Nepal Earthquake: A Personal Reflection

Post Written by: Reeti, a Women LEAD young woman leader. The following are excerpts from Reeti’s personal blog The Black Caterpillar. Reeti reflects on the current situation in Nepal and the aftermath of Saturday’s earthquake. 

Reflection, Day 1 (Sunday, April 26th): 

Acouple of years ago I’d written a short story and it began like this:

I was standing there, strayed in the street, unnoticed amidst the crowd. My eyes were searching for something and someone. I fell down. Probably someone had pushed me. I tried to stand but somebody pushed me again so I fell really hard on the street once more. Cursing the fellow who pushed me, I finally stood up. I stretched and looked as far as I could but my family was nowhere to be seen. I did not know what to do. My eyes were wet, my heart was beating loud, my legs shaking. I did not know whether it was from nervousness or due to the shaking of the earth. Yes, the ground was literally shaking. Our city was hit by an earthquake. Everyone was running here and there, pushing every individual like bowling balls hitting pins. I was standing on the street like a lifeless statue. All the houses were collapsing. The people were shouting and children were crying. The street was filled with chaos.

I never imagined this piece of fiction would turn into a reality. Yesterday, Nepal was hit by a 7.9 Richter scale of earthquake and the aftershocks have still not ceased though it’s been more than 18 hours. There have been more than 25 aftershocks and the country is in great chaos.

At noon on Saturday when the earth started shaking vigorously, I was at Patan Durbar Square, a place known for culture assets and listed as UNESCO world heritage site. I held a bench cemented in the ground and within seconds watched my country’s asset turn into dust. Everything started collapsing in front of my eyes. I  thought it was the last day of my life. The scene was horrible and terrifying. People started screaming and crying. Buildings started collapsing and there was chaos all across Kathmandu.

I was there to meet a friend but we could not meet and I returned back with my dad. The motorbike ride from Patan to Jawalakhel was the scariest ride where I watched the destruction in the city first hand.

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Photo Credit: Reeti

Many cultural sites have been damaged and 1,500 people have died with the death toll still rising as the ruins are being cleaned. The aftershocks have not stopped and there are chances of a larger earthquake occurring within 48 hours. My family and I are camping with many others outside for the night. We prayed for the rain not to pour down because everyone would be in distress.

The night was spent with sleeplessness, earthquakes and mosquito bites. And yes, gentle showers of rain for a couple of minutes. Ambulance sirens, anxious cries and the sudden angry roar of the earth are heard and felt frequently. Well for now, my friends and family are fine and though there has been destruction done to their physical infrastructures, no harm has been done to their health. So all we can do is stay put and pray for earthquakes to end.

Reflection, Day 2 (Monday, April 27th):

We have now had more than 80 aftershocks and it still has not ended. We are being told it will continue for 72 hours. As I am writing this, we have already experienced 2-3 more aftershocks measuring at 6.6 on the Richter scale. Now, after being hit many times, the gentle shakes do not even matter. We are camping outside in a field. The sun is extremely scorching and it is difficult for us. Yesterday night it rained heavily. We spent the night shivering and huddled together. We have had two sleepless nights and I do not know how many more are to come!

Reeti
Photo Credit: Reeti

I do not know what to say about this week. I am in utter shock. I have been hearing news about people dying, some known while others unknown.  I realize the worth of human life and understand anything can happen anytime.

Who would have thought this can happen to us?

I remember yesterday morning dancing to party songs and hula hooping, without any care in the world. Only a few hours later, I had left the house with such excitement of showing my friend around Patan Durbar Square. Who knew I would have to hold onto a bench and shake vigorously watching the entire thing turn into dust?

There have been many realizations about being prepared for natural calamity. I do not know about other realizations as my mind is really not working well and as there have been sleepless nights full of fear. Please pray for Nepal and if you want to help, there are links to my previous blog post. I will be updating soon when the internet is working well.

Women LEAD is committed to supporting our community in Kathmandu as they identify and respond in real time to their own communities’ most pressing needs. We ask for your support as we provide our staff and the 100 young women we’ve trained and mentored with the resources they need to effectively respond to this disaster. All funds donated to the “Nepal Earthquake Reconstruction Efforts” option under the list of programs will go directly to our leaders and the projects they choose to run to help their communities in this difficult time. We will need additional core funding as prices in Nepal rise and as we coordinate these efforts. If you wish to support our operations, select “Women LEAD” instead. 

Support Women LEAD Nepal’s Global Giving campaign

Blogging Empowers Young Women in Nepal!

“Being a blogger enables us to give momentum to a revolution that can change the perceptions of the society we live in.” -Akriti, Women LEAD Nepal

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Women LEAD Nepal young leaders discuss effective blogging ideas.

These are powerful words spoken by a young woman leader in Kathmandu, Nepal. Akriti, alongside other young women, has the opportunity to participate in Women LEAD Nepal’s year long leadership training program. As part of this program, they will be equipped with essential life and leadership skills to create change among peers, family, community and the world. Last week, I had the wonderful privilege of meeting with Women LEAD Nepal’s amazing young women leaders in Kathmandu. Women LEAD Nepal became Girls’ Globe’s first featured organization in 2011.

As I sat on the floor with thirteen amazing young women, I learned each of their hopes and dreams for the future. I, also, learned about their passion for writing and blogging. Over the course of several hours, I shared my own journey through starting my own blog and joining Girls’ Globe as a blogger. I, also, gave them six effective tips for starting their own blog or joining an existing blogging network. During the course of the workshop, they talked about the issues they are passionate about and how to effectively blog about those issues. Over the next few months, you will hear their stories through Girls’ Globe.

Blogging truly empowers young women to share their voices and stories.

Visiting Women LEAD Nepal was a powerful picture of what can happen in the lives of young women through leadership empowerment. I was able to ask them what they see as priorities for women and girls in the future and also why they believe blogging and social media are important avenues for empowering women and girls. I, also, sat down with Co-Founder of Women LEAD, Claire Naylor. She shared more about Women LEAD Nepal’s work as well as how our partnership has strengthened their voices as they empower young women in Nepal.

Listen to these amazing young women!

1. What can global leaders not ignore for women and girls?

2. Why is blogging and social media important in the movement to empower women and girls?

3. Girls’ Globe speaks with Claire Naylor, Co-Founder of Women LEAD

Half the Sky: A Life-Changing Read

It all started my sophomore year of high school, after I read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. A riveting call to arms against the injustices that women face, Half the Sky not only underscores the alarming dimensions of discrimination that women experience, but also highlights the urgent need for us to tackle these problems and turn the tides against gender inequality.

After reading Half the Sky, it became self-evident that education is not only a catalyst for positive social change, but also a crucial springboard for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The compelling stories of women whose voices had been silenced inspired me to advocate for women’s and girls’ education. I wanted to help women escape the myriad poverty traps in which they found themselves, desired to move them one step closer to being adequately equipped to contribute to the fabric of society, independent of any hurdles that worked against them.

Givology pioneers a new model of "crowdfunding" philanthropy to make the largest impact at the lowest cost. Since its launch in 2008, Givology has raised more than $300,000 to help over 2,800 students in 26 countries through 46 grassroots partnerships (Source: Givology)
Givology pioneers a new model of “crowdfunding” philanthropy to make the largest impact at the lowest cost. Since its launch in 2008, Givology has raised more than $300,000 to help over 2,800 students in 26 countries through 46 grassroots partnerships (Source: Givology)

The first step I took after I finished Half the Sky was to apply for a volunteer position at Givology, an online giving marketplace that leverages dollar donations to grassroots education projects in the developing world, making my first foray into the world of nonprofit management. Givology’s enlivening mission of giving every child access to a quality education and its phenomenal network of volunteers, giving teams, grassroots partners, and donors resonated with me deeply, ultimately motivating me to start a Givology chapter in Hong Kong in support of Givology’s women’s education-focused partners.

I have had the time of my life so far leading local advocacy campaigns and fundraising initiatives with Givology’s Hong Kong chapter, which is currently raising funds for family violence intervention training and vocal empowerment programs for women in Guatemala, for Starfish One by One. Through education and mentorship, Starfish One by One harnesses female momentum to accelerate change, achieving this in Guatemala, the Western Hemisphere’s worst context for women.

Through an innovative program and bar-setting mentorship, Starfish One by One, one of Givology's grassroots partners, is creating a generation of 500 empowered, rural indigenous women that will unlock the doors for thousands of others and break cycles of poverty (Source: Starfish One by One)
Through an innovative program and bar-setting mentorship, Starfish One by One, one of Givology’s grassroots partners, is creating a generation of 500 empowered, rural indigenous women that will unlock the doors for thousands of others and break cycles of poverty (Source: Starfish One by One)

In Guatemala, Mayan women and girls live on the fringes of society, trapped on the bottom rung of the Guatemalan social ladder. Only 5% of rural Mayan girls complete their elementary school education, 70% of women are illiterate, and an estimated 9 in 10 women have been a victim of domestic violence. These foreboding figures should propel us to act, to give in a sustainable way that transforms these girls’ families and communities into more healthy and equitable entities.

Equally close to my heart is my work with Women LEAD Nepal. An incredible nonprofit with the mission of empowering adolescent girls to become leaders, Women LEAD Nepal values the voices and opinions of young women, expediting women’s access to the same educational, professional and leadership opportunities as their male counterparts.

In societies that are patriarchal and male-dominated, women form an under-served population and for the most part find it difficult to stand their ground. Having kickstarted a Women LEAD chapter in Hong Kong as a junior in high school, I witness the manifold returns of investing in women’s education and leadership training, namely bolstered confidence, the ability to self-identify as a leader, amplified voices in acts of advocacy, and clearer work-life goals. We see Women LEAD’s students pursuing tertiary study and professional paths in avenues of their choice, see a rise in sustainable family units and further inter-generational transmission of literacy.

Women LEAD's Leadership Institute in 2013. 90% of Women LEAD’s graduates are attending university in Nepal, India, the USA and Bangladesh - an amazing feat! Women LEAD’s programs equip young women with leadership skills not just for the future, but starting today. (Source: Women LEAD Nepal)
Women LEAD’s Leadership Institute in 2013. 90% of Women LEAD’s graduates are attending university in Nepal, India, the USA and Bangladesh – an amazing feat! Women LEAD’s programs equip young women with leadership skills not just for the future, but starting today. (Source: Women LEAD Nepal)

One component of women’s empowerment that Women LEAD also stresses is solidarity. It’s not about individual success or personal development, but advancing together as an empowered, enlightened community of women. Women LEAD’s Leadership Institute provides hands-on leadership training that adequately equips girls for career success; it simultaneously redefines traditional masculine roles and foregrounds sisterhood, underlining the potency of women’s alliances. A crucial synergy of friendship and mentorship is at the crux of Women LEAD’s vision of effecting real and sustained change for women; it is this synthesis that can, with education, break cycles of poverty and set girls on the path to prosperity.

My acquaintance with these two remarkable organizations began only after I read Half the Sky, a true testament to the fact that a little help can transform the lives of women and girls around the world. I can only imagine how many millions of others were spurred into action after reading Kristof and WuDunn’s stories of resilience and courage. Such is the immense power of Half the Sky, which strikes chords within us and imbues us with the confidence that we can – as part of the movement to improve the lives of women and girls – make a difference.

External Resources:

The Half the Sky Movement is dedicated to ending the oppression of women worldwide. Through inspiring stories of extraordinary women, this movement hopes to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but also provide concrete ways to empower women.

Givology is a 100% volunteer-run social enterprise that connects donors and volunteers to grassroots education projects and student scholarships around the world. From school supplies to library construction to empowerment workshops, it emphasizes transparency and maximizing the impact per dollar given.

Women LEAD is the first and only leadership development organization for young women in Nepal. Having empowered more than 200 young women to become leaders in their schools and communities, Women LEAD’s programs women with intensive yearlong leadership training, skills building, mentoring, and a peer-support network.