I Am Alone: Single women and the Nepal earthquake | Oxfam | Health

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The earthquake and aftershock which struck Nepal in 2015 affected more than 8 million people and severely damaged infrastructure including schools, health centres and homes. Existing gender inequalities in Nepal meant that single women were particularly affected in the aftermath, receiving inadequate assistance and being least able to be heard. This briefing argues that the recovery effort is an opportunity to create much needed improved conditions for single women in Nepal. It provides practical suggestions for better disaster preparedness and enabling single women to be more resilient.
  ‘I AM ALONE’ Single Women and the Nepal Earthquake. 1    I    A   M    A   L   O   N   E      I   A   M    A   L   O   N   E    S   i   n   g   l   e   W   o   m   e   n   a   n   d   t   h   e   N   e   p   a   l   E   a   r   t   h   q  u   a   k   e . ‘  I am alone, no husband no children, so I’m worried about where will I live. I am wondering how much will it cost me to bring down my half-damaged house, and then what will I build the new house with’.  Female focus group participant, Samari, Nuwakot 1 1. Introduction On April 25, 2015, Nepal was struck by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake and by an equally powerful aftershock on May 12. Over 8,700 people died, half women; 23,500 were injured, and over 8 million were affected across 31 districts 2 , 53% of them women. More than 117,000 people were displaced, of whom 26,000 remained so a year later. Loss of and damage to physical infrastructure was severe, and over 850,000 houses were destroyed or damaged. 3  Of these, 26% belonged to women heads of households. In addition, 375 out of 446 health facilities, covering 1.4 million women and girls of reproductive age were affected. An estimated 93,000 among them were pregnant when the earthquake struck. 4  The existing deep gender inequality in Nepal meant that women and single women in particular, suffered most in the aftermath of the earthquake. They were also least able to be heard, and to receive adequate assistance in the response. As the reconstruction and recovery efforts have started, there is a powerful imperative and a new opportunity to create the much needed better and more just conditions for single women affected by the earthquake in Nepal. 1 BUILDING BACK RIGHT: Ensuring Equality in Land Rights and Reconstruction. April 2016. Oxfam, Humanitarian Accountability Monitoring Initiative, Himalayan Conservation Group, the National Network of Community Disaster Management Committees Nepal, and Community Self-Reliance Centre Nepal.2 Government of Nepal. (2015). Nepal Earthquake 2015: Post Disaster Needs Assessment Executive Summary. http://icnr2015.mof.gov.np/uploaded//PDNA_Executive_Summary_new.pdf3 Government of Nepal. (2015). Nepal Earthquake 2015: Post Disaster Needs Assessment Executive Summary. http://icnr2015.mof.gov.np/uploaded//PDNA_Executive_Summary_new.pdf 4 DIGNITY FIRST UNFPA NEPAL 12 MONTH EARTHQUAKE REPORT April 2016    I    A   M    A   L   O   N   E    P   h  o  t  o   C  r  e   d   i  t . . .   O  x   f  a  m  ‘I AM ALONE’ Single Women and the Nepal Earthquake. 2    I    A   M    A   L   O   N   E 2.Women in Nepal 5 The Government of Nepal has instituted legal reforms to eliminate gender discrimination, including gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) policies and gender-responsive budgeting (GRB). As a result, some progress has been made; for example, the country has reached gender parity in primary education, and maternal mortality rate has declined from 539 to 170 between 1996 and 2013. But the position of women remains marked by acute poverty, inequality and marginalization, especially for single women, and those of ‘ lower castes ’. Women are entirely responsible for the care of children and home. A patriarchal mindset dominates, as the statement of a male ofcial 6  shows: ‘ We [men] work all day and when we return home we are hungry and they have to cook for us. It is our culture, thus, women should stay at home .’ Violence against women and girls is pervasive: according to the 2011 Nepal Demographic Health Survey among the women of ages between 15-49, one in 5 experiences domestic violence at least once in her life. 41% of women still get married before they are 18, despite a legal age of marriage at 20. Women mostly work in subsistence agriculture and in the informal sector. Mens’ migration has substantially increased the number of women in agriculture, and has contributed to an increase in female-headed households from 15% in 2001 to 26% in 2011. 7 However, women are much less likely than men to inherit land, to have land registered in their name, or obtain documentation to prove their entitlement. Before the earthquake, over 25% of Nepal’s population was landless or land poor, the majority were Dalits , Janajatis , and women. 8  The 2015 Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, 9  and establishes equal property rights for spouses. 10  However, the Civil Code of Nepal (the Muluki Ain)  limits the inheritance rights of daughters to those who are unmarried, assuming that married daughters have access to property through their husband. This reects patriarchal norms that discriminate against single women and female-headed households. The National Strategy for Disaster Risk Management of 2009 recognises that women are particularly vulnerable to disasters, and states that all programmes should be gender-sensitive. However, it does not lay out an implementation strategy to accomplish these aims. 5 Much of the country context information in this section is from: UNFPA 2015. PROGRESS OF WOMEN IN NEPAL (1995-2015) SUBSTANTIVE EQUALITY: Non-negotiable.6 From the research on which this document is based.7 Government of Nepal Central Bureau of Statistics; Population Census Report 2011; http://cbs.gov.np/image/data/Population/National%20Report/National%20Report.pdf8 CSRC et al (2009) Land and Land Tenure Security in Nepal. http://csrcnepal.org/uploads/publication/y6nhKRaVwrhsbVf2AeClUdDUkcd-M7F8.pdf 9 Constitution of Nepal (2015), art. 18. http://www.inseconline.org/linkedle/Bill%20Of%20Constitution%202015%20Sept.pdf 10 Ibid. art. 38(6).    P   h  o  t  o   C  r  e   d   i  t . . .   O  x   f  a  m  ‘I AM ALONE’ Single Women and the Nepal Earthquake. 3    I    A   M    A   L   O   N   E 3.The earthquake’s impact onsingle women Disasters aggravate vulnerabilities of ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, older people, and of women. In fact, women, constitute a disproportionately high percentage of disaster fatalities. 11  Those who survive, experience threats to personal security; unmet reproductive needs and inadequate sanitary facilities; exclusion from decision making, and problems in receiving assistance for lack of human resources, information and personal documents. 12  They are also more likely than men to be psychologically affected. Resources to meet basic needs, including water, food, cash and fuel, are scarce in disasters, and culture dictates that husbands, children, and in-laws are prioritized, so it is women who do without. Single women 13  are most exposed to violence and abuse and, are the sole providers for their families, they are more likely than others to be deprived. Awareness of women’s vulnerability should not hide the fact that they are effective rst responders, often responsible for taking care of their families in an emergency, leading children and animals to safety, and playing important roles in risk assessments and early warning.It is not surprising that women in Nepal, as in most parts of the world, are disproportionately vulnerable during and after disasters, including the 2015 earthquake. This document summarised the ndings of a survey of 495 single women-headed households. Qualitative and quantitative tools and techniques were used in the survey. Focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KIIs) were conducted with single women household heads, local ofcials, and representatives of non-governmental organizations in the districts of Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk, Nuwakot, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur. 14 As a start, women’s participation in the earthquake relief and reconstruction was poor: only 22.4% respondents in the research had been consulted at any time. One male ofcial rationalised the lack of women’s participation this way: ‘ We ask women to participate but they are reluctant to. They say they cannot speak or read and write. They want to give thumbprints rather than signatures.’   11 Neumayer, E., & Plumper, T. (2007). The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981–2002. Annals of the Association of American Geographers , 551-566.12 Halvorson, J. P. (2007). The 2005 Kashmir Earthquake: A Perspective on Women’s Experiences. Mountain Research and Development, 296-301.13  Single women in Nepal are dened as unmarried women over 35; widowed, separated and divorced women; and women with migrant or missing husbands. SINGLE WOMEN: Light On Their Plight, http://www.spotlightnepal.com/News/Article/SINGLE-WOMEN-Light-On-Their-Plight, issue Name : Vol: 06 No. -16 Feb. 08- 2013 (Magh 26, 2069).14 The research was commissioned by Women for Human Rights (WHR) and Oxfam, and carried out in 2015 by the Social Science Baha. The document also relies on information from the Brieng Paper BUILDING BACK RIGHT: Ensuring equality in land rights and reconstruction in Nepal, produced in April 2016 by Oxfam in partnership with the Humanitarian Accountability Monitoring Initiative, Himalayan Conservation Group, the National Network of Community Disaster Management Committees Nepal, and Community Self-Reliance Centre Nepal.    P   h  o  t  o   C  r  e   d   i  t . . .   O  x   f  a  m  ‘I AM ALONE’ Single Women and the Nepal Earthquake. 4    I    A   M    A   L   O   N   E Disasters destroy means of livelihood and increases work, and this was the case for two-thirds of the single women in the research. For most, workload had at least initially increased because they had more childcare duties (due to closure of schools), and the task of clearing debris. The earthquake did not alter the fact that the women were the breadwinners in almost 60% of surveyed households. Most of them had been farmers; others had generated incomes through weaving, running small retail shops, rearing livestock, or as daily wage labourers. In the majority of cases, the tremors or landslides had swept off agricultural land, destroyed premises or buried tools. 15  Many respondents said that they were trying to start new occupations, but skills and material were needed to make them viable. Lack of livelihood normally reduces access to food. However, for over 60% of the women food intake remained the same, and for 20% it increased. It is possible that for some, food intake could have increased through relief supplies, for others it could be due to the common but unsustainable practice of selling assets to survive during crises.Disaster-affected families often lose personal documents necessary to access relief, and rebuild their lives. In Kathmandu as much as 24.4% of the women covered by the research had lost property papers, and over 49% citizenship certicates. Replacement of different papers was inconsistent and slow: at the time of the research in some districts only 42.2% of the lost identity cards had been replaced. Matters can be more complex. Many women in any case lack citizenship and marriage 15 Dhading and Lalitpur Rapid Assessment Report WHR and The Asia Foundation, August 2015    P   h  o  t  o   C  r  e   d   i  t . . .   O  x   f  a  m   P   h  o  t  o   C  r  e   d   i  t . . .   O  x   f  a  m
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