Sita Pariyar, Dalit
When asked whether she would have preferred a love marriage over arranged, Sita Pariyar answers, “How does one know what love means at that age? We were so young.”
Sita, now 27, married her husband when she was 16 years old, and he was only 15.
In the 11 years since, love has meant succumbing to the reality of being a young couple in Nalma. For Sita, this means long days balancing a compendium of household chores with caring for her two elementary-school-aged children, as well as earning a minimal wage working millet fields and rice paddies.
For nearly a year now, she has gone about these tasks alone after her husband, 26-year-old Tika, moved to Qatar to find work. The intention was for him to help pay off their family’s mounting debts and send a more livable sum of money home, but this has not gone as planned, and she has been left struggling to keep everything afloat in his wake.
“He had never been out of the village before,” recounts Sita. “He went to Kathmandu three times, and then he went abroad.”
Once the breadwinner went abroad, we didn’t have the means to survive for three months
Tika’s inexperience out of the village resulted in a series of unfortunate events, including a misspelling of his name that led to his visa being cancelled, followed by three months of living in Qatar jobless until his agency was able to find him work.
“Once the breadwinner went abroad, we didn’t have the means to survive for three months. We took out such a big loan to send him [to Qatar]. How are we going to pay it off? How am I going to pay my children’s school fees? I called the manpower agency and told them that either you pay for my husband’s return ticket and send him home, or you have to cover all our living expenses until he is able to send us remittance. Being unemployed for three months is not a small thing for us.”
In order to fill in for his lack of wages, Sita temporarily took over her husband’s former job doing road construction for two months. However, because he had only signed wage slips for one month, she never received a salary for the second. She went back to work as a daily wage agricultural worker in the millet and rice fields, earning Rs. 225 per day (equivalent of USD 2 per day), a wage set by the village elders that typically increases by about 30 cents each year.
“We work from 10 until 6. If you have to weed paddy fields, that is fine, but to plough and make canals around the planted areas—that’s hard work. In comparison to the work we do, the wage is low.”
Meanwhile, the agency finally found her husband work, but at a salary of USD 274 per month, part of which had to cover his own food and expenses. Sita sold a buffalo and the few goats she had in order to cover school fees and basic household needs until finally he managed to obtain a better wage. He now sends home about USD 190-220 per month, but it’s still barely enough to make ends meet, let alone pay off their loan.
In comparison to the work we do, the wage is low
Sita says that unless her husband can get a salary increase in his current job, it would be wise for him to return home or, better yet, find a different job overseas. Now that her husband has gained experience migrating, she thinks that he will not be duped and will know how to stand up for himself the next time.
When contemplating her future in the next five to ten years, Sita says: “Ah, how will it advance? My husband is an uneducated person. He will always remain a semi-skilled worker. If he gets a good job, maybe there will be a better future ahead.” She smiles in strength. “It is only going to be like this. I don’t think that I will have a prosperous life, but things will go on.”