Rebuilding right way: Involving women in a meaningful way is the need of the time to complete the reconstruction process
Published     27 April, 2018

It was three years ago today, when a mega earthquake hit Nepal, taking lives of nearly 9000 people and damaging hundreds of thousands of houses and properties. Government of Nepal and governments of other countries supported in the response and recovery programs to help build back infrastructures and communities.

Like the government, development agencies focused their activities to target the most affected people with immediate and long term programs. However, it is a matter of fact that the pace of reconstruction was sluggish and a lot needed to be done. For better results, it would be worthwhile to first understand terminologies in the same manner. 

Whom to target?
In the early 2015, it was a common voice that the “immediate response” should take a blanket approach, leaving no affected people behind. As the “response” transitioned to “recovery,” the notion shifted to “targeting” the most marginalized and vulnerable people. This was to consider men and women from very poor families, socially marginalized communities, and who had limited means of income and resources. But there are complexities in this definition, which is why there were disputes in getting people’s names listed in the first place as beneficiaries. 

mechanism and 
media should play a watchdog’s role 
to see the 
progress of 
promised works. 

There are various levels of needs and challenges even in the poor and marginalized communities—based on level of education, geography and ethnicity. I read a report in 2015, after the earthquake, about how gender dimensions are different across different ethnicities. Although termed “upper-caste,” there are women under this categorization who cannot go out for work or speak their minds because their family members wouldn’t allow them to. At the same time, although termed “marginalized communities,” there are women who can go out and work without any issue. In such a case, who should our target be? 

When talking about women empowerment, it is mostly seen that the ability of the women to confidently speak in front of people is highlighted. No wonder, it is an achievement that women who still hesitate to take names of their husbands come out of the social cocoon and put their issues forward and seek solutions collectively. However, it’s also about time that these examples are replaced as we keep talking about “transformative social change.” But again, in order to achieve this, you have to dig deeper to know the obstacles and conclude whether a transformation really happened. But this needs to be understood by every stakeholder, including media and the government agencies. 

But what is a transformative social change? Literatures say it is a shift in collective consciousness of a society that produces better results. Let us look at some cases and try to analyze if they are positive transformations.

Case 1: People of a certain area did not have hand washing habits because of which sanitation was compromised and someone in their families would always fall sick. Now, they not only practice proper handwashing, but use toilets, maintain good hygiene and sanitation and rarely fall sick.

Case 2: People of a certain area had lost their houses in the earthquake. They were displaced for about three years; their issues and voices were raised by media and development agencies and as a result, they got support to build permanent houses.

Case 3: People of a district in Tarai would generally be prone to pneumonia and get ill under cold wave because they would not prepare enough for winter. Because of effective awareness programs, they now stock up materials to deal with winter, use them effectively and prevent illness.
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