Natural calamities have time and again reaffirmed that all human beings are equal before nature. More than 8800 people died and 23000 were left injured in the great earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25 and the aftershocks that followed. Despite being warned repeatedly about the risk of earthquake, the nation was unarmed and unprepared for such devastation. As a result, thousands of people lost their lives and properties worth millions have been destroyed. Against this backdrop, Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC), in coordination with National Alliance of Women Rights Defenders (NAWHRD), has initiated Sneha (Compassion) Campaign and has been supporting the survivors of earthquake in 12 districts–Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavre, Nuwakot, Dhading, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk, Dolakha, Gorkha, Okhaldhunga and Ramechhap, which have been heavily affected by earthquake.
Women, children and elderly people are more vulnerable in a situation like this. In addressing the needs, WOREC has been providing support to women, especially pregnant women, lactating mothers, adolescent girls and elderly women. WOREC and NAWHRD have jointly formulated gender-sensitive guidelines, which have been circulated in all the government and non-government organizations, so that proper rescue operations can be carried out. In the initial phase of Sneha Campaign, there was food, tent, tarpaulin and basichygiene items provided to survivors in the form of immediate relief. In due course, Safe Spaces were set up in different districts of Nepal.
WOREC had established Safe Spaces in different camps and as referrals within District hospital of Sunsari during the Koshi flood in Eastern Terai in 2007. Similarly Safe Spaces were established during the flood in Far Western Nepal. WOREC provided services to cater to the specific needs of women and girls and most affected group in Kailai and Kanchanpur. WOREC has gained first hand experiences dealing with the cases of and providing the services considering the specific need of pregnant and lactating women and adolescents girls and children of small age.
In response to the current disastrous situation, incorporating the learning’s from safe spaces run in the past, WOREC has already established several safe spaces in all 12 districts. Additionally, it has taken care of the special needs of time and geographical context while establishing safe spaces.
What is a Safe Space?
A safe space is a provision area within the camp where women, who have been displaced, live in and get support. Safe spaces are created in the areas where camps are established to address the specific needs of pregnant and lactating women and girls considering their biological need and women in general to maintain their privacy, safety and security. These spaces are designated specifically to provide specific services, such as, pregnant women to take rest and get the needful support and food; lactating women to rest, breastfeed and take special care and food; and women in general to come and share, take rest and get support for special need such as Sanitary pads, undergarments, wet wipes and other required materials. Moreover, these are the spaces where women can get individual and group counseling by community based counselors and information regarding safety and security precautions. In these spaces women can come and talk, share their feelings, release their pain and support each other.
Similarly, Sneha Samagri (dignity kit) is being provided to pregnant women, lactating mothers and adolescent girls. The kits for lactating mothers and pregnant women consist of gown, undergarments, sanitary pads, shawl, mask, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, body lotion, cosmetics (tika, hair oil, comb, mirror, rubber band), towel, torch light and whistle. The kits for newborns consist of clothes, soap, powder, baby food (sarvottam lito) and baby oil. Similarly, the kits for adolescent girls consist of sanitary pad, mask, toothpaste, toothbrush, whistle, shampoo, towel, comb, mirror, rubber band, soap and undergarments. Elderly women in need have also been provided with clothes.
The WOREC team has also provided instructions to women and adolescent girls on using sanitary napkins, on maintaining hygiene during menstruations, and lactating mothers on the importance of breastfeeding and the right way to do so. WOREC has also started conducting women’s health camps and orientations to women and adolescent girls on gender based violence and anti-trafficking, among others.