Pushpa is a 15 year old teenager from Saptari, a district in Eastern Nepal. She studies at a local community school, while her brother is sent to an urban private school. Stung by this unfair treatment, Pushpa protested to her parents. “You are lucky we send you to school. If you dare complain, I will strike your name off the school register,” said her father. The answer really distressed Pushpa. “He does not care whether or not I receive quality education,” she mentioned sadly.
Pushpa and most of her friends from the community feel that they have often been left behind from achieving quality education. Speaking at the launch of the ‘Every Last Child’ campaign in Saptari, these children mentioned how their own families sometimes acted as barriers to a quality life. Their experiences clearly indicate that girls need special programs to increase their life opportunities.
Similar is the story of Ranjana, 16, who dreams of receiving the best possible education. “I don’t demand for more or different,” she says. "I just want the same chances my brother gets.” At the launch, girls came forward to share their experiences of discrimination and unequal treatment, which left everyone teary eyed. Ranjana even sang a song to appeal to her brothers and parents to support girls’ education.
Another participant, Ranajyoti, had her own story to share – “My parents think I should study only after I finish household chores, but I am too tired by then,” she said. Ranajyoti resents her brother, who gets a lot of preference. “Just because he is a boy, he will always be given the best; while I will just be quieted with bits and pieces,” she vented her anger.
The girls are only the representatives of the 7,575 children out of school in Saptari, 5,475 of whom are girls. The major factors keeping these children behind are poverty, illiteracy, child marriage, discrimination and a lack of awareness about the importance of education.
On the other hand is 16-year-old Nisha, who has been provided with wonderful opportunities and aspires to be a nurse. Nisha utilized the forum to express how she dreams of a beautiful future where girls and women are equal to boys and men. “Had my friends received equal treatment from their parents, they would have had similar dreams,” she said.
In Saptari, children are also kept out of school for traditional reasons, with families more anxious to marry them off than help them study. However, I wanted to believe that there was hope – when I met Anand, who appeared to be physically challenged in writing. He’s got a wonderful handwriting and it was hard to believe that it was his parents who saw the value of education and sent him to school despite his disability. I hope Anand is not an exception, and that more and more of these girls can be sent to schools and provided with a robust education that will open up their life paths.
It is up to us to make that dream come true for every last child.