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Post-disaster Wellbeing of Women: a Case Study of the Gorkha Earthquake in Dolakha, Nepal

SHRESTHA, CHANDIKA (2024) Post-disaster Wellbeing of Women: a Case Study of the Gorkha Earthquake in Dolakha, Nepal. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

Full text not available from this repository.
Author-imposed embargo until 30 January 2026.


In 2015, Nepal experienced a devastating earthquake, resulting in significant loss of life and widespread homelessness. The country is particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks due to its topography and geographical location. However, the impact of such hazards varies among individuals and communities. Notably, there are clear inequalities in vulnerabilities before the event, the effects experienced during the event, and the recovery processes that follow. While gender inequalities and gender-blind policy design have long been studied in the field of development, research in disaster studies has also shown that women are disproportionately affected, with higher mortality rates compared to men. Moreover, post-event interventions often neglect gender dynamics, resulting in new forms of inequality in crisis experiences and opportunities for recovery.
In rural Nepal, where male out-migration for employment is prevalent, women bear the responsibility of managing households. Consequently, these households are overrepresented among the poorest in poverty studies. Following a disaster, women not only face physical challenges but also psychological impacts. The process of rebuilding lives and managing emotional turmoil adds to their burden, significantly affecting their mental wellbeing. Therefore, it is crucial to investigate strategies to enhance women's wellbeing and effectively respond to future hazards.
While not all women survivors experience psychological problems, many demonstrate remarkable resilience in adverse circumstances. Unfortunately, existing post-disaster research predominantly focuses on identifying vulnerabilities, rather than exploring capacities and capabilities for resilience. To address this gap, this study takes a threefold approach to complement and expand current gender-related disaster research. Firstly, it examines pre-earthquake vulnerabilities that shape the disaster experience and wellbeing. Secondly, it investigates the differentiated experiences of disaster and recovery processes for women. Lastly, it pays particular attention to the determinants of wellbeing amidst adversity.
This study stands out as one of the few to adopt a positive perspective on wellbeing when analysing post-disaster mental health. Using a mixed-methods approach, qualitative interviews were conducted two years after the earthquake to understand the local context of wellbeing and its determinants. Three years after the event, a survey was conducted, employing a stratified multi-stage proportionate purposive sample, gathering household data from 675 households. A novel statistical technique was employed to examine factors contributing to post-disaster wellbeing, utilising stepwise linear regression models with 95% confidence intervals.
The main findings emphasise that promoting post-disaster wellbeing among women requires addressing everyday inequalities, rather than relying solely on disaster-specific interventions. This study reveals the significant impact of pre-disaster structural and social inequalities on wellbeing after a disaster. Multiple factors interact to influence women's post-disaster wellbeing, including urban residence, ethnicity (Janajati), nuclear family structure, self-employment, and receiving remittances as the main source of income. Additionally, pre-earthquake factors such as having no chronic health issues, no traumatic life events and minimal stress before the earthquake also contribute to post-disaster wellbeing.
During the disaster itself, access to social capital plays a crucial role in post-disaster wellbeing. Women who received assistance from the community or felt comfortable seeking help during and after the disaster displayed better wellbeing outcomes. Conversely, limited social access within caste groups had a negative association with wellbeing. The study also highlights that satisfaction with the reconstruction efforts, in addition to the act of reconstruction itself, is a significant determinant of women's wellbeing. Finally, the study concludes by discussing avenues for further research and important policy implications.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Mental Health and Wellbeing; Subjective Wellbeing; resilience; Gorkha Earthquake; Disaster; Women; Nepal.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Feb 2024 15:39

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