By Marie Meenan
In “A Study into the Participation of Females in On-the-Job Training Delivered by Build Change and UNOPS”, Meenan examines the factors which promote and inhibit female participation in masonry construction in Nepal.
In response to the 2015 Ghorka earthquakes, Build Change and UNOPS implemented two programs to help rebuild safer homes: 1) the Vulnerable Family Assistance and Targeting (VFAST) program in Dolakha district, 2) and the Social-Technical Facilitation and Consultation (STFC) program in Nuwakot district.
Both programs take a homeowner driven approach to earthquake reconstruction, focusing on engaging the entire community and raising awareness of earthquake related risks. Both programs pay particular attention to the vulnerable members of the communities —women, children, people with disabilities and those who are socially marginalized. As part of these programs, UNOPS and Build Change provide On-the-Job Training (OJT) events to teach important construction techniques to skilled and unskilled masons and thereby empower families to gain future employment. While the number of female masons trained by governmental and non-governmental organisations post-earthquake has been relatively low (approximately 10%), there has been high female participation during these OJT events. The VFAST and STFC OJT events boast 64% and 35% female participation rates respectively.
Prior to the analysis Meenan describes the adverse effects of the Ghorka earthquakes and the impact on the female society. She hones in on the importance of women in the reconstruction efforts, the issues and challenges faced during the process and analyzes the gaps, strengths and opportunities for women’s engagement.
Using available data and interviewing participants from both programs, Meenan examines which factors encourage and discourage female training.
In the VFAST program, female participation varied within different castes/ethnicities, which is suggested to be attributed to different cultural practices and values. For example, the Janajati caste possessed the highest percentage of female participants at 73%, whilst the Brahmin/Chhetri caste had the lowest, recorded at 54%.
The main reason women participated was because of the opportunity to take part in paid work and learn useful skills relating to construction. It gave the women confidence and provided a potential source of independence. However, to maintain these benefits, further opportunities needed to be available within their home village so that they could run in parallel to their household responsibilities.
A key message of Meenan’s report is that teaching communities how to build their own affordable, earthquake resistant houses is critical—not only as a post-disaster measure to re-house people, but as a preventative measure for protection against the inevitable future earthquakes.
Meenan hopes her findings can be used in future reconstruction projects in Nepal and further afield.