Nepali female mason Sharada

Making an impact

MANILA (March 20, 2017) ─ Beyond International Women’s Day, Habitat for Humanity’s supporters and homeowners are living up to the theme of “Be Bold for Change”.

Evelyn Sharma, Habitat for Humanity India’s Youth Ambassador, was among more than 1,100 volunteers who marked International Women’s Day on March 8 across several locations in India. They included international and local volunteers who worked on houses in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Pondicherry or helped to build sanitation units in Chennai. Members of local self-help groups in New Delhi, Chennai and Pondicherry also took part in community meetings. Check out the photos on

Indian actress Evelyn Sharma (left) and Sochea (right) from Cambodia
Actress Evelyn Sharma (left) on an International Women's Day build in India; Sochea (right) runs a day care and early learning center from her home in Cambodia. Photos courtesy of Habitat India and Habitat Australia.

“Every woman deserves a safe and decent place to live. Every mother needs to know her children have a safe place to call home. It is tragic that even today a majority of women in India are deprived of the basic needs of decent shelter or safe sanitation…Let us join hands to build an India where everyone has a decent place to live,” said Evelyn Sharma.

Evelyn’s concern is shared by Sharada who lives in the earthquake-affected Pipaltar community in Nepal. The first and only skilled female mason in her village, Sharada was among more than 140 local community members who have been trained in masonry skills. “I want to prove to myself that I can do everything that the boys can do and be an inspirational woman to my village,” she said. After her training, Sharada hones her skills by building alongside Habitat’s Global Village volunteers. She said: “I want to meet them and talk with them. They have contributed so much to us and they continue to support me. When they leave I cry and people smile at my soft heart.”

Nepali female mason Sharada (center) with international volunteers
Sharada (center), the first and only female mason in her village, with Global Village volunteers. Photo courtesy of Nancy DeVries.

Nancy DeVries is one of the Habitat volunteers who had worked alongside Sharada. In a comment to a March 8 post on ,  Nancy commended the young Nepal woman as being full of personality, a skilled mason and a good friend to the volunteers. Another volunteer, Molly Taylor, commented: “Sharada is such an amazing person! I am so glad I had the pleasure of meeting and working with her.”

Empowering women through such training is also taking place in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region. Habitat for Humanity Fiji will organize its first-ever Women Build from March 29 to 31. The 20 participants include Anne Dunn, Miss Fiji and Miss Pacific Islands. They will take part in Habitat Fiji’s “Build Back Safer” program and will have hands-on training by working on a home for family affected by 2015’s Cyclone Winston in Nakorovou village, Dreketi in Rewa province.

By the first anniversary of Cyclone Winston on February 20, Habitat Fiji has built 106 homes with another 200 under construction. More than 7,000 families were helped through the distribution of emergency shelter kits. About 100 communities, or 20,000 individuals, have been helped with reconstruction and water and sanitation.

Of more than 700 Fijians who trained as community builders, nearly 200 are female builders. "I'm definitely looking forward to meeting those who have such great impact in their communities and villages, particularly after TC Winston. It's a great illustration of the unique and diverse skills of a woman,” said Anne Dunn who was quoted in

Habitat homeowners are also making a difference. After Sochea has built a two-story house with Habitat Cambodia, she converted the first level into a day care and early learning center. She teaches reading, writing and math to around 25 children whose parents are factory workers or those who are orphaned and living with their grandparents. Sochea also earns an income from making and selling soy milk which she learned as part of Habitat’s livelihood training program.

In a high-income country such as New Zealand, the need for decent housing is very real for women who still do most of their work in the home including raising children. Their access to adequate housing has a direct impact on them and the next generation. from a blog post.

This year's International Women’s Day also marked the first anniversary of Habitat for Humanity’s global advocacy campaign, Solid Ground. #BeBoldforChange to improve secure tenure for women around the globe.