Occupation: Brick Molder
Location: Kathmandu Valley
Family Size: 4
Laxmi's story: Laxmi Nagarkoti is entering her second season working on Mangal Maharjan’s brick kiln in the Kathmandu Valley. She works alongside her husband, Hiraman. Hiraman prepares the soil, while Laxmi molds the bricks. Together, the pair can mold between 700 and 1,000 bricks each day. Ms. Nagarkoti works on a kiln that is participating in GFI’s Better Brick Nepal program. As part of the program, which aims to improve conditions on the kilns for brick workers, participant kiln owners have agreed to make investments toward compliance with standards on improved conditions for kiln workers in exchange for technical assistance and access to new markets. Laxmi has seen these investments firsthand with construction now beginning on her kiln’s early childhood development center. “It would be great if every owner invested in facilities like that,” she says, “so that poor people like us can see our children going to school.” When Ms. Nagarkoti and her husband are done working on the kiln for the day, they return to a small hut where they live with their children during the brick season. In the hut Laxmi cooks using a traditional cook stove, which exposes her and her family to harmful indoor air pollution and requires large quantities of expensive fuel to operate. With a small investment of $25 you can join GFI in helping improve conditions on the kilns by providing a clean cook stove to kiln workers like Laxmi Nagarkoti, which allows them to save money on fuel costs and reduce health risks from indoor air pollution.
For 7 months a year Laxmi earns her living working on Nepal’s brick kilns, a difficult job under any circumstances, but in Nepal it is most often a job where worker health and safety is largely ignored and decent working conditions are nearly non-existent. For the more than 175,000 men and women who work on Nepal’s kilns there are few alternatives to earn a living, but through a partnership between GFI and kilns throughout Nepal a new opportunity is being created to make work on Nepal’s kilns better, safer and more prosperous for workers and owners alike. One part of GFI’s “Better Brick Nepal” program is the creation of better working and living conditions for workers and their families on the kilns, and a basic part of this goal is limiting the harmful indoor air pollution created by cooking in the small dwellings that house workers through the brick season. To address this GFI plans to provide access to cleaner and more fuel efficient cook stoves to families in each of the Better Brick participant kilns and create healthier living conditions for workers and their families who join them on the kilns. With a small investment of $25 you can join us in significantly improving the lives of kiln families and making one of the most difficult jobs in the world notably better.
The goal of Better Brick Nepal (BBN) is to address labor and environmental challenges in the brick kiln industry. While previous programs have raised awareness of these issues, BBN aims to change the incentives within the industry. BBN seeks to create a market preference for a “better brick” such that buyers of these bricks – including international agencies, construction firms and end-consumers – are assured of more ethical and high quality production. At the same time, the kilns benefit from technical assistance and access to new high value markets.
BBN started in early 2014 by building relationships with five pilot kilns that are interested in furthering the aims of the project, creating a certifiable Standard on child labor, bonded labor and decent working conditions and developing plans for kilns to comply. Participating kilns will receive technical assistance to improve working conditions, boost production efficiency and raise product quality, as well as make linkages to potential markets. Over time, the goal is for kilns that meet the BBN Standard to achieve business benefits, and to foster needed changes in the brick industry as a whole.