This research report is the result of a blending of empathy, social
sensitivity, and scholarly curiosity, on Bhaktapur after the 25 April
2015 earthquake in Nepal. The research speaks of multiple experiences.
Some of these are explicit, while others are not, but they can still be felt
under one’s skin. They traverse a huge range from the individual to the
family, from youth to the elderly, from men to women or the third sex,
and from psychological to the spiritual.
Exploring the consequences of this event is beyond the scope of a single
study. However, it is mostly believed that in the “Age of Reason,”
if we dig deeply enough, a rational explanation can appear. Maybe
inspired by such a notion, a joint team of Tewa and Nagarik Aawaz, led
by their Founder, Rita Thapa, and assisted by the local youth volunteers
of Bhaktapur, showed scholarly courage to dig out some of the multifaceted
consequences of a disaster impacting everyone in general, but
women in particular. They focused this study in Bhaktapur, a place
where culture and arts have been embedded deep into one’s psyche since
times immemorial. This report is the outcome of an intense yearlong
involvement of this team, to whom I offer my salute and sincere
This study utilizes an applied research technique and seeks to solve
practical problems. People in general and women specifically living
in post-disaster situations have been struggling on multiple fronts.
Searching for positive and dependable solutions is the need of the time.
Applied research focuses on taking the results of scientific research and
applying it directly to real world situations; applied researchers often
concern themselves with the external validity of their studies. This study’s
researchers implemented a mixed method, consisting of conventionally
known “quantitative and qualitative” approaches, to arrive at a logical
inference, which is further supported with a triangulation of information
The study began with a talk programme on “The Historical City: A
World Heritage Site” presented by historical/cultural expert Professor
Dr. Purushottam Lochan Shrestha. His paper compels one to think
about a way forward for the necessary rebuilding and recovery, helping
to better institutionalize the culture and history of Bhaktapur, which
are inextricably interwoven with the daily lives of the local people.
Strengthening the quality of the local people’s lives of Bhaktapur also
reinforces the strengthening of its culture.
One of the central features of an applied research is to assess the application
of theory with the practical situation. Taking this into consideration,
this study took into account three major theoretical perspectives:
disaster and trauma, cultural impacts of disasters, and disasters’ gendered
implications. With a goal to collect qualitative information emanated
from the deep-seated feelings and opinions of participants, the researchers
facilitated a total of four focus group discussions (FGD), two each of
women and men. This initiative illuminated the various dimensions of
a post-disaster situation. The female FGD participants expressed that
the biggest effects of the earthquake have been the forced separation of a
joint family into nuclear families; changes in their roles and life patterns
in terms of their daily activities; deprivation of cultural activities such
as celebrations of festivals and social gatherings; psychological distress;
and the compunction to live a lower quality of life. The male FGD
stated that their daily chores have changed as they are compelled to
work in the kitchen and care for the babies because women have had to spend much more time fetching drinking water. They asserted that
these events have changed their behavior, such as daily and increased
intake of alcohol with the illusion that this may help reduce their levels
of stress. The researchers also found that male FGD participants,
as can be expected with their roles as primary “breadwinners,” were
overwhelmingly concerned with financial and economic matters or lack
The research team also conducted a survey of 498 respondents, selected
based on purposeful and accidental sampling, of whom 63% were
women and 37% were men. Researchers found the responses from this
survey to be in line with the results of FGDs. The respondents expressed
that this disaster compelled them to break many cultural norms. At
the same time, some deviant behaviors such as domestic violence also
became evident. They also felt that on the positive side, the conditions
allowed for an increase in social harmony, solidarity, and togetherness.
They all faced severe economic crisis immediately after the earthquake
due to the destructions of their existing business spaces, as well as a
slackness of the market, which was further aggravated by the informal
India blockade. Respondents came to realize that cultural festivals,
which previously served as a major source of their joy, happiness, and
social cohesiveness, had now turned to moments of sadness, dismay,
and annoyance. The researchers also found that people talked of
switching from old styled homes, which were culturally and historically
incomparable, to rebuilding new modern houses. From this, one can
easily assume that the traditional features of glorious Bhaktapur is on a
decline unless urgent attention and care are taken.
This study clearly brings out the qualitative and quantitative impacts
on the lives of women and men of Bhaktapur, particularly through
the inevitable loss of culture and traditions in post-earthquake world
heritage city Bhaktapur. I sincerely hope that this study will be a guiding
lamppost for designing reconstruction policies, plans, and programmes
that consider the religious, cultural, and historical aspects of the city
of Bhaktapur, and the roles individual women and men can play in
positively and equitably enhancing social transformations.

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