Profile in Courage
Rukmini was born in Nepal at the time when educating girls was not only unheard of it was considered socially unacceptable. She had to do housework and look on as her brothers received education. Slightly rebellious, Rukmini would eavesdrop on the lessons and memorize what was being taught. Even at an early age, she had the desire to learn new things. However, the era when she was born would not allow her to get any education. At age 10, Rukmini was “given” in marriage to a man who was already married with a woman who could not bear him any heirs. Rukmini was essentially given away in order to give birth.
She became a mother of two children by the age of 19, however, she lost one of her children at a very young age. Her first born daughter died at the age of 1. Life dealt Rukmini another blow when she was widowed at age 20 with her infant son to care for. It can be considered fortunate that because her remaining child was a male, she was able to inherit just enough land to have a house for her and her young son. She vowed that no children of hers would ever have to be subjected to the “mercy” of the patriarchal society. She worked tirelessly to give her son an opportunity to learn. Because of her sacrifice, her son (Girvana Nath) was able to become a respected teacher.
Inspiration passed down through generations:
Girvana Nath eventually became a respected teacher at a local boarding school, which was very prominent in the country. While he was proud to have achieved one of his life’s ambitions in such a prestigious school, he was dissatisfied with the fact that nobody from his village, or surrounding villages, could afford to attend this school. Remembering his roots, Girvana Nath set out to correct this by teaching local students in his own house. As the class size grew, he and a few local leaders decided a local school that was accessible to villagers was needed. With support from the local government, a local school was opened. The school eventually became academically competitive with the boarding school. On top of making the school affordable, the school also started accepting women, which was considered radical at the time.
Rukmini’s grandson, Sashi Sharma, inspired by both his father and grandmother, has taken on improving education opportunities even further. He has been a leader in terms of social development for nearly four decades. Furthering his father’s goal of making quality education affordable to the masses, and with the help of local teachers Kedar Nath Acharya and Rambahadur Basnet, they started Shikharapur School as a private school that would accept students of all backgrounds (regardless of economic hardship, gender or caste). Education was made affordable, but the main purpose of establishing the school was to improve the quality of affordable education. The results have been impressive, and now Shikharapur School is one of the premier schools in the area. These are examples of the positive impact that Rukmini is directly responsible for. Our foundation seeks to continue this legacy and further break down barriers through education.
The effect of Rukmini on this small community has been immense, and we want to harness her spirit to make an even greater impact.
The sad truth is that even after a 100 years, there are still far too many stories like that of Rukmini. Many girls are still being denied the opportunity that is afforded to boys and too many young girls are being married way too early and bearing children while themselves being children. Without action, this cycle of hardship and discrimination will never end.