“I have gained such confidence, because I know I can do good things as a girl. Even though I face barriers, the mason training made me feel like a better person. I understood that women were able to do what men could do,” says Shrijana, a vibrant, 21-year-old girl from Dolakha district in Nepal.
At first glance, you would never expect that Shrijana bears the financial and emotional weight of her entire family.
Having lost her mother at a young age and her brother last year, Shrijana has had to assume the role of mother to her 2 sisters aged 7 months and 7 years old, support her father and become the family's financial caretaker.
Learning new skills
When the massive earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April 2015, Shrijana, and her family were working near their home. Their house was heavily damaged, as was many others in the community, and the family lost most of their food, clothing and household items.
She learned about Plan International’s masonry training through her community and asked to be included.
“At first, the community members told me I was too young, and not qualified, but I didn’t mind,” Shrijana says.
Despite the teasing, I was still determined to learn from them
“There are 8 other female masons in the programme, but I am the youngest. The other women call me their daughter and supported me during the training. The other men in the training teased me if I didn’t know something or if I was unable to carry heavy things. Despite the teasing, I was still determined to learn from them,” she says.
With her new building skills, Shrijana is currently building a transitional home for Krishna, 76, and her husband, who is ill and unable to rebuild. The elderly couple lost their home in the earthquake.
“I am proud of her. She is doing well and proving that she is equal to a man. She is doing hard labour. I have never seen a lady mason,” says Krishna.
I am proud of her. She is doing well and proving that she is equal to a man
“When I was her age, there was no tradition of a woman being a mason. Women and girls were not allowed to go outside. She can move forward and lead like a man and teach others.”
Shrijana will spend the next few weeks rebuilding Krishna’s home. But this is just a temporary house and it will take time to complete a permanent home.
Rebuilding her own home
When Shrijana has enough money, she hopes to rebuild a permanent home for her family. As the sole provider, however, she is still using the majority of her money to support her family.
“I am proud of myself. I now know I can be a better person. All these new skills will help me. I will replicate everything I have learned to rebuild my own home and other houses in my community,” she says proudly.
Working with 2 male masons, Shrijana aims to rebuild 21 homes over the next 6 months.
Since the April 2015 earthquake, Plan International has provided emergency shelter materials to more than 52,767 households and trained 479 masons and carpenters on earthquake-resistant construction techniques.
Read more about Plan International’s Nepal earthquake response