How we empower women impacted by migration in Nepal

Norlha has launched a new project in Nepal to support women whose husbands leave home to work abroad.  Mahila: Helping Women deal with Men’s Migration is a response to this increasingly widespread phenomenon that splits families and places a heavy burden on the women left behind. The project is set in Gatlang, north of Kathmandu.  It will teach women the best way to use the money sent to them to improve their financial security and quality of life.

Tshering Sangmo Tamang is thirty-three and has two children aged four and fourteen. All three live in a small village in the district of Rasuwa. Like many women in rural Nepal, Tshering has only had two years of schooling. Her husband, Amar Tamang, has been working in Malaysia for the past four years and earns around CHF 200 a month. They have joined Norlha’s new Mahila project, which will teach them how to manage the money they receive.

The village of Gatlang is 150 miles north of Kathmandu, in one of the poorest districts of Nepal. The majority of its inhabitants live from subsistence farming, and 60% of families earn less than the poverty threshold. A study led by Norlha found that migration is a major phenomenon; in almost one in five households, at least one family member is absent more than six months a year.

The Nepali Exodus

More than 1,300 Nepali leave their country every day in search of a job abroad to make enough money to meet their family’s needs.  The vast majority are men and their destination is usually Malaysia or the Gulf States. For the Nepalis, migration has become a mechanism for dealing with poverty.

Mass migration leaves women in rural regions particularly vulnerable. They have to cope with all the household, family and agricultural chores, sometimes working up to 16 hours a day. Girls and women are also the victims of gender-based discrimination, restricting their access to education, health services and information. The 2011 Nepal Census shows that more than half of the women in Rasuwa were illiterate and that almost three quarters of them married before the age of 20.

Also, households where a family member works abroad may become dependent on the remittances they receive. The lack of education amongst women combined with a lack of control over these resources, means they do not know how to exploit them for long term gain such as buying equipment to assist them in farming and other activities. As in most families, Tshering Sangmo Tamang uses the remittances from her husband Amar only in order to meet the basic daily needs of her household. She is unable to generate any additional income and thus finds herself dependent on her husband’s remittances.

Building new opportunities

pic1-tshering-sangmo-tamang-gatlangIn early November 2016, Norlha set up a three year project for women and girls from 260 Gatlang households faced with the migration issue. Norlha hopes this project will break the vicious cycle of dependency and improve the lives of women and girls, socially and financially.

Under the scheme, Norlha provides new equipment to reduce the numbers of hours women work and combat the problem of monotonous and draining physical work. This could be gas cookers, water drums, millet threshers, etc. By working fewer hours, women have time to participate in training courses. These courses raise awareness among men and women over issues of gender equality and tackle discrimination. Norlha encourages those taking part in the projects to form support groups, which then further strengthens social ties and reinforces the sense of community.

Crucially too, women are given the opportunity to improve their financial and business knowledge. They learn about budgeting, saving and micro finance, gaining enough confidence to manage the remittances they receive. Norlha teaches them to invest in their farming and other economic activities.  In this way families can be reunited, freed from their reliance on remittances and capable of making a decent living in their own village.

The new Mahila project, will allow us to work with women to improve their skills to the benefit of the entire community. Today, Tshering Sangmo Tamang is making plans for the future. She intends to use some of the remittance money from her husband, Amar, to invest in her small farm business of beans and potatoes. She also hopes one day to open a craft shop in the village. With your support Norlha may help her achieve her dream.

For more information about this project, please contact us at partnerships@norlha.org.

Our funding partners

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