The Nepal earthquake: 3 women who are making a difference

April 25 marks the anniversary of the first of two massive earthquakes that devastated the already-impoverished nation of Nepal. Buildings collapsed, roads crumbled, and thousands of lives were lost.

In the aftermath of the earthquakes, 3 million people were left homeless, and according to the World Health Organization, women and children were most affected by the disaster due to gender discrimination, harsh living conditions, unsafe food, and poor sanitation.

Over the past 12 months, Plan International’s emergency efforts in Nepal have helped more than 287,000 people – including 117,000 children – access food, water, shelter, and healthcare. In addition, we’re helping to address traditional perceptions of girls and women in rural Nepalese communities by providing women with new skillsets and ways to earn income for their families.

Shrijana, 21 – the breadwinner

woman holding a hand saw

Shrijana is 1 of 8 female masons in her community

Having lost her mother at a young age and her brother last year, Shrijana was forced to assume the role of mother and financial caretaker within her family – a role that placed increased demands on her since her family’s home was severely damaged by the earthquake.

In need of additional income, Shrijana became the youngest person and one of few women in her community to sign up for Plan International’s mason training program – a relief program that provides individuals with new skills while also helping to rebuild homes, schools and buildings using earthquake-resistant construction techniques.

Currently, Shrijana is building a transitional home for an elderly couple who lost everything, and even though she is teased by the men on her team, she maintains she is not deterred or disheartened. Eventually, she hopes to rebuild her family’s home entirely.

“I have gained such confidence, because I know I can do good things as a girl. Even though I face barriers, the mason training has made me feel like a better person,” she says.

Devaki, 23 – the community leader

Woman and her daughter in a kitchen

Devaki and her daughter in their temporary home

Devaki was only able to salvage a few pieces of her daughter’s clothing before her home was reduced to rubble by the first earthquake.

With her husband living overseas, Devaki had very little support and a young daughter to feed. So she joined Plan International’s Cash-for-work program, a short-term assistance program that has so far provided 7,800 earthquake survivors with cash transfers and employment opportunities to help rebuild their communities.

Through the Cash-for-work program, Devaki became the first female program leader in her community and was responsible for a team of 25. She says it was the first time she has ever worked together with men and women, and also the first time she has ever earned equal pay to a man.

With the money she’s earning, Devaki has bought basic necessities like cups and plates for her temporary home, but she plans on saving the majority of it to fund her daughter’s education.

“I’m going to invest the rest in educating my child,” she says “Earlier there was no such thing as equality between men and women, but this program has made us equal.”

Sita, 33 – the strong single mother

Sita and Debaki

Sita and Devaki have become close friends through the Cash-for-work program

Without a home, a husband or an extended family, Sita was struggling to provide for her 12- and 14-year-old sons.

Selling goats and millet had been Sita’s main source of income, but she was able to find additional money through Plan International’s cash-for-work program.

“With the money I earned I bought some clothes for my sons and saved the rest for their education. The education of both my sons is a priority. I didn’t study, so if my sons study until grade 12, they will be able to support me,” says Sita.

With Devaki as her supervisor, the two women have become close friends. Sita says she prefers having a female boss because it sets an inspiring precedent for other women, and also because there is a mutual respect not often found with male bosses in her community.

Building a brighter future

Since 2015, Plan International has trained 479 masons and carpenters, while also supporting more than 11,000 households to build transitional or semi-permanent homes.

Over the next two years, nearly 325,000 people will benefit from Plan International funded projects and aid in Nepal – all this would not be possible without donors like you! Thanks to your support, we will continue to help the people of Nepal lay the foundation for a strong, resilient future.

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