With men away in India for work, women fill void in constructionUntil a few years ago, contractors would not hire women in construction projects, but that has changed now since most villages are almost devoid of men.
Laxmi Rawat Rokaya is currently working on a road construction project initiated by a non-governmental organisation.
Her husband left for India for work last November. Since then, Laxmi has been working on infrastructure development projects in the village. Earlier it would mostly be men who would undertake such jobs but since most men in the villages are away in foreign employment, women have taken the lead in most infrastructure development projects in the villages.
Laxmi, 29, from Ghodesim of Tila Rural Municipality in Jumla district, says most men from around 50 total households in her settlement have gone to India for work.
The women from Ghodesim were involved in building roads and sewers in the settlement, says Laxmi. “Most of our men are in India for employment so we do the jobs they would normally do,” she said. “We are a farming community with low income so whenever we get the opportunity to work, we take it up. The absence of men has given us the opportunity to make some income.”
Earlier, women had to depend on men to send money home to run the households, but after they started working in infrastructure development projects in the villages they no longer have to wait for remittances to make ends meet.
“Now we ourselves are able to pay for the education of our children and even manage health expenses,” she added.
Gaukali Rokaya, a 40-year-old woman from Ghodesim whose husband has also gone to India for employment, has been working at construction sites.
Although it is hard physical labour, making her own income has liberated her, she says. “Almost all women here are illiterate so there are very few options for us to earn money. The infrastructure construction projects have come as a boon because both the village and women are benefitting from them,” she said. “Recently, during the construction of irrigation channels in the settlement, most of the workers were women. The work is hard but I feel good to be able to support my family financially.”
Madhya village, in ward 2 of Dullu Municipality of Dailekh district, has a population of 600 with more than half of them being women. Most men from this village too go to India for employment.
Pharam Singh Thapa, ward chairman of Dullu-2, said that around 180 men of the village work in different cities in India for months every year, leaving the village with mostly women and senior citizens.
The total population of Dullu-2, which has five villages, is 2,942, and among them are 1,483 women and 1,459 men. Around 900 men from this ward are currently in India for employment. They usually go to India in November, return in March, and again go back to India in April, according to Thapa.
Kamala Khadka, a 33-year-old woman from Pusakot village, in ward 6 of Dullu, has a family of six. Her husband, who was injured during the Maoist insurgency, is disabled. It is Kamala who provides for the family with her income from road construction work in her village. “Until a few years ago, contractors would not hire women in construction projects, but that has changed now since the villages are devoid of men,” she said. “This has given women like us the opportunity to earn money and provide for our families.”
According to Khadka, she gets paid Rs750 per day for construction work. “The pay is equal to men unlike earlier when women would be paid Rs300 and men Rs500. It feels great to be a part of development work since it is for the betterment of the whole settlement.”