Today is a special day: After months of preparation, a long way and the first contact to the society of Dhungentar village, we finally start with conducting interviews. And lucky as we seem to be, we start with the perfect opportunity: The ‘mother’s committee meeting’!
Initiated only one month ago, the women in the village gather regularly for a committee meeting to discuss decision making, new information and build up a cohesive community. It is lead by an elected chair(wo)man and a vice-chair(wo)man but everyone has an equal right of speaking while decisions are made as a consent. ICIMOD encouraged the women to form this meeting as a way of communicating and spreading knowledge and skills. A way to improve livelihoods, enable community-based micro-loans and provide training in traditional handicrafts such as soap-making or jewellery forging. Sadly, a number of men in the village fell into a state of catatonia after the devastation of the earthquake, spending the majority of financial aid or income in gambling and drinking. To cope with this problem, empowering the women in decision-making and broadening their knowledge helps both uplifting the general conditions in the society as reaching out to the lost souls on a household level.
There is no better way to spend the international women’s day than this!
Here we are: Sitting in groups of three on a rooftop of a half-reconstructed house talking to almost 40 beautiful women from three different generations in their traditional red dresses. The sun is burning from a clear blue sky and there is no place to escape from it. But maybe there does not have to be one. Everyone feels it is worth it since we can learn so much from each other. And even though you have to wipe away the sweat from your forehead and the number of reaches to the water bottle increases, there are smiling faces and beauty wherever you look. It feels like hundreds of personal stories and fates patter on us in immense speed and a pleasant cacophony of voices that makes it almost impossible to manifest them on paper. I don’t even want to think about how Amrita, Sumit and Yug feel since they have to translate to us language cripples.
Children and toddlers jump and run around, mothers come and go and the time flies by while we get to know each and every one, telling them about our aims and listening to their life stories. Joy and laughter alternate with sorrow and frustration. Success and failure dance and weigh in unison. But there is unbroken strength and profound beauty radiating from each and every being sitting on the dusty concrete roof. And there is infinite positive energy, hope and trust in a better future that left a deep impression in our whole team when we finally descend into the shadow of a god tree in the afternoon.
The rest of the day, we keep roaming around the village visiting households for more intense personal interviews to gain more precise insights after this overwhelming cascade of impressions.
With the fading light, we gather for dinner and everything we are able to do afterwards, is having a small team meeting to check on everyone’s wellbeing, learnings and plans for the next day. Then, it’s time to crawl into the sleeping bag, roll around to find a comfortable position on the hard concrete floor and close our eyes before the first cockcrow at 5AM – when Dhungentar is getting to life again.