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Koshi basin Initiative
This portal contains gender disaggregated data for the Koshi basin.
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles held by women and men in a specific society, including their responsibilities, behaviours, and attitudes towards each other. Even if the roles sometimes seem ‘natural’, they have been learned, they could be different from one society to another, and they could change over time.
Through the online platform, the gender portal allows users to unfold gender realities by accessing knowledge, exchanging experiences, and promoting networking among stakeholders. The gender portal consolidates available knowledge on inequalities between women and men in access to and control over resources and on emerging gender-related nuances related to water, food, and energy insecurities. The aim is to share this knowledge and to influence national and transboundary policies and catalyze action for gender transformative change. At the river basin level, the available data differ immensely in China, India, and Nepal.
This repository compiles sex-disaggregated data and links it with the Koshi Basin Information System (KBIS). The data compilation is a work in progress, and we expect to advance the existing set of gender indicators relevant to water, food, energy, climate change, and disaster risk management. Gender-wise disaggregated data and maps are valuable tools for improved understanding and use of gender knowledge not only for researchers but also for planning and implementation of development initiatives and future investments. Civil society groups and non-government organisations can use the gender portal to initiate practitioner-to-practitioner dialogue, peer-to-peer support, and networking for strengthening regional cooperation to ensure resilient livelihoods in the Koshi River basin.
The Koshi River flows through a rich tapestry of mountains, forests, farmlands and settlements as it winds its way through one of the most diverse landscapes in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), from the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in China, through Nepal, down to the floodplains of Bihar, India. Gender relations in the Koshi River basin are not only shaped by patriarchal systems, but also complicated by caste, ethnicity, class, and age, among other factors.
News and features
Koshi Basin Information System
View disaggregated and socio-economic data within the Koshi basin through our Koshi Basin Information System.
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Hinduism bestows great respect upon women. Shakti is ultimate power and Hindu scriptures regard goddesses as penultimate agents of change. Many major rivers are also female in Hindu tradition. Hindus often ascribe feminine attributes to rivers and consider these life-giving waters maata or mother. Do predominantly Hindu societies, however, regard women with the same respect? What status do women have in the traditional Terai societies of Nepal?
This photo story is representative of the lives of women whose homes lie on the banks of the Saptakoshi River. It tries to present a glimpse of the conditions of working women in the area. In Nepal, where only 47% of the female population is literate, the condition of women in the Terai is worse than the country average. Most young girls in the Terai region are married off in early childhood and, as a result, are exploited within their families as well as by society. The only way to overcome this exploitation is to empower women.
Change can be brought about by working together. Most women in Nepal work well into old age. They are responsible for making sure things are always in order. What then, are male members responsible for? Without women, our existence on earth is impossible, but do we, as a society, fully recognize this?
By: Suman Adhikari
My mother, who is not an educated woman by modern standards, once said to me, “A rainbow looks beautiful only when all of its different colours scatter simultaneously. I think the same is true for societies and nations.”
Growing up, I never imagined that I would meet people who would show me what my mother meant when she talked about these different colours, about the fluctuating parameters that shape society. A recent trip to the Koshi basin opened up the true meaning of my mother’s words for me.
Punctual Boat Rowers:
Boat rowers Jatru Mukhiya and (left) and Gunu Mukhiya are out on the river every day from 10 am to 5 pm. The two stick to these hours and say that they have learnt to keep this schedule from officials whose work days start and end at the same time as theirs. They do this so that they can get home on time and be there for their wives.
By: Suresh Mukhiya
People in Bodgaun, a village in Sindhupalchok district, central Nepal, have experienced an accelerated change in recent years. The village lies in Ward 11 of the Indrawati Rural Municipality and has seen massive change over the past few decades. The most fertile plots of land owned by locals have been lost to river erosion. Some households have lost all of their agricultural lands. Most houses in the village were damaged or completely destroyed by the 2015 Nepal Earthquake.
The people of the Bodgaun struggle to fulfil the bare necessities of life. Every day, the villages work overtime to make ends meet. For women specifically, there is a lot to do within a day. Woman handle domestic duties as well as generate money to support their family.
By: Bashudev Neupane
Piparpati is a village in the Maharshi block of Saharsa district, situated on the banks of the Koshi River in Bihar. The village is surrounded by several tributaries of the Koshi River and is affected by seasonal floods. Villagers have adapted to live with water and the monsoon floods. Because the area is surrounded by streams, small boats are used to commute for day-to-day work and to access the market. There is no other way to travel to the village and therefore boats are part and parcel of the lives of villagers. Since male family members migrate to the cities seeking livelihood opportunities, women take full responsibility for themselves and their families. Women are among the most vulnerable groups during disasters but in this village, they are charting new territories and transforming themselves. They are excellent swimmers and boat rowers who depend on themselves even in times of disaster.
By: Anil Kumar
Agriculture is a major source of income in the Koshi region. When there is no work in agricultural fields, men from Bihar migrate to work outside the state. Women, therefore, act as heads of households and manage everything for the family – from fetching fuel and fodder to buying rations and cookingy. In all spheres of life, women’s activities determine the fates of their families. A woman carries the burden of the family, sacrificing her personal freedoms to fulfil the role of homemaker. In the Koshi region, as elsewhere, inequalities test the strength of women.
Cooking for the family: Women cook two meals a day over inefficient mud stoves (chulhas). They also spend a lot of time fetching fuelwood and water. Cooking becomes more difficult during the monsoon because the houses are small and fragile. Floodwaters enter houses and wash away mud chulhas. When this happens, women use brick stoves for cooking. Most poor families in the village cannot afford LPG gas. When women are not present, little girls take up the responsibility of cooking. In some families, girls start cooking as early as five years old. Sometimes, they skip school to cook food for their fathers and brothers.
By: Ranjeet Sahani
This woman works at a government farm in Palampur valley of Himachal Pradesh, India. Her husband, who used to work on the farm before her, died at a young age, leaving behind two children. She works hard to take care of her family. In spite of the hardship, she has never given up.
Bodgau village is situated in Sindhupalchok District near the Indrawati River. A majority of local people belong to the Majhi community and are engaged in agriculture. The devastating earthquake of 2015 destroyed their homes and livelihoods. Even the seeds that the farmers had stored to sow during harvest season were destroyed by the earthquake. Without seeds, many were forced to leave their agricultural fields fallow.
Child marriage rates are high and the status of child and maternal health is poor because of lack of health facilities and awareness of health issues. Most women in the village are engaged in domestic work and are not literate. Climate change and natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and landslides impact livelihoods and agriculture.
There is the need for a campaign to address issues of gender inequality and make the community aware of agricultural adaptation measures to combat climate change. There is a need for awareness and training to help the community cope with natural disasters and make their living sustainable.
By: Upakar Bhandari
Gayatri Devi Yadav cannot sustain a family of five from the remittance earnings that her husband sends her from India. Working in the field is a compulsion for her. Growing crops would be less cumbersome if proper channels for irrigation were in place. Since her husband left for India two years ago, she has been struggling hard to fill her granary. Though the Koshi is located in the vicinity of her home, lack of proper canals makes it difficult for her to irrigate her field.
She sometimes uses a temporary canal for irrigation and carries water to the field at other times. Without her husband’s support, things have become very difficult. The temporary canals she builds are swept away by rain and carrying buckets of water to irrigate the whole field is not sustainable. She has already reduced her cropping area by half. Digging a well could be a good option, but the family is poor and cannot afford to do so.
Gayatri Devi’s problem is not an anomaly. Many women in her village suffer similarly. As men migrate for work, it is women who are left to work the fields. Although the Nepali government has tried to make irrigation easier by digging canals around the Koshi, many villages near the river are still untouched by these canals.
By: Kamal Bk
Women from the Bantar community weave mats from a macrophyte (an aquatic plant large enough to be seen by the naked eye) found abundantly in the wetlands of the Koshi basin. The fibre comes from typha leaves, which are harvested before being beaten into the soft, flexible fibre out of which the mats, known locally as gundri, are woven.
It typically takes one woman half a day to weave one mat. On days when their household responsibilities are lighter, they may weave two mats over the course of a day. A local NGO provided the women training on weaving good quality gundris. The acceptance of these mats by communities in the region and their demand in the local market have empowered the women who weave them.
Sold at local markets these mats are handicrafts in their own right and represent the meticulous process thorough which their weavers convert a wetland weed into a household product.
By: Aditya Pal