Cash for Work empowers women earthquake survivors

Bimala Balami participates in a Cash for Work programme in her hometown Dakchinkali, restoring an irrigation channel after the devastating earthquake of 2015 - Credit: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam
"I believe that all women in the village are capable, and they do all of the development that’s happening in the village"
Bimala Balami

“I like the job that I am doing because I know it is for the welfare of my entire village. People do need proper irrigation for their fields and I know that. If I don’t do this work people won’t even be able to eat. I really like it as well because at the end of it I will be paid handsomely.” – Bimala Balami

Bimala Balami is one of the many Nepalese women involved in rebuilding community services through Oxfam’s Cash for Work programme under the Earthquake Response Programme.

Balami’s village, Dakchinkali municipality in Kathmandu District, was hit badly by the 2015 earthquakes as it was one of the epicentres of an aftershock that measured 4.4 magnitude. There are a total of 25 Cash for Work programs in the area, reaching a total of 600 direct beneficiaries. Other Cash for Work programs include debris clearing and road repairs.

Says Balami: ‘During the earthquake the local irrigation channel collapsed. People couldn’t even walk along here. Now we’ve been doing this work for about seven days and people are already able to walk along here again. By the time this work is done the irrigation channel will be prepared and people who own land around here will have water for their crops again.”

Investment is at the heart of Oxfam’s cash-for-work programs, which engage villagers in short-term community improvement projects, like the construction of water lines and sturdy foot paths, in exchange for a wage. In the Dakchinkali municipality, for instance, the replacement of a series of irrigation channels, ruined by an earthquake-triggered landslide, has helped to put much-needed cash in the pockets of women. Oxfam engaged groups of 30 of them for 15 days to build channels that will bring water to the rice, wheat, peas, and cucumbers that locals grow.  The women earned 575 rupees a day - earning a total of NPR 8600 or $ 86- for their labor.

The programme has another important impact: it empowers women, who generally face unequal treatment. Says Balami: ‘This village is not like other villages in Nepal. Men go out and roam about, so from household chores to manual labour that needs doing women have to come forward. I believe that all women in the village are capable, and it’s the women and not the men that are doing all of the development that’s happening in the village.”

Adds the young mother of two: “After the earthquake occurred people in the village didn’t know what they would do or how they would earn. Oxfam came in and provided financial support for manual labour. It has been really helpful for the women in the village because now they know they can provide for their families with their earnings.'

Balami plans to spend her earnings on two essentials: schooling for her children and repairs to her house.

Oxfam in the year after the earthquake engaged 20.400 families in Cash for Work across seven worst affected districts.