Ramkala BK, 40, belongs to a remote village of Jumla district, Nepal. She lives with her five daughters, a son-in-law and a two year-old grandson. Her husband died a year back in an accident. Her eldest daughter is married whereas; the youngest daughter is three years old. The remaining three daughters go to school. The eldest daughter and her husband work as wage laborers.
Ramkala is a worker in Karnali Employment Program (KEP). She had attended 10 days of work following which; the workers were given a break for a month to do plantation work in the field. Her responsibilities in KEP mainly include carrying stones and soil. The work is intensive and physically challenging for Ramkala.
Sometimes my back hurts, sometimes my head aches, sometimes I used to cut my hand...when I come from work, my body is exhausted.
Because of the absence of childcare provisions at the workplace, Ramkala mostly leaves her daughter at home with her eldest daughter. On few occasions, she and her daughter went together to KEP site taking their respective children while working and taking care of them simultaneously.
We (daughter and I) go together and take our turn. When I worked, she looked after the children and when she worked, I did.
Besides KEP work, Ramkala also cultivates and sells vegetables on a small scale. She also used to crush stones and sell firewood but has discontinued lately after her daughter and son-in-law have started working.
While carrying heavy load, my back hurts, my legs hurt. I do not carry firewood much these days. My daughter does. There is not much difficulty in growing vegetables, we have to dig and keep watering the plants, just that.
Ramkala and her eldest daughter perform most of the care activities at home. While Ramkala is responsible for taking care of livestock, cleaning, fetching water and working on the farm, her eldest daughter cooks and goes to the forest to collect forest and firewood. The second daughter also occasionally helps in cooking and fetching water when her elder sister or mother is not home. The son-in-law Sriram occasionally helps in cooking and taking care of children when the women are not present. Like other men, Sriram helps in ploughing the field. The presence of son-in-law has filled the space of a male figure in Ramkala’s family.
What can be done...If my husband were here, we would have divided the work. He could at least plough the land. He would have earned money. I did not have to work so hard. It is a lot easier because of my daughter and son-in-law’s presence. If there is a male member, it becomes easier to manage work. He is both our son and son-in-law. Our life is sad like this.
Ramkala has been able to cover the expenses of children’s education and daily household expense through her income. But it is not adequate because of the low-wage and sporadic nature of work she is involved in.
What earning, if we had jobs, if we were educated then we could say we earn, people like us who do wage laborers, what earnings do we have? It is just to meet our food expenses and stationary items for the girls.
While her son-in-law and eldest daughter provide financial support to her however; the lack of regular employment also makes it difficult for them to consistently contribute to household income. However, their presence in the family has relieved her of care work burden and facilitated her mobility for paid work.
During the farming and paid work season, she is not able to take rest and has to switch between care work and paid work. The care work burden has also shifted to her elder daughter who carries out most of the household work, child care as well as paid work.
Ramkala wants employment opportunities near the village so that they did not have to travel so far to work. She also recommends child care facilities at work which would reduce her worry about child safety while working.
The work site is very far. I wish such work were nearby. It would be better if they gave us good tools themselves...I always get worried if the child will fall, if there were a place to keep the child, we could have worked without any worry.