By Usha Wagle Gautam
There is growing aspiration among Nepalese women to become independent, and hence to challenge the centuries-old gender disparities that exist in the society. But such aspirations are hard to meet in Nepal, with its high unemployment rate, snail-paced economy and never-ending political wrangling.
So women look elsewhere, they look to other countries. Qatar is a prime destination for Nepalese women choosing to work abroad. They have made a place for themselves in all kinds of jobs. There is no hard data available, but an informal look at the market shows that women from Nepal in Qatar are employed as sales ladies, cashiers, cleaners, nurses, engineers, teachers and air hostesses, among others.
Recently, about 200 of these women came together to celebrate the 106th International Women’s Day in Doha.
Community chatted with them about their lives and work experience in a foreign country. Following are excerpts from these conversations.
I have been working at the airport as a housekeeper for two years. Orphaned, I couldn’t complete my high school education. I never got to know my father. My mother took care of me and my two elder sisters till we grew up, getting knee-deep into loans. In order to pay it off, all three of us moved abroad. My other two sisters are in Jordon and the UAE. My villagers helped me out financially with the move. Even though my visa and air ticket to Qatar were free, as I found out later, the manpower agency back home took Nepali Rs100,000 from me to give me the visa. Since coming here, however, I have found Qatar to be very friendly and worth staying. I plan to stay here for many more years and make myself financially secure.
Jal Kumari Maharjan
I have been working here for 12 years as a cleaner. I am 49 years old, I have a daughter and a son. My husband was an alcoholic and verbally abuse me and my children for years. I came here when my daughter was seven and son, eleven. When I got my first pay, I admitted my daughter to a private school back in Nepal. I also took my son out of the public school he was in and admitted him to a private school.
Now I have brought him to Qatar, and he is working in sales. My daughter stays in a rented apartment in Kathmandu, while she completes her education. With our combined earning, my son and me hope to build a beautiful house in Nepal.
I am indebted to the Qatari government for hosting me.
I have been working in Qatar for 13 years. In the beginning, I would work as a cleaner, and now I am a chef at a small company. I am 39 and unmarried, but plan to go back home soon to get married. We are nine sisters, all of us here in Qatar and have found it to be a very special place. I have three brothers as well, and I help with their education. One of them is currently in the US for his post-graduation. I paid Nepali Rs30,000 to a manpower agency to get here. Everybody back home appreciates the support that I have been able to provide to them.
I have been in Qatar for the past 14 months. My husband was also here, but he had to go back due to his health. We have one daughter. I now work to support my ailing husband and my daughter, both of whom stay with my mother who is also ill. Even though, the villagers discourage me being the breadwinner in the family, I do not care. Their opinions do not matter to me.
I have been working here for two years as a cleaner. I have only studied until junior level. When I saw many of my villagers coming to Qatar and making good money, I decided to try my luck here too. My father has kidney problems, so he couldn’t work much. I send money back home every month to support my father, mother and sister. I chat with my mother over the phone sometimes; she cries a lot. There still isn’t much approval in our neighbourhood for women working abroad. But what could we do? The government cannot give us jobs and cannot guarantee us a decent living. I am grateful to Qatar for providing me with a job that pays well.
I work as a housekeeper at a school. I have only studied up to third standard. I was orphaned when I was a kid and am married with a son and a daughter. My husband was an alcoholic and abusive to the point that I even contemplated suicide. But my children are my inspiration. They are now living with my in-laws and are studying at a private school. I want to stay here as long as my company will let me, as I still have a lot to do to fulfil my children’s dreams. I want to say that Nepalese women are not weak and I want to encourage more women without job prospects in Nepal to come here. Women can do as much as men.
Ram Maya Tamang
I have been working here for three years as a cleaner. I didn’t attend school, and I am illiterate. My mother died when I was a child and my father got himself a new wife, who was reluctant to look after me. I am married with two children. My husband is a bus driver back in Nepal. He did not want to come here, so I came here instead. Every month, I send my savings back home. Both my sons are married now.
I have been here for eight years with a cleaning company. My husband was a government employee and brought home a second wife. He nearly abandoned me. I have two daughters and two sons. I sent them to my parents’ house and came here to support them. They have now completed their high school education. One of my daughters is married, while one son has also come to Qatar. My husband has not contacted me in nearly 20 years now. But I have become financially independent with my earnings in Qatar and am now thinking of going back home.
I have been here for just eight months as a supervisor at a hypermarket. Back in Nepal, I was a certified nurse at a hospital. Even after three years of working there, the pay was meagre and insufficient to pay the bills. Many of my friends have moved to Europe and North America for further studies. I could not ask my parents for more money to help me improve my qualifications.
I found out about the job here through a newspaper advertisement. Now I earn five times here the amount I made in Nepal. After working for four or five years, I will move back to Nepal to continue with my education. I paid more than Nepali Rs100,000 to a manpower agency to come here. But here I found out that I had a free visa and air-ticket from the company. The middlemen in Nepal continue to exploit women wanting to go here to work.
I have been here for almost a decade, working for a cleaning company. I am in my 40s, but still unmarried. My father died when I was a kid and I decided to come here when my mother also died. I now
support the education of my brother and sister. My aim is to help them get
education with the money I make
Back when I came here, not many women were coming to Qatar from Nepal. My villagers discouraged me, telling me that working abroad will be hard for a woman. I was a farmer back then, but could not make a decent living with that. My siblings appreciate all that I have managed to do since coming here. I support them. I have helped three women from my village to come here as well. They are all happier here. I paid Nepali Rs30,000 to a manpower agency to come here. But I guided the newcomers, telling them not to pay even a penny. I will stay here for another four to five years.
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