Kumari Magar, 30, earns US$90 a month cleaning houses in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu - barely enough to live on. She stays with her brother and sister, having moved from Dolalghat village, 100km northeast of Kathmandu, six years ago to escape the hard life of a subsistence farmer.
Name: Kumari Magar
Does your spouse/partner live with you? I’m single.
What is your primary job? Domestic worker.
What is your monthly salary? $50
What is your household’s total income - including your partner’s salary, and any additional sources? $90
How many people are living in your household - what is their relationship to you? Two - a brother and sister.
How many are dependent on you/your partner's income - what is their relationship to you? We depend on each other. My parents depend on them and each month we try to send them some money.
How much do you spend each month on food? $25
What is your main staple – how much does it cost each month? Rice and vegetables/$25
How much do you spend on rent? $20
How much on transport? $30
How much do you spend on educating your children each month? I don’t have any children, but I try to give my sister money to help with hers.
After you have paid all your bills each month, how much is left? Nothing.
Have you or any member of the household been forced to skip meals or reduce portion sizes in the last three months? Yes. Four months ago, when I was sick I couldn’t work and lost income. I didn’t have enough money for food.
Have you been forced to borrow money (or food) in the last three months to cover basic household needs? Yes, from friends. I have also requested advances on my salary from my employer.
“Coming to Kathmandu was a mistake. I can’t save a penny. At the end of each month there isn't anything left. Most of my money goes to food, while the rest goes to rent. My brother and sister face a similar fate.
“Over the past two years, food expenses on vegetables, milk and sugar have really increased. We started skipping milk and sugar and are now eating smaller portions of vegetables.
“Sometimes, I manage to save money when my employers have parties at home and I can take the leftovers back for siblings and myself. Sometimes this food can last several days.
“As a maid, we dream of working for European and American expatriates who pay a good salary of around $150 per month. Most of us aren’t that lucky, however.
“I’m better off this way [unmarried]. If I had children they would suffer. I see my sister’s suffering already. She works so hard to take care of her children and send them to school. Her husband abandoned them.
“I need to find more work. I can’t save anything and can’t even pay back the money I borrowed from my friends four months ago.
“My employer says they are going to increase my wage by 10 percent … [But] I’m completely dependent on the mercy of my employers who can easily fire me if they are unhappy. Perhaps they will find someone who will work for even less.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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