Mehelkuna, Surkhet

Case study

Asha Khatri

Teenaged mother of two struggles to earn and care with little help
I lock my son in a room [laughs] and I cook food in the kitchen, bring water and do the other chores.

Asha Khatri is 19 years old, and lives in Surkhet District, Nepal. She studied up to the eighth grade and was married off at a very young age. Her husband (32 years old) works as a migrant labourer in India and travels back and forth depending on the availability of jobs. Asha has a four-year-old son who attends a pre-primary class, and she gave birth to another baby boy five months ago. Her in-laws live close by and help with childcare and other household chores. Asha has a small farm next door on which she grows vegetables, maize and paddy, which is enough to cover basic living costs. In addition, her husband sends money from abroad. She works 4–6 hours per day, depending on the season. In the past she raised pigs for sale but does not do so anymore as it did not turn out to be profitable. Her family has now bought an ox which she is raising to eventually sell.

 

Asha does all the housework in her home: ‘I lock my son in a room [laughs] and I cook food in the kitchen, bring water and do the other chores.’ Her in-laws, especially her father-in-law, are a big help as she leaves her children with them when she works on the farm or has to go far from the house. Although water is available nearby, it is not regular and sometimes she has to spend more time collecting it from the river. She also finds fetching firewood and cutting grass for fodder cumbersome and difficult, especially with young children around: ‘It is difficult to do my work like fetching firewood with my children around… I have to leave them with my in-laws before I go to the forest or to the mill.’ She frequently has to wash her children’s clothes which takes up a lot of her time, and she has to do all the shopping for rations on her own. She rarely receives support from the community with childcare or domestic work.

 

Asha’s husband helps with childcare and some other work when he is around, such as fetching water or firewood. Both her husband and her mother-in-law took care of her older child and the household work during the last trimester of her recent pregnancy, and continued to do so up until 40 days after the birth. She wishes that her husband would stay and help her with some work: ‘just bringing water and firewood is a huge support.’ Interestingly, having been married at a very young age, Asha does not believe that young children, especially daughters (younger than ten years old) should be allowed to do care and unpaid care work in the house. At times, she feels overwhelmed by the amount of care work she has and feels that she has no choice: ‘It doesn’t matter even if I feel so, I have to do it.’

 

Asha wants to do more paid work but is hindered by various factors, such as having young children at home, her husband being away for long periods for work, and the lack of economic opportunities around Surkhet. She has been saving with ‘Boudha’, a private savings group for dalits in rural Nepal, and uses the remittance sent by her husband to pay for the loans that she took out for buying pigs. There is very little money and this concerns her. She would like some training that would enable her to earn some money from home.

About Asha Khatri

15-19
Household (Nuclear)
Female headed
2 children
Contains male(s)
No care responsibilties for disabled people
Contains migrant(s)
No care responsibilties for older people
Self-employed
Lacking control
Issues: 
Family/community support
Paid care
Public services
Outcome: 
Coping
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Activities shown are a single day snapshot in the life of the woman.