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    2,000 widows

    August 26th, 2015 | by Voice of South Asia
    2,000 widows
    Accidents & Disasters
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    They suffered loss and now struggle to survive alone. An estimated 2000 Nepali Women were widowed following the death of their husbands.

     Rojita Adhikari 

    Soon after Nani Mainya Maharjan, 47, gets up every morning, she rushes to see whether her house has miraculously become intact. Instead, again, she finds her house reduced to the ground. Then, she tries to collect broken pieces of bricks, doors and windows.

    All of a sudden, she remembers her husband, daughter and son-in-law, two grandchildren and mother-in-law, who were buried to death under the rubble in the monstrous earthquake of April 25. She falls quiet for a while, pats dust from her white sari and returns to the shelter. Every day for the last two months she has repeated that routine.

    The earthquake claimed the lives of an estimated 9000 Nepalese people. According to the UNICEF and the government of Nepal, 55 percent of the deceased are women and children. Like Nani Maina Maharjan , Nepal Police estimates that up to 2,000 Nepali women were widowed following the death of their husbands and houses of around 50,000 single women from Kavreplanchowk, Shindhupalchok , Nuwakot, Gorkha, Dhading, Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur have been collapsed completely.   Many women say that without the men in their families they feel helpless. They felt like they have lost their appendages.

    The data shows that around 58 percent of women from rural areas are illiterate and their access is limited to household chores. Especially, earning money by husbands and involving in household chores and children’s care by wives is a long held practice in Nepali society since ages. Future of women, who heavily depend on husbands for financial activities and administrative works outside, has been left in lurch.

    The displaced women alone are forced to do both the household chores and arranging money for the family. Even some of the women, whose credentials were buried under the rubble, do not know how to get the vital papers. Getting copies of the important documents for the illiterate women from rural parts is tougher. How can these women enable themselves to take over the responsibility of their husbands? How can they manage to provide proper care to their children? How can they rebuild their houses? Will the government fund of NPR 15,000 provided by the government be sufficient? Such questions come forth the quake hit women.

    NaniMainyacannot read and write. She carried out household chores and farming activities, while her husband worked as a laborer. They owned about 1.5 ropanis of land .Her Husband managed their finances and documents.

    The daytheearthquake struck on  saturday, her son-in-law with two grandchildren had arrived herhomeand had already eaten the delicious food she prepared.  Now it was NaniMainya’s turn.

    “While I was having lunch, my house started shaking all of a sudden. Shouting everyone‘Let’s go.’ I ran away out of my house. I could run away to the chowk, a bit distance from the house, buteveryoneelse including my husband could not escape when the house fell apart to the ground,” said NaniMaiya, recalling the black day for her family.

    Aftershockdidnot give hera chance to rescue her family members buried under the rubble, according to her.

    “I am the only survivor in the family. I lost my family. I wish I had died too,” she added.

    The earthquake has not only killed six members of her family, but buried, all the family’s important credentials including citizenship and land registration papers.“I do not know where the land registration paper is. The land was registered in the name of my mother-in-law. What will happen now and how to claim my land without papers?” she said.

    According to her, she has made a small hut out of two corrugated zinc sheets, provided by a donor, whose name she could not learn about.

    “I cannot think of how to reconstruct house, manage life and make money,” added she with her eyes filled with tears.

    In nearby Dadhikot, Sanothimi, SunitaChitrapur, also lost her husband in the earthquake. The 33-year-old woman has two children. Her husband, who worked as a carpenter, was the only breadwinner for the family. Following her husband’s death, Sunita has become terrified about her life in the days to come.

    “How can I manage two son’s education? How can I rebuild my house? How can I earn my livings? For a month, I need NPR 12000 but how can I make money?” She said.

    Although two months have already elapsed, Sunita has not received any corrugated zinc sheet from anyone for rebuilding house. She is still living under a tent that was set up soon after the earthquake. The tent has already become faded. Storms and heavy winds have blown it away many times.

    “During rainfall, I clutch the tent so that it cannot blow away,” she added. Other quake victims in her neighborhood have already made temporary huts out of zinc sheet provided to them. When asked why she failed to receive the zinc sheet, she said, “No one approached me with the sheet. Even I do not know where I can find it. Had my husband been alive, he could have found it out.”

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    Another earthquake survivor from Bhaktpur, Purna Laxmi Khagi, 31, had lived with her husband for last 11 years since her marriage at the age of 19. She bore a son and a daughter. But her beloved husband and a son of 1.5 years old were killed in the earthquake two months ago.

    “It was Saturday. My husband and son were sleeping inside house,but I was washing clothes outside. All at once, the four storied building collapsed killing my husband and son together,” she said.

    PurnaLaxami is  always depressed. When she remembers her husband and son. She became emotional when she said, “I always miss my son at feeding time and husband at the office time. How can I live my life without them?”

    “Every year, my children, I and my husband went somewhere for tour. Last year, we went to Pokhara, where we had sailed on boat. But I cannot believe myself that he is no more,” she said.

    PurnaLaxmi is an educated woman. She has diploma in pharmacy under the pressure of her husband, who was a trader of medicines.

    “I haven’t thought of what I should do. I have taken shelter at the temporary hut built by my elder brother-in-law. For the sake of my daughter, I have to survive. But how should I reconstruct the house?” said PurnaLaxmi.

    The government has provided the families with NPR 40,000 to perform the last rites of their relatives and relief fund of NPR 100000 for the families who lost their relatives in the earthquake.  Also, it decided to provide NPR 2,00000 to reconstruct the house.

    But NPR 40,000 given to perform the last rites of relatives was not sufficient, says Subhadra Marikhun, who lost her husband in the earthquake. In Nepalese society, performance of last rites following the death of a person is not cheap. As per the rituals in Newar community she is from, the bereaved family has to frequently organize feasts for 45 days within the next two years.

    “Arranging a feast costs from around NPR 20000-30000. Relatives and society backbite upon failure to organize the feast. How can I manage money to organize feast and rebuild home?” she questioned.

    Her house collapsed in the earthquake. She cannot sleep at nights because she is worried about arranging money for her small son’s education and household chores.

    “My husband always loved me so much but he never wanted me to do job. I bet he was among very few husbands who love their wives very much. How can I live without him? I have been destitute after the death of my husband,” she said with her eyes in tears.

    “Single women (widows) affected by the earthquake may not rebuild their houses. The government has to provide special support to those women who lost their husband and houses and the single women who lost their houses,” said Lili Thapa, Chairperson of Women for Human Right Single Women Group ( WHR)  in Nepal.

    She further said that the government should operate NPR 40-50 million from the security fund for single women. A special mechanism can be formed to extend special support to the single women and women, who are incapable to recover the earthquake loss. What they need is financial and psychosocial support.

    Although there is a dire need of launching a special program for hundreds of women who lost their husbands and houses to enable them financially and mentally strong, such a program has not been planned yet, informed Nilam KC Khadka, minister for women, children and social welfare.

    “The major challenge before the quake hit women is of their protection. As they are more vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual violence, we focus on providing them protection,” she added.

    “For the rehabilitation of single women, I will keep this agenda in the meeting of ministry of council,” she added.

    Nani Mainya, who lost everything in the earthquake, needs all the three basic needs food, shelter and clothes. Although she can live her daily life somehow through labor work, rebuilding house for her has become a far-fetched dream. Sunita also does not know when and how her house will be rebuilt and nor is she aware of the ways to manage two children’s studies. Quake survivors Sunita, Nani Mainya, Subhadra and Purna Laxmi urge the government to support in rehabilitation of the women who lost their husbands and houses in the earthquake.

     

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