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Nepal earthquake survivor: 'More than anything now, the women need safety'

One month on, a survivor of the Nepalese earthquake talks about the conditions in the camps and the dangers faced by displaced women and girls.

Gyaneshwori Thapa

Gyaneshwori Thapa is 65 years old. She is a mother with four daughters and one son from the Sundhara Neighborhood of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. She was on the sixth floor of the building she lives in when the initial earthquake struck on 25 April. Gyaneshwori spoke to ActionAid about the earthquake and what she believes the relief effort should focus on.

“I WAS ON the 6th floor. When the earthquake struck the building we were in was swinging – back and forth. I was so scared. All I could think of was my family and how I could protect them.

As soon as I could, I grabbed the two men with me. They were older men and needed my help to get down the stairs. I almost carried them. I held onto their arms and helped them down the stairs to the ground after the first earthquake hit that day. One of the men was my father, who is 80, and the other was my husband, who is 70.

As we ran down, the top of the tower in front of our building was vibrating. Once we got to the ground, another earthquake hit us immediately – about four minutes after the first.

It was dusty all around. We watched as the top of the tower in front of us fell before our eyes. The sound was chaotic. People were shouting, and we could hear the sound of buildings shaking and falling. We stayed still for a while. We were afraid and in shock.

After some time, we ran to the post office around the corner, where we stayed for some time. We weren’t wearing shoes or anything – we had nothing with us. Eventually, we went and slept in tents in the open space with everybody else.

Women are more at risk

Now I am mostly worried about the women who have been affected by this crisis. Women’s needs are more specific than men’s – and women are more at risk at this time than men. In the camps, the bathrooms are dirty. The men can go outside – as men do – but the women cannot. When we were staying the camp, the tent that we were in wasn’t waterproof, and it rained. It was a tent made for yoga. This puts people’s health at risk.

It is hard for women in the camps – the camps are lit at night, but only a bit. Their safety is at risk. And we have moved back to our home – we are fortunate – but there are other women still in the camps.

More than anything now, the women need safety. If there is anything others can support women with, it should be safety. But they also need education, and a house.

Now, we are living on the ground floor of our six storey building with all the other residents. My family and I – my husband, my father, my son and my daughter – we sleep in the shops. I am much happier. I don’t feel scared like before. We’ve even started going back upstairs to have showers! We don’t sleep there but we are not terrified of going up there for our needs anymore.

Now, when I think about the earthquake, I feel proud of myself. I feel like I was courageous for saving my family. I feel good that it was me that saved the lives of my father and husband.”

On 25th April 2015 a major 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal and killed over 8,500 people and left tens of thousands of people homeless. ActionAid Nepal responded immediately following the earthquake mobilising its large network of women’s and youth groups to deliver immediate relief and has built four refuge centres for women and two safe spaces for children in the Kathmandu valley, as part of its emergency response. You can find out more at www.actionaid.ie

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Gyaneshwori Thapa

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