One of the not-so-surprising things I found on my recent visit to Nepal last year is just how hard the women there work. I found that as true in cities like Kathmandu as it is in the hardscrabble rural areas.
Of course one would expect that women will have their share of chores on a family farm or homestead. But in every scene, whether cutting wood, bundling fire sticks, winnowing wheat or carrying heavy loads, woman often work in groups or side by side with men.
In tiny villages and in urban areas, much of the hard work is done by women, even extending to carrying impossibly heavy loads of stone.
Sociologically, party of this phenomenon is due to increased urbanization, where hard-pressed families come for jobs and a better education for their children. Since their are few jobs available, every couple must work to support their needs.
The lack of jobs fuels another serious problem. Young people emigrate by the thousands every year to Dubai, Qatar and other Gulf states to work as common laborers. There are daily accounts, and a United Nations report, documenting the abuses and predations these Nepalese non-Muslims face. With their employment agencies or employers holding their passports, they are, in effect, hostages of an economic system they no longer control.
This sociological phenomenon had major repercussions during Nepal’s tragic earthquake last year. More people were killed than would have been had there been more men in the rural areas. While those expatriate men watched helplessly on television screens, their women and children back home could not physically dig survivors out of their ruined homes in time.
As I leave for Sri Lanka to lead a photo tour next week, I am reminded of Nepal’s situation. They are still in dire need of development aid. Tourism has plummeted since the earthquake, not only due to fears of another tremor, but because so many of the iconic sites in the country were ruined by the disaster. I know there are many competing requests for our charitable funds, but if you are into international aid, please consider a donation to one of the many worthwhile aid organizations in Nepal.