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Vermont Quarterly

Portraits of Resilience

group of photos of women in Nepal taken by student Emma Squier
Photographs by Emma Squier '17


Portraits of Resilience 

SOCIOLOGY | Not long after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal in April of 2015, Emma Squier ’17 sat in a classroom seven thousand miles away studying the effects of the natural disaster on the Nepali people. A year later, she was living among them in the hardest-hit villages learning first-hand how they were surviving.

Squier spent two weeks in the remote villages of Paragang, Ghangyul and Sathil, interviewing and photographing forty-eight women for a research project about their experiences in the aftermath of the earthquake that killed nine thousand people. Many of the women from the Helambu region were left homeless, without running water or food, and little else to keep themselves and their children alive.

“The stories of the women hit me hard,” says Squier. “One woman was a year younger than me and three months pregnant when the earthquake struck her house and crushed her and her unborn child. She was helicoptered out, but tragically, her baby didn’t make it. Somehow, she and the other women in the village still seemed grateful for the little that they still had.”

Squier turned the interviews with the women into a research paper that will become part of a chapter, "The Vulnerability of Children and Women in the 2015 Earthquake in Nepal," in a forthcoming book, published by Springer, titled, Living Under Threat of Earthquake: Short- and Long-Term Management of Earthquake Risk and Damage Prevention in Nepal.  Her co-author is sociology professor Alice Fothergill, an international expert on the disproportionate effects of natural disasters on vulnerable populations such as women and children.

Squier, who minors in art and is a talented photographer, added a powerful visual element to her research with photo portraits of the women, which are woven into her research paper. 

“One of the things that really struck me about Emma's work was how much rapport and trust she established with the women in the villages,” says Fothergill. “She used ethnographic methods that are on a doctorate level, where you immerse yourself in another culture in a really remote setting and collect data that no one else has gathered. The data she collected is rare for any researcher, much less an undergraduate."

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