Empowering women earthquake survivors

An elderly earthquake survivor waits for transport after receiving a Winterisation Kit - Credit: Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Why is this program unique?

Post-earthquake, Oxfam reaches out to the most vulnerable women who are in danger of being left out from reconstruction through its Gender and Protection in Emergency program.

When a massive earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015, it was especially women who were hardly hit. 55% of those who died were women and girls. The government estimates that 500.00 women got displaced, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, disease, trafficking and sexual harassment.

In Nepal, single women are traditionally marginalized and stigmatized.

What does it do?

Oxfam partners with Nepal’s foremost campaigner for single women, Women for Human Rights (WHR), in seven earthquake affected districts. WHR operates 2000 Single Women Groups across the country.

Post earthquake, Oxfam helped WHR to establish eight district based Women’s Centres where women can feel safe and united and receive relief items, legal and psycho-social counseling.

The women’s  centers also  serve as  a support  for  the  local  Single  Women Groups  who  have empowered single women to share their stories and create a collective voice within society.

Oxfam also commissioned an assessment on the Impact of the Earthquake on Women and lobbies for their safety and inclusion in reconstruction.

How does it improve the lives of those involved?

A year on, over 25.000 vulnerable women received essential support. Close to 3000 women received psycho-social counseling. Through legal counseling and referral, 552 women receive legal documents.  Single women and women whose husbands are overseas as migrant workers are in danger of the being left out of reconstruction as they have limited access to identity, victim proof and land documents.

Close to 7000 women benefitted from awareness raising events and 8000 received a Dignity and Based Needs Kits including clothes, blankets, solar lamps, stationary, pressure cookers, radios, mosquito net and sanitary pads. 

Over the past year, the centers began to play a much larger role in the local communities. They make progress in changing public perceptions of single women at the grassroots level as well as prepare collective recommendations for post disaster recovery and resettlement.

Can you give one example?

Jureli Nepali’s life was already not an easy one before the earthquake. Her husband had contracted HIV/Aids and her own health was deteriorating. As sharecroppers, the couple faced difficulties caring for their three children.

Ms Nepali’s house got destroyed during the earthquake, and a month later her husband committed suicide. After that the 50-year old from Gorkha district started feeling depressed. Considered unlucky, the widow was ignored by her community.  Her son completed his lower education and she was unable to pay for his further studies.

The Women’s Centre convinced the widow to come for counseling. She had to walk one and a half hour to reach the centre, but did not give up. Ms Nepali: “It helped me to recognize that I should continue to live for my children. Although I know that I cannot give them a high quality of life, I am committed to provide them with the basic necessities of food, shelter, and education.”

The awareness sessions by the centre in the local community are showing results. Says Ms Nepali: “I am slowly being accepted. People are beginning to have normal conversations with me again, asking questions like ‘Hi, how are you?’” 

Read more about Ms Nepali and many other stories of single women supported by Oxfam and WHR here. 

How will it be replicated or built upon?

Oxfam continues to advocate for the inclusion of vulnerable women in reconstruction  through this program and through its Leave No One Out Campaign. Working through our partners we conduct national and district level advocacy and policy reform activities to ensure inclusive reconstruction.