“Strength through smiles from women in the rice plantations”

June 11, 2018

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Strength is the first word that came to mind when I witnessed the women of Nepal in the rice fields of Chhap of Changu Narayan Municipality, Bhaktapur.

Carrying branches on their backs that were twice times their size and probably double their weight. Pulling oxen by the force of their hips. Bending over to plant rice for at least eight hoursa day. Sometimes the women even do all of this intense labor with a baby on their back.

The muddy water of the plantation will often go up to the knees of the women planting.

I truly saw what women were physically capable of in a way I’ve never seen before.I watched how quick the women would plant one bundle of rice at a time and the plots of water that they already covered that morning. By 3:00 p.m. I would normally be wiping away sweat and tears from my brow in frustration, but they laughed at one another as if they were enjoying their work.

Gurung separates the pieces of rice plant with her fingers.

“My husband passed away six years ago, so I’ve been working on the rice plantation by myself,”said Bin Maya Tamang, 65.

Tamang finds herself in a situation similar to many other farmers in Nepal whose children have left the country for university or to seek higher incomes. Binmaya’s youngest son went to Qatar for work and sends back money to her.

 Each piece of rice is planted from the bundle and pushed down into the mud in a certain formation.

Tamang’s two daughters moved away to marry and her eldest son lives separately which leaves her completely alone.

“It’s very difficult to pay for help, it costs one thousand rupees per day for a male worker and 500 for a female,” said Tamang.

Chandra Maya Gurung laughs that my group of friends were good luck for bringing the rain with us when we came to experience the rice plantation.

While walking through the different rice farms I noticed the lack of young workers in the fields. I wondered what would happen once all the planters retired.

Planters wear ponchos so they are able to continue their work in the rain. Most planters work around seven hours a day through different weather conditions.

Suddenly the sky opened wide and the rain fell down for almost an hour. The women kept working by putting plastic ponchos on their backs and rejoiced even more than before that the rain came for the crops.

Gurung works alongside her family members to plant rice.

“We have difficulty when it’s dry because of the shortage of water,” said Nina Gurung.

“Sometimes we have a festival in the mud and water.”

Gurung makes sure the rice plant lines up properly in the plot.

Gurung not only plants rice, but her family plants potatoes and takes care of buffalo. She said taking care of the buffalo is more difficult than the rice plantation.

Recently planted rice plots in the fields of Chhap of Changu Narayan.

A lot of the rice plantations I went to seemed to be family owned plots and even brought my friends into their house as guests. At first one mother was worried about the lack of sugar to provide us tea, but she found some and kindly gave us each a cup as we waited for the rain to stop.

Two people drive by Tamang's rice plot on a motorbike.

From sunrise to dusk the women in the rice plantations labor, but all day long they continue to smile with one another and pour over me with their hospitality. I will always admire their ability to work hard with kindness.

Tamang shovels away the mud to prepare for planting rice in a couple days.

Sometimes the workers will take a break a drink fresh rice beer toward the edges of the rice plots.

Younger boys run through the rice plantation and jump into the river that flows between the fields.

After the rice is planted women continue to work in the field to make sure it properly grows.

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