Wrench in hand

In the epicentre of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, UNICEF-trained plumber Januka Karki is turning gender expectations on their head.

Preena Shrestha
Plumbing kit
UNICEF Nepal/2019/AKarki
07 March 2019

“We were already struggling to make a living before that, but after the earthquake, everything became even more complicated,” she says.

Just a few years ago, Januka could have never imagined she’d be doing this. But when the first of the 2015 earthquakes struck the country, with the epicentre in Gorkha, the life she knew was turned upside down.

Water supply was one of the most critical issues at the time, where villagers had to walk over an hour to reach the river downhill and carry up supplies for their daily needs.

A female plumber

As part of its WASH Recovery and Reconstruction programme supported by the Finnish Government, UNICEF – in partnership with the Centre for Oppressed Society Development and Research (COSDER) Gorkha – helped to rehabilitate the water supply scheme in the area. Every household in Arughat soon had a water tap, easing the burden of fetching water on a daily basis. “It came as such a relief to all of us. It gave us a feeling of hope,” Januka says. “We now have enough to drink, cook, clean and even to use in our farms.”

To add to that, Januka then learned that a training on plumbing was also being offered by UNICEF and COSDER in the area. Community members encouraged her to take it up. Although reluctant at first, she decided it couldn’t hurt for her to pick up a new skill, especially given that her husband was away working in Malaysia.

A female plumber

“People tell me this kind of work is rare for a woman, but I don’t think of it like that,” she says. “I learned something new, and I’m making use of that. That’s all it is.”

For five days, Januka and three others underwent intensive training in the basics of plumbing, learning enough to be able to address common problems. Since then, she’s had a lot of practice: whenever the neighbors have issues with their taps and water supply, Januka is on hand to sort things out.