Economic empowerment through masonry training
By Ashma Shrestha Basnet
16 July 2010, Haripur, Saptari - Under the scorching heat of July, Palas Devi B.K is busy mixing concrete, cement and sand in a school compund at Haripur village in Nepal's Saptari district. She is working tirelessly along with two friends to construct the concrete rings that will be used to build toilets in her village. As part of the UNICEF's Water and Sanitation programme, the Suryamukhi Community Organization (CO), of which Palas Devi is a member, recently received seven-day masonry training in the area. Palas along with two other members expressed their interest. "I wanted to join the mason training thinking that it might enhance my skills and also help in income generation," she said.
The CO discussed and anonymously agreed on their participation as they were from among the most disadvantaged families in their community, both economically and socially.
UNICEF targeting the most disadvantaged communities
As part of its Decentralized Action for Children and Women (DACAW) programe, UNICEF works with COs, especially in disadvantaged communities to help people uplift their social and economic status.
To identify the disadvantaged communities, the Government of Nepal, with support from UNICEF has completed a series of disadvantaged household mapping (DAG mapping), based on social and economic criteria. This has helped in identifying the most disadvantaged people and enabled DACAW to target strategic interventions where they are most needed.
As per the DAG mapping, Haripur Village is classified as 'Category 4' which means it is in the most disadvantged group compared to the other cillages in the district.
Economic empowerment through training
Palas Devi is a sole bread-winner in her family of four people. She not only shoulders the responsibility of her two sons but also an ailing husband.
Since they do not have land of their own, she worked as a daily wage labourer and made NRs. 70 to 100 (about US$ 1) each day. "The amount was so meagre that it was not enough to buy food for my family, let alone medication and other necessities," said Palas. "Moreover, I have had to borrow loans from family members and neighbours for my hudband's medication."
Since the training, Palas Devi has begun constructing concrete rings and toilets and has more than doubled her daily wage to NRs. 220 - still meagre but significantly different. With the increased income, she wants to give a better life to her sons with good food and better education.
Her husband, Naseeb Lal B.K, is a proud man today. He has been bed-ridden for the past ten years with tuberculosis and encephalitis. "I feel proud that she is not only taking care of my children but also me while I am confined to bed," he said. "I have full faith in her that she can do this kind of job well, which was traiditionally confined only to men."
Now with 888 toilets to be constructed in her community alone, she is bound to get more work helping her to giver that better life to her children.