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Forced seasonal migration causes gender role transformations

Upendra Neupane, JUMLA: Koirali, a remote village of Sinja in Jumla district, part of Karnali province, is literally devoid of male members at present, as a mass exodus of workers in search of jobs in Indian cities has already begun. Koirali is deprived of basic facilities and is economically disadvantaged.
Poverty and lack of adequate education facilities have deprived the Sinja people of job opportunities at home. Among the youths in the village, one is in the Nepal Army while the rest of them are unemployed. As a result, male members who are supposed to do the role of providers venture into neighbouring Indian cities for jobs, leaving female members to take up all responsibilities from private to public domains. A majority of men leaving the village for jobs head to Kalapahad.
With the beginning of winter, they flock to Kalapahad to earn a living. Koirali is the representative village in Sinja which sees a large exodus of male members every year for a seasonal migration to India. They toil hard in Kalapahad till the end of Nepali month Chaitra (March-April) and return home with some earnings in pocket.
The seasonal migration of male from the village has led to the transformations in the gendered roles to some extent as well. “Women are taking the sole responsibility of guarding the village so as to avert any untoward incidents from outsiders,” said a local woman Jaya Laxmi Budha. In the absence of male members, women have entered the so called masculine sphere like tilling the land and attending funeral procession.
As she said, women are patrolling at night so as to protect other villagers from any possible danger. “Women take turn in the process”, she added.
On the initiatives and growing activism of women against harmful practices such as chhaupadi (seclusion of women during the menstruation period), child marriage, alcoholism and smoking, the society has been already declared free from all these practices remaining as barriers to make headway towards a gender-just society.
Koirali in Sinja rural municipality-2 that lies in a distance of some 40 kosh (one kos is equivalent to about 3 km) from the district headquarters is home to 38 households. Harvest season has been already over and the village lacks even manual jobs opportunities during this season, driving away youths from the village in search of jobs. Though there lacks an official data on how many youths have so far left Sinja for Kalapahad for jobs this season, the number is estimated to be around 20,000.

Published Date: Monday, December 17th, 2018 | 10:01 PM

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