One year on from the earthquake that shattered Nepal, it's the women who are rebuilding the country.
On 25 April 2015, a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal leaving nearly 9,000 people dead and 850,000 homes destroyed.
A year on, the country is still struggling to rebuild its cities and infrastructure. But its the country’s women that are at the forefront.
Like many women in Nepal, Bimala Balami, 27, is used to hard physical labour. With many men away working in India, Malaysia and the Gulf States, where wages are higher, the UN estimates there are 318,000 female headed households in the 13 worst affected districts.
‘After the earthquake the men in the village were worried about the fact that their houses were destroyed, they roamed about asking ‘what am I going to do?’ says Bimala. ‘But women took the initiative because they just had to keep things going. It was them who stepped up to provide for their children and look after their houses.’
Bimala was watching television with her baby when the earthquake hit and suddenly the electricity went out and the TV shut down.
‘The room started shaking. I held my baby tight in one hand and came down the stairs holding the banister with the other trying to keep calm. It was a really scary feeling. Luckily my family were safe but I live in fear of another earthquake.’
Bimala’s area – Dachi Nkali in Kathmandu – was badly hit by the earthquake. It destroyed the water supply (irrigation channels) to the hill fields where she and other families used to grow rice, peas, mustard, cucumber – to eat and sell.
But together with other women, Bimala is rebuilding water systems through a Cash for Work Scheme led by Oxfam which paid her a wage and provided all the tools – picks, shovels, forks, helmets the women needed.
Such schemes can prevent women spiralling into poverty and help them support their children. In other areas, women are repairing roads carrying heavy stones by hand.
‘I’m working to make things better, I am going to spend some of the money I’m earning on my children’s schooling and repairing the house. I don’t know what we would have done without this scheme from Oxfam.’
Oxfam is distributing hygiene kits to 40,000 families, 8,000 women’s dignity kits (underwear, sanitary towels and clothes), 7,000 kits containing essentials like blankets and solar lights, and building more than 150 water tanks with taps, 5,000 toilets and eight Women’s Centres offering counselling and support to vulnerable women.
To help visit www.oxfam.org.uk.