‘Reconstruction should also be about restructuring society’

Kathmandu, June 17

Australian Ambassador to Nepal Glenn White on Friday said post-earthquake reconstruction should not only be about nuts and bolts of building houses or engineering, but restructuring the society as well.

White made the remark by referring to contributions made by women in post-earthquake reconstruction activities, which, he said, should be ‘recognised’ and used as examples to generate awareness about gender equality at the national level.

“Women are already taking part in reconstruction works at the grassroots level. But there hasn’t been enough recognition of their works. These activities could be used as models ... to generate awareness at the national level,” White told a workshop on ‘Building Back Better and Safer

for Gender Equality’ organised jointly by the Australian Embassy in Nepal, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and Sancharika Samuha.

The concept of gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) was identified as one of the cross-cutting issues by the report on Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), prepared right after the quakes of last April and May.

The PDNA report said: “Post-disaster recovery will be more effective and sustainable if gender equality and social inclusion are acknowledged as one of the key guiding principles of implementation of works related to recovery and reconstruction.”

This point was highlighted considering ‘unique capacities’ of

women and marginalised groups to deal with problems and challenges.

Since then, the National Reconstruction and Recovery Policy, and Post Disaster Recovery Framework have also highlighted the issue of GESI in post-quake reconstruction and rehabilitation works.

Yet, in practice not much has been done.

For instance, only 18 per cent of the staff of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), the apex body formed to lead reconstruction activities, are women.

“But there is no woman representative in the steering committee and executive committee of the NRA,” said NRA

Executive Member Bishnu B Bhandari.

He, however, said a GESI unit would soon be established at the NRA to not only rope in women but also senior citizens, the poor, dalits, people of indigenous groups, people living with disabilities and HIV/AIDS, and sexual and gender minorities, like lesbian, gay, bisexual, tri-sexual and intersexed in reconstruction and recovery process.

Radhika Aryal, joint secretary at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, said women are different than men and this difference should be appreciated.

“So, a level-playing field must be created for women ... by ensuring their meaningful participation at central, regional and local levels, and securing critical percentage of decision-making posts for them at all levels,” Aryal said.