Bathing Space: A Bounty to Langbu Women

Maina BK (right) and Dawa Wangbu Thing Tamang (Left) construct the wall of Public Bathing Cubicles at Naukunda Rural Municipality ward no. 1 Langbu in Rasuwa district.

Rasuwa, 1 February 2018 – Maina BK was carrying stone on her shoulder with an enthusiasm. She was smiling although the job was difficult and unconventional to the women of the community.

The 55-year-old single woman from a Dalit community is a trained mason from Naukunda Rural Municipality ward no. 1 Langbu (formerly Yarsa). She was carrying the stone and constructing the walls of a Public Bathing Cubicle in the village.

She was eagerly working to build the common bathing facility which the villagers had neither seen nor thought of previously. The most important factor behind her happiness was the impatient wait to bathe in private.

She said that the adolescent girls and women can take a bath in the cubicle with comfort and safety. According to her, girls and women have a great difficulty in bathing as they lack private bathroom in their houses. Consequently, they are not only forced to bathe in the open, but also wait for their turn.

“Since it is a public water source, we (girls and women) feel uncomfortable to bathe while boys and men are around. We often have to wait for a long time, wasting precious time and feeling awkward,” said Maina.

She says that after the completion of the bathing space (estimated to be finished by February end) women will be at ease and save their time as they would no longer have to wait for their turn and wait for the absence of boys and men.

Her face radiated with happiness and optimism while talking about the upcoming opportunity.

Bhabishya Neupane, Project Manager of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Nepal, says that LWF Nepal is constructing the bathing and washing spaces as part of their response to the 2015 Nepal Earthquake based on Build Back Better (BBB) approach.

“We are very sensitive to BBB. Hence, we have introduced this facility, which never existed before, to the community focusing on girls and women. We strongly believe that we have made efforts to build back the community better,” he said.

The construction of two-room bathing space along with three washing spaces allows girls and women to bathe and wash clothes round the year. Now the water source dries up for nearly two months during the peak of summer.

According to Mr Neupane, there will be uninterrupted water supply during the lean season from another water source that has been harnessed for drinking water and a 1000-liter capacity water tank will be placed on the roof of the cubicles.

Dawa Wangbu Thing Tamang, 32, of the same village who is also working as a mason to build the facility, echoing Maina said that they have been facing problems in the absence of the private bathing space. “We often have to wash our hair only. We have been deprived of keeping our body clean as we cannot bathe in the presence of boys and men,” Ms Tamang said.

Both BK and Tamang were in high spirits. First, they were getting an unthought-of facility at their doorstep. Second, there will be three washing spaces so that more people can wash clothes simultaneously. Third, they have been earning Rs 850 a day as a mason. Earning such an amount staying at their home was beyond their expectation. Fourth, they have received 7 days’ mason training which has boosted their confidence as a semi-skilled worker. They will work for 50 days and will earn over Rs 20,000 from the construction. Mr Neupane says that their names would be written on the walls of the cubicles. This has further inspired them and made them feel proud of their skill.

Dr Prabin Manandhar, Country Director of LWF Nepal, says, “We have been introducing innovative approach to bring positive and lasting change in the lives of the people we support.   This is just one of such innovations we have implemented at the communities.”

Mason training to women from poor and vulnerable communities has not only boosted their confidence, but also enhanced their self-esteem and acquired social recognition. Tamang says that now she feels on a par with her husband as she has been doing the job of men.

Mr Nema Nurbu Thing Tamang, 38, is also happy to have his wife trained in masonry. He also acknowledges that from now onwards he would take his wife along with him for work away from their village.

Mr Tamang says that the training has enhanced the capacity of his wife. As a result, she will work with him and that will further galvanize their conjugal relation.

Maina and Dawa thanked LWF Nepal, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the supporting partner and Batas Foundation, the local implementing partner of LWF Nepal, for constructing the bathing space which will ensure privacy, ease and protection from the inclemency of weather.

“We thank the organizations for supporting us to build our capacity, involving us in the work, providing bathing and washing spaces and enhancing our social status,” they chimed.

Story and photo by Ram Sharan Sedhai, LWF Nepal