest resources-- takes uncommon patience, dedication and smarts. Under the most difficult circumstances, Gaura and Tejendra, our rebuilding team, have contended with political upheaval, roadblocks and government paralysis, navigated a 5-month long fuel blockade, and dealt with severely rationed electricity supply during the coldest winter on record. We are extremely proud of their achievements.
 
Inequality in Access to Aid
Our team in Nepal is not just meeting immediate and basic needs, but are engaged in broader justice and advocacy issues to indirectly benefit as many victims as possible. In remote rural communities, 10 months after the earthquake some villagers are beginning to recover. But many of the most vulnerable--women, children, Dalits and ethnic minorities--are still huddled under tarps, hungry and sick. Tejendra and Gaura wanted to learn how to best help the most needy victims regardless of their caste, gender and political connections.
 
The Study
In cooperation with EDWON and Kathmandu-based Samata Foundation, they conducted a small quantitative study in three of the hardest hit rural districts: Dolakha, Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk. The team of 8 interviewed individual victims, collected case studies and organized focus groups. 
 
Gaura and Tejendra organized a national level workshop to share their findings with 140 representatives from government and non-government agencies, the press and the human rights community to focus attention on this serious humanitarian issue.
 
The Findings
The study confirmed that the earthquake response had followed a familiar pattern of caste-and gender-based discrimination: the current aid distribution system favors the already privileged, those with access to information, to the local power structure and other resources. The poor, women, and Dalits were left behind. 
The team found that government red tape often prevented access to reparations for those who needed it the most. The poor and the marginalized lacked the documentation such as birth certificates, land titles and proof of citizenship required to apply for government aid.
 
The very same vulnerable population is also often shortchanged by international aid organizations, whose supply-focused "blanket approach" to assistance fails to target the ones who need it the most. Also, INGOs, if they reach the remote communities at all, commonly operate through the local power structure that is already excluding the worst-off.
 
Addressing the Situation
Our rebuilding team is designing a project to address some of these inequities. The plan to inform marginalized villagers in remote, hard hit areas how best to access reparations from government and aid from NGOs through public radio announcements and public hearings.
We are proud to continue to sponsor this important humanitarian work, and will keep you updated on its progress. We thank you for your generous support that makes this possible.
 
Rebuilt home with a new zinc roof
Rebuilt home with a new zinc roof
Trainers and trainees with new adobe stove
Trainers and trainees with new adobe stove
Fuel lines in Kathmandu, photo from Kathmandu Post
Fuel lines in Kathmandu, photo from Kathmandu Post
They lost everything. Will they get reparations?
They lost everything. Will they get reparations?
Tejendra and co-worker, Seema
Tejendra and co-worker, Seema

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Tukumaya, member of the Women's Committee
Tukumaya, member of the Women's Committee

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!

Women carry cement to their village
Women carry cement to their village
Wash station
Wash station
Bakreswori women
Bakreswori women
waiting for a tim roof
waiting for a tim roof
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Balmaya in her straw mat home
Balmaya in her straw mat home

Your immediate and generous support has saved lives and reduced human suffering. Thank you!

Also a great big thank you to the Global Giving Foundation for a $10,000 donation for general relief work--when it mattered most!

Because of all of you, our Nepal partner, ADWAN, could respond quickly to people’s urgent needs in our project area. In 10 out of 11 communities, ADWAN was the only source of emergency relief. Large relief organizations have yet to show up. 

“I will never forget the day ADWAN arrived with food and relief aid. We cannot imagine the situation if we hadn’t received support from them. Thank you ADWAN for your support in this difficult time!”

Bal Maya is just one of the 760 women from our Gorkha women’s groups left homeless by the earthquakes. People who owned little before lost everything, including the stored grain they depend on for survival.

Villagers now live under the most difficult conditions: tents, tarps and recycled materials barely keep them dry during the unusually harsh weather. Cooking, eating, keeping clean and sleeping is a struggle. And in addition, the aftershocks make for constant high levels of anxiety.

While everyone is traumatized, acts of kindness and compassion abounds. People who have little, often share with those who have nothing. There is still hope--and hugs and smiles

Delievered by ADWAN, EDWON has funded the following aid:

Number of Villagers Served

  • 4,000 + mostly women and children

Where

  • Communities in Gorkha District 12-15 miles from the epicenter

Aid Delivered

  • Several thousand kilos of food: rice, potatoes, lentils and oil
  • Hundres of other items: tents, blankets, sleeping mats, and mosquito nets i
  • 150 solar lanterns to help keep women and girls safe at night (donated by partner organization HIO, Thank you!)

On its Way

  • Additional 400 solar lanterns 
  • 140 latrines to prevent spread of disease (donated by partner organization, Nidan, Thank you!)

WHAT IS NEXT?

Reconstruction and recovery requires enormous resources, so collaboration with partners is crucial. ADWAN and EDWON are engaged in building partnerships with organizations and foundations both in and outside Nepal to help fund the massive rebuilding and recovery.

We are focusing our efforts in three areas: temporary homes, livelihoods and schools.

Temporary Homes

Our highest priority is constructing temporary shelters strong enough to withstand the monsoon. Tents and tarps are insufficient during heavy downpour. Building permanent homes must wait until the monsoon has ended in August/September. 

Temporary shelters will be constructed quickly and with recycled and newmaterials. ADWAN is mobilizing our women’s groups to collaborate with local skilled workers in building temporary shelters for theri communities over the next few months--the target is 1400 shelters.

Livelihoods  

Farmland, livestock, food grain and seed corn is damaged or lost. In collaboration with ADWAN and with input from our women groups we will be working on ways to restore livelihoods.

Schools

Most schools (7) were damaged or destroyed. ADWAN team members, teachers and volunteers have already built temporary schools in some communities. But to function well, the schools need additional whiteboards and furniture.

The View from a Village: Balmaya's Story

-Happy to be Alive, Worried about the Future-

Balmaya remembers standing in front of her garden when the entire house and ground started shaking and quavering. She fell unconscious, but thankfully woke up to see that her entire family was unharmed! When the quaking stopped, this family and most other villagers were homeless. And with her stored food buried under rubble, Balmaya didn’t know how to feed her family.

A mother of five, married to a sick man, Balmaya has been an active member of a women’s group for ten years.

The first few days, she explains, villagers waited for government aid; it was rumored that supplies had arrived at the district headquarters. Yet, they received nothing. She and others think it is because they are Dalits, “We are never a priority! “, she says.

A few days later, it was ADWAN that arrived with urgently needed rice, lentils, blankets, tents, and other items.

"I will never forget the day ADWAN arrived with food and relief aid in my village. We can't imagine the situation if we hadn't received support from ADWAN. Thank you ADWAN for your support in this difficult time" - Balmaya

Today, the family lives in a shelter made of straw, tarp, and debris, and Bal Maya worries about keeping her family safe during the monsoon. People are pessimistic about delivery of government help for temporary homes-- let alone for permanent ones.

With tears in her eyes she says, “Even though we have survived the earthquakes, our future is so uncertain! Once the aid ration is finished, I will have to borrow money to buy food and medicine.”

Since that horrible day, she has not been herself, Balmaya says. The trauma, the stress and the total destruction make her anxious for the future.

She says that members of her women’s group have met a few times since the earthquake; they plan to resume their activities and to help each other rebuild their lives. They hope ADWAN will be there for them.

ADWAN's Bindu with food deliveries
ADWAN's Bindu with food deliveries
A blanket can mean so much!
A blanket can mean so much!
Delivery of solar lanterns to keep women safe
Delivery of solar lanterns to keep women safe
Insufficient shelter
Insufficient shelter
Good enough for the monsoon
Good enough for the monsoon
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Lining up to get food supplies delivered by ADWAN
Lining up to get food supplies delivered by ADWAN

Our ADWAN team, staff, Board members and volunteers have literally been working day and night, traveling back and forth between Kathmandu and various rural villages in Gorkha to purchase and deliver much needed food and emergency aid for the last two weeks. From what the team is reporting in many of the communities they have visited, they are the only help the victims have seen coming in with supplies since the earthquake shook Nepal. Bureaucracy, and treacherous road conditions caused by mud slides are two barriers in getting relief out of Kathmandu and in to affected rural areas.

So far the team has been able to visit and deliver supplies to 10 villages: Bakrang, Bhogteni, Bakreswori, Riptok, Bunkot, Manakamana, Taklung, Fujel, Tanglichowk and Patiswara. The supplies have gone to 474 women in 23 of our women’s groups in these villages. Additionally, many other villagers have benefitted from ADWAN’s relief supplies. Most of the homes belonging to women in our program have either been completely destroyed or damaged. ADWAN has been able to organize temporary shelters with those with no access to tents.

ADWAN has now hired a coordinator to help with rebuilding efforts in response to the earthquake. He and Kamal Pariyar, ADWAN’s Director, have already started the assessment process by traveling to each village. We know partnerships with other organizations will be critical in increasing our collective capacity to respond to this massive disaster and start the rebuilding efforts. We will be updating you on the status of these partnerships in coming weeks.

 All of this work is possible because of you, our donors! Thank you for your support and continued interest in rebuilding lives and communities of our Dalit women in Gorkha.

 

Eva Kasell

Founder & President of EDWON

ADWAN Board member Bindu with a women's group
ADWAN Board member Bindu with a women's group
Grateful and happy for receiving food
Grateful and happy for receiving food
A destroyed home used as a shelter, Tanahun
A destroyed home used as a shelter, Tanahun
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Organization Information

Empower Dalit Women of Nepal

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts - USA
Website:
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Empower Dalit Women of Nepal
Eva Kasell
Project Leader:
Eva Kasell
Founder and President
Cambridge, Massachusetts United States

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