This paper presents an in-depth analysis of women earthquake survivors during and after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal by looking at women's experience of evacuation, relief, and recovery. In particular, it examines how gender intersects with socio-economic factors such as citizenship, caste, ethnicity, income, debt, and location to shape women's disaster experience. It concerns a real-time ethnography: one of the authors is an earthquake survivor who documented women's earthquake stories while living in the camps near her neighbourhood. The paper presents findings that contribute to the literature on gender and disaster. First, it shows how women's knowledge and actions helped save and protect their families during and after the earthquake. Second, it discusses how women face discrimination when accessing relief due to unequal citizenship and other legal rights. Third, the paper shows how the debt brought about by disaster is gendered. Fourth, the paper argues how disaster shifts patriarchal gender norms, provides opportunities to take up new roles, and develops new confidence. As a result, some women could utilize the disaster aftermath to break through ‘cultural gender taboos’ that discriminated against them.
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We acknowledge our indebtedness to all the women earthquake survivors of Bungamati, Nepal, who contributed their valuable time to talk and share their lived experiences of the earthquake. Without their participation, this paper was not possible. We also would like to thank Dr. Gemma Van Der Haar and Prof. Jennifer Marchbank for providing their valuable insights on the earlier draft of this manuscript. We also thank anonymous reviewers for their excellent feedback, which helped improve this paper. Many thanks to Nuffic, The Dutch Organization for International Studies -grant number NFP-PhD-CF8771/2013 , the Netherlands, for funding this study in Nepal. Currently, Dr. Luna K.C. is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Research Network on Women Peace Security, McGill University, which enabled her to accomplish this paper. Also, appreciation to the Centre for India and South Asia Research (CISAR), the Institute of Asian Research, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada for hosting Dr. Luna K.C. as an honorary Research Associate and providing networking opportunities. Prof. Dorothea Hilhorst’s contribution to this paper was enabled by the research programme ‘When Conflict meets Disasters’, financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research , NWO project number 453-14-013 .
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