Post-Earthquake Field Report from Her Turn

Nepal Banner for Website_v2

The Earthquake is just Day One.

On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people and injuring more than 23,000. The MATCH Fund immediately reached out to Her Turn, one of our Nepalese partners, to learn what support was needed. Two days later, Ola–the Program Manager at Her Turn–confirmed via a shaky phone connection that her Kathmandu team was safe.

What is truly groundbreaking is what comes next.

In the wake of a disaster, women and girls are the most vulnerable: the risk of gender-based violence, sexual assault, and rape increases and, amidst the chaos, women are also shouldering the burden of care for family and community members. Her Turn was immediately on the ground providing post-earthquake support to women and girls. Already funding Her Turn’s work to end child marriage in Nepal, The MATCH Fund was able to provide additional support to distribute “Her Kits” containing underwear, soap, reusable pads, towels, and laundry detergent to girls affected by the earthquake. With Ola’s permission, the following is excerpted from her emails to The MATCH Fund. Read her day-by-day account of how a grassroots women’s rights organization responds to an evolving disaster.

May 1, 2015
“We still haven’t heard from our field staff: power lines are down, people’s mobiles were in houses that collapsed, and hydro power is broken. We are trying to connect with our field staff through our contacts, but everyone is busy just covering basic needs. And the needs are immense. People whose houses were destroyed sleep outside. It’s raining, and there is a shortage of tarpaulin. There are still people stranded in remote areas who need medical help. We are doing the best we can, but work is extremely difficult. I am going to the Gorkha district on Saturday to assess the situation there. I will keep you posted when I know more.”

May 11, 2015
“Communication is still very difficult with our field staff, but we have confirmed that they are all fine. However, we learned that one of our Girl Support Committee members died [in the earthquake.] We are waiting for more information, but even the government does not yet have accurate data on student casualties and damage in schools.”

May 17, 2015
“Last week, we were stranded at one of our field sites when landslides blocked the road following Tuesday’s aftershocks. We spent the night there under tarpaulins, which is how thousands of people who lost their homes regularly spend the night. We had a chance to speak to some of the girls who have participated in Her Turn workshops, and we are thinking of delivering small kits to them that consist of soap, underwear, and pads–all of which are high needs right now.”

May 22, 2015
“It’s nearly impossible to conduct our workshops at the moment because the schools are closed and some girls live in very remote areas. We don’t know when schools will reopen because so much of the infrastructure has been destroyed. But we must work [even if the schools remain closed] because the needs are tremendous.

Given the displacement of people and the widespread lack of secure toilets, shelters, services, etc., Her Turn is developing some immediate short-term programs to meet girls’ safety needs. We also plan to add emergency components to our workshops, such as psycho-social support to help girls process the trauma they have been through. These workshops will play a pivotal role in encouraging girls to come back to school and in equipping them to deal with an increase in child marriage and trafficking.”

June 26, 2015
“Though it can be a challenge to reach people because monsoon rains have started and some villages are not accessible due to landslides, we have distributed 1,479 “Her Kits” to girls in 13 schools and also to girls living in one of the camps for Internally Displaced Persons in Kathmandu Valley. We have also provided security training to address gender-based violence. Another camp just approached us with a request to facilitate a safety training, which we will do next week. Some good news: one of our Girl Support Committees learned last week of two young girls who were about to be trafficked. The Committee was able to alert a network of anti-trafficking organizations, one of which was able to rescue the girls. They are now safe and in a shelter home.”

July 23, 2015
“This week, we will be distributing over 100 additional kits to girls in the Internally Displaced Persons camp where villagers from Sindhupalchok are temporarily living. This camp is located on a chicken farm, and the residents don’t have tents, just tarpaulins that families share and sleep under. Women struggle with the lack of water access and with the snakes that enter their sleeping areas. Several of our field staff have lost their own homes in the earthquake and are struggling with many of the same issues as our program participants. One staff member explained how she had her period when the earthquake hit and couldn’t get anything out of her destroyed house. She laughed while explaining that she was stuck wearing the same pad for three days. Even in these dark times, resilience and high spirits shine through.”

What can you do?

The MATCH Fund continues to speak regularly with Ola and to be flexible and responsive to Her Turn’s post-earthquake needs. The support of our loyal donors allows The MATCH Fund to provide such flexible, ongoing funding. To donate to organizations like Her Turn, please click here.

What’s happening now?

As of July, 1,749 households were evacuated from the Gorkha District due to landslide risk. Other regions have been entirely cut off by landslides, depriving residents of access to food, healthcare, and mobile/radio communication. The Department of Education is in the process of assessing the school buildings. So far, we know that nearly 30% of Nepalese classrooms have entirely collapsed. Of those still standing, 30-50% have limited or no access to water and sanitation services.

And what about the women?

According to a recent UN report, the lack of private sanitation facilities for women has further increased the risk of gender based violence, particularly in Internally Displaced Persons camps. Malnutrition is also on the rise, disproportionately impacting children and pregnant/lactating women. Her Turn remains on the ground, providing “Her Kits” and keeping girls safe from violence.

Supplementary Reading:

In Nepal, the Road to Recovery Lies in the Persistence of Women

Donate (2)