In times of crisis, from war to natural disasters, women are often neglected in the process of relief. The session titled “Ensuring Gender Equality and Sustainable Livelihood in Post-Disaster Situations” was lead by the Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) Nepal. WOREC worked extensively in Nepal following the devastating earthquake thag struck the country in April 2015. As infrastructures collapsed to the ground, people lost their homes, businesses, and even loved ones. As people set up shelter alongside the debris, WOREC stepped in to provide help, particularly to the women and children.
WOREC launched the Sneha Campaign, sneha meaning love and compassion in Nepalese. They recognized that lactating women, pregnant women, and elderly women were most at risk. They also recognized that third-party support can be viewed as a burden by the women in Nepal, a favor that they must soon repay. Instead of giving food and water, WOREC took a novel approach to provide “dignity kits”.
What are dignity kits?
When asked what the worse part is about the earthquake, with no hesitation women said not being able to bathe. Those of us who are fortunate to not be living in a disaster area take simple things like bathing, brushing our teeth, and for the women, having access to menstrual products for granted. For the Nepalese women, not being clean was a hit to their dignity. With this knowledge, WOREC made dignity kits full of soaps, sanitary napkins, underwear, bras, etc.
WOREC also works to provide psychosocial counseling for all women. Though it often goes unnoticed, data suggests that sexual violence and exploitation increases during disasters. To combat this reality, WOREC set up “female friendly spaces” where the women can go to receive one-stop help.
It is normal in most governments that women groups are least funded. During times of crisis, the numbers don't seem to change despite the increased need for help. People must realize that even in crisis, women are still menstruating, still pregnant, still nursing. In crisis, the most affected and disadvantaged are women. More needs to be done to reflect this reality.