Women’s Empowerment at the Frontline of Adaptation

4. In areas of the Terai where water is scarce, Dalit women have to rely on the favour of upper caste/class houses for drinking water and face humiliation and verbal abuse while collecting water to meet their household needs. Dalit households and women in the Terai often do not have access to tube wells, which are generally shared between four or five households. Furthermore, for the last few years, the water taps supplied by the government are often dry for more than half the year. In many cases, Dalit households are forced to seek water from richer families.

We cannot steal water from the village tube wells of the rich people and when we go to ask for some drinking water they scold us and say, “Now you have even started begging for water – you have no shame!” A Mushar (Terai-Dalit) woman from Baijnath VDC, Morang district

5. Water scarcity impacts on the sanitation and hygiene of households. Less access to water leads to a deterioration in sanitation and hygiene conditions for households. Women have less time and water with which to clean and wash, which often results in health related problems. The practice of ‘untouchability’ means that Dalit women face more acute problems in accessing water than other women (also see Asian Development Bank 2000 for more details).

During the FGD with community forest group members in Bhanka Tol in Khandbari, where agriculture is totally rain dependent, the farmers pointed out that decreasing number of rain days over the years and the shift in the time of rainfall has caused major challenges. A male farmer complained:

“When we need the rainfall (June) it does not rain, and when we don’t need water (March to May and September) it rains more. This change has been happening in the last 10 years, but in the last 5 years it has become worse.”

The district level consultations in Sankhuwasabha, Morang and Dhanusha districts and the FGDs in these districts found increased incidences of uterus prolapse, which is more prevalent among poor and Dalit women, as they take a very short break of one week after delivery before returning to work. A study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Nepal’s Institute of Medicine (cited in Subedi 2010) estimated that 600,000 women are suffering from prolapsed uterus in Nepal. Other studies in Nepal have shown that 30–40% of women are reported to suffer from this problem just after the birth of their first child (also see Women’s Reproductive Right’s Programme/ Centre for Agro-Ecology and Development CAED, www.wrrpnepal.org). There is also a strong relationship between the incidence of uterus prolapse and a

The impact of decreasing and erratic rainfall has been seen mostly on rice, millet, and maize during the summer months and vegetables (such as potatoes and peas) and wheat during winter. The villagers have almost stopped growing broad leaf mustard and wheat. The land where they used to grow wheat is now lying fallow. The farmers also pointed out that the rice production in the village has decreased by more than 50%. While earlier a farmer could produce up to 30 muri of rice (1 muri is around 80 kg) in a season, they now harvest only 13 muri, which is less than half. This has increased the number of poor and Dalit women seeking daily wage labour in nearby villages.

household’s economic conditions: women from families with land and adequate food for the whole year are less affected. With the increase in workload as a result of water scarcity and challenges to agriculture, cases of uterus prolapse may rise in the future.

6. Increases in the magnitude and frequency of natural disasters have caused problems in agriculture, substantially increasing women’s workload and food insecurity. The magnitude and frequency of natural disasters has increased in Nepal in recent years (see Table 3) leading to soil erosion and the dwindling of arable land in the hills due to flash floods and landslides. Moreover, hailstorms and prolonged periods of droughts have caused problems in agriculture (Government of Nepal 2010b). Despite the availability of data on natural disasters, there is very limited understanding of the impact of disasters on women.


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