“My friend stayed at a temporary shelter after the earthquake, then eloped with a boy. She became pregnant and now at the age of 16, has a child. She has stopped studying,” a teenaged girl shared her friend’s predicament. She was talking at the national launch of the Every Last Child campaign in Nepal. The teenager was part of a spirited group who discussed varied issues that affected girls’ education, health and protection. They shared their experiences and challenges, while also offering real and practical solutions to solving these problems – all over cups of tea.
In Nepal, one of the most popular beverages is tea, and people love gathering at tea shops – to read newspapers while debating over issues of national and social interest. To recreate this gathering and get people to discuss about issues pertaining to children such as health care, protection services and education, Save the Children put up a tea stall in a public place.
On 4 June 2016, a space inside the complex was partitioned for the launch of the Every Last Child campaign. We had decided on an informal launch that would attempt to rope in as many of the general public as possible. The actual launch was kept simple and short. After Sudarshan Shrestha, Advocacy and Communication Director, introduced the campaign, Sitaram Kattel, one of the most popular actors in Nepal, talked about the need to implement child-friendly policies at every level.
This was followed by sharing of experiences by two adolescents, Swasthani and Saraswati. Saraswati, a former child worker rescued from a brick kiln by Save the Children, said, “There are thousands of children, especially girls, who will not be able to go to school and realize their full potential unless special interventions are made. I am sure this campaign will reach out to those needy girls.” At the end, Jagat Khadka, Deputy Country Director, said, “It is essential that we move ahead in collaboration with the government and civil society organizations for the campaign to be owned by everyone.” The launch concluded when all five members of stage read out their pledges for the children in the country.
Following this, we created a ‘Chiya Chautari’ (resting place with tea), where we encouraged people to walk in, pour themselves tea and join in the conversation. Around 50 adolescents, youths and Save the Children staff took part in three one-hour conversations focusing on girls’ education, health care and protection.
One participant mentioned, “We love interactions like these. But if we go out, people look down on us and say that we have become flighty. This hurts our self-esteem.” Talking about menstrual rights, journalist Swechhya Raut said, “We still face so much discrimination during our periods. The only way out is through constant counselling.” Almost all children agreed that most girls were out of school because of the discrimination against them. One way to reduce this absenteeism was thought to be engagement of fathers.
With a view to understand the concept of an urban audience on matters of child protection, health and education, we created a survey with 11 simple questions that tested public knowledge. A total of 396 visitors took part in the survey, out of which 384 respondents believed that lack of academic support for girls was the major barrier for girl to attend higher education. Visitors were also requested to pledge for children, especially girls, and follow through on the act. Over 200 people pledged in personal and professional levels to stand by the campaign and especially girl children.
For the launch, we had Sitaram Kattel (Dhurmus) as an influencer. Kattel is one of the most popular actors of Nepal, apart from being an active advocate of child-friendly buildings, especially during reconstruction after the Nepal earthquake. Following this, we had influencers visiting our stall, taking part in the activities, and spreading information about it – including Ashmina Ranjit (Artist/Activist), Narayan Wagle (Writer and journalist), Samriddhi Rai (Miss Tourism Nepal, Model), Deeya Maskey (Actor), Anup Baral (Actor/Director), Amar Nyaupane (Writer), Subin Bhattarai (Writer), Manoj KC (Musician), Subani Muktan (Musician), Shivani Singh Tharu (Activist, Actor, Writer), Beenita Baral (Actor/Writer), Nayan Raj Pandey (Writer) and Bimal Acharya (Writer).
During the launch, we were visited by over 1,500 participants. The national launches were followed by launches in each of the four districts we will be working in extensively – Saptari on 29 June, Kapilvastu on 9 July, Bajura on 12 July and Achham on 16 July.