Gender and Social Action Research towards Cleaner Brick Production

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Roughly 300,000 men and women work in brick factories in Nepal. The poor working and living conditions of workers and animals (working equines) is a major concern. The Clean Brick Initiative at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is conducting research with a strong social component to explore, among other things, how improved working and living conditions in brick kilns can also result in productivity gains for brick entrepreneurs.

Action research with the Federation of Nepal Brick Industries to explore cleaner brick production

Leading up to the research, ICIMOD conducted a rapid gender needs assessment (RGNA) and political economy analysis in five districts across five provinces in consultation with the Federation of Nepal Brick Industries (FNBI). The assessment focused on social, gender, and equity issues in the sector and the findings reflect key areas prioritized by male and female workers, as well as entrepreneurs: health conditions of workers, education for workers’ children, and lighting in working or living areas. In response, ICIMOD’s action research aims to introduce three interventions in selected brick industries at different locations in Nepal. A workshop was organized to help finalize the action research interventions with strategic guidance from the social unit within the FNBI and enable networking between FNBI and potential action research implementation partners. ICIMOD brought together 40 brick entrepreneurs at its headquarters in Kathmandu on 25 July 2018 to deliberate on potential interventions, discuss action research approaches and scope, and identify key implementation issues. Eklabya Sharma, Deputy Director General at ICIMOD, outlined the interventions that the Clean Brick Initiative will implement during the first year to generate evidence on the impact of improved working and living conditions on productivity gains for brick entrepreneurs. He anticipated that evidence from the action research would enable ICIMOD and FNBI to address gender and social issues in the sector and potentially upscale across the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region.

President of FNBI, Mr Mahendra Bahadur Chitrakar, urged businesses to respond to changing work environments.

Participants included representatives from FNBI and presidents of district brick entrepreneurs associations in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kavre, Dhading, Rautahat, Koshi, Rupandehi, and Mahakali. FNBI representatives who will soon serve as social unit focal persons also attended. Possible action research implementation partners presented and discussed their respective products: Shikhar Insurance Co Ltd—health insurance package, Open Learning Exchange Nepal (OLE-Nepal)—education module, and ECOPRISE—solar lights and water pumps. Mahendra Bahdadur Chitrakar, President of FNBI, said that entrepreneurs must respond to changing work environments and that businesses can benefit from keeping employees safe and in good health. He also noted that further discussions on the ability of entrepreneurs to implement the interventions suggested by ICIMOD are necessary. Arabinda Mishra, Theme Leader of Livelihoods at ICIMOD, noted that further deliberations were necessary, particularly with regard to interventions relating to education and solar lighting. Workshop participants agreed that current conditions need to be improved.