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Press Releases & Updates

25 JUL 2015

Women fear for safety three months on from Nepal earthquake, Oxfam says

Three months after the Nepal earthquake that killed 8,800 people and left 2.8 million people homeless or in need of assistance, women, in particular, are living in fear of abuse because of the lack of privacy and security afforded by temporary shelters, Oxfam said today. In view of this, we are putting special focus on ensuring women's needs are being heard and placed at the centre of our earthquake response, which has helped more than 360,000 people so far.

According to research Oxfam conducted in Dhading district, women and adolescent girls feel at risk of physical and sexual abuse in overcrowded temporary shelters where there is often no privacy or solid walls. Communal toilets and unlit areas were also cited as insecure places.

The situation is particularly worrying for single women – often widows and divorcees – who are commonly isolated within their communities. Such women receive little support and find it harder to access loans and compensation without the backing of a male guarantor. UN Women estimates that there are approximately 318,000 female-headed households in the 13 worst-affected districts of Nepal.

Cecilia Keizer, country director for Oxfam in Nepal, said: “Women are living in fear of physical abuse in temporary shelters. After living through two massive earthquakes, this situation is only compounding their trauma. Women’s safety and security concerns must be the top priority for the Government and aid organisations.”

Oxfam has been conducting focus groups in rural areas to address women's needs. So far, this has involved distributing gender-sensitive hygiene kits and building separate toilet blocks for women and girls. We have also been providing counselling, and advice on maintaining hygiene to prevent diseases through radio programmes.

Lily Thapa, Executive Director of Oxfam's partner Women for Human Rights (WHR), said: ‘With the technical and financial support from Oxfam, WHR is now constructing centres for women in eight villages of three districts to provide a common platform where women can share and learn about risks. Through the project, WHR is also providing psychosocial support and assistance to acquire legal documents such as Earthquake ID cards and citizenship certificates. We are also providing medical and other referral services and helping women to participate in cash-for-work schemes* as well as recovery and reconstruction programmes.’

Oxfam has put gender issues at the core of its work in all the three sectors (water and sanitation; food security and livelihoods; and shelter) of its earthquake response programme. Moreover, Oxfam and WHR are working with district authorities to build women’s leadership and meaningful involvement in the relief and recovery efforts through the Women Centres.

*Cash-for-work initiatives offer the people affected people an opportunity to earn an income as well as gain some dignity knowing they are helping to reconstruct their community.

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With a magnitude of 7.8, the Government of Nepal estimates that more than eight million people were affected. Since then, there was another 7.3 magnitude earthquake on 12 May and more than 350 aftershocks.

Oxfam has worked with 21 focus groups in two of the worst-affected districts: Dhading and Gorkha. The focus groups in Dhading included 308 women, and 280 in Gorkha.

Oxfam and its partners in Nepal have delivered essential aid to more than 360,000 people in seven of the worst-affected districts. It is aiming to reach 400,000 people by the end of August. This aid has included emergency shelters, hygiene kits, clean water, food and sanitation facilities.

Oxfam has worked in Nepal for over 30 years, empowering women to claim their rights, helping small-scale farmers cope with the effects of climate change, and supplying clean water to remote communities. In recent years, Oxfam has also been helping communities to prepare for earthquakes, epidemics, floods and landslides.

Women for Human Rights (WHR) is an NGO working for single women in Nepal.