Having heard stories from Linda about her visit to the brick kilns in Lumbini and the visits in rural Nepal did nothing to prepare me for my visit on as part of the field staff to speak to the women and adolescent girls at the Siddhartha brick kilns in Barahathawa, Lumbini, Nepal.
I had heard many stories of how the women just come to to listen and didn't realise just how powerful witnessing this was. A few of them came, we originally had about 6 women waiting. I looked out the door and it was an amazing scene .... there were lines of women with their children making their way to listen what we had to say regarding health and hygiene.
The children were very timid and hid behind their mothers legs, peeking out at these strange people trying to speak to them. Linda was trying to get the kids confidence by going cross eyed and I did my fish face to try to break the ice ... it worked. The women and children laughed and giggled and we had to keep doing it over and over.
We had approximately 50 women attend and they were all so interested albeit very shy, in what we had to say. The amazing Anjana from Days for Girls did a brilliant job in gaining their confidence and explaining about menstruation, hygiene, how babies were made and prolapsed uterus. We found out that these people work approximately 16/17 hours per day in extreme heat ... 40 plus degrees.
This was very confronting for me as I had never been involved in any field work as I am mainly behind the scenes and often found myself on the verge of tears .... of course I couldn't let the women and children see how it affected me. I was totally in awe of these ladies ... all who had no idea how babies were made .... didn't know it was the males who impregnated them ... didn't realise that if there were no females, there would be no babies ...didn't know that every female in the world menstruated. Not only do these women work extremely hard in the field, they have to look after their families by washing and cooking and are often victims of domestic violence.
It wasn't just the women that work hard, the males also work hard as everything they do is very manual. The bricks are molded then the raw bricks are transported on bicycles to the kilns for firing. I witnessed the children helping their parents, wheeling the wheel barrows and digging.
Being an Australian I am not usually affected by the heat ... I love it BUT this heat really got to me and we were only at the kiln for about3 hours so I can imagine how difficult this would be working in those conditions all day, every day.
We let the women return to their work and we returned to the venue where we were fortunate to be staying and had a refreshing swim. Anjana was sitting on the side of the pool saying to Linda and I that she wished she could get in but she couldn't swim. We supported her by putting her arms around each of our necks and she floated whilst we walked her around the pool ... she was shaking because she was scared and excited at the same time ....giggling with excitement and it was such a wonderful feeling to make someone as happy as she was by doing something that she had never done before.
This was an amazing project to scope and it was incredible to see the difference of the women from when they first arrived to when they left ...it is very humbling and puts everything back home into perspective.