Interviewer: Aryashree Aryal
Dikshya, Jonisha (second from left), and Rama (far right) are three scholars who successfully graduated from the Rukmini Foundation scholarship program. They were recently interviewed about their opinions of the program as well as gave updates on their lives. It is wonderful to hear of their continued passion in empowerment and academic studies. All three spoke with mature confidence and had much advice for future scholars and everyone else.
These three past scholars all mentioned the importance for girls to speak up. Dikshya advised current and future scholars to “take a step further and share your problem before it is too late.” Although Rukmini Foundation provides the necessary resources to succeed academically and a great Didi mentor system gives encouragement, these graduates express how essential self-advocacy is to change future perspectives. Nepalese society considers women inferior to men, yet every ex-scholar mentioned that their friends are all eager to get an education in order to be self-sufficient and reach their greatest potential. Obviously, this disproves the societal standard and voicing this contradiction is a great way to encourage educational expansion for girls. The scholars all come from difficult financial situations, yet with opportunity provided by the Rukmini Foundation, their potential to influence others is no longer limited.
Dikshya receiving a certificate for getting First Division on the SLC Exam
Dikshya is currently 17 years old and a successful graduate from the Shikharapur Community School. She is now enrolled in a nursing program. She speaks highly of the Rukmini scholar program as it helped her family recover their business. Before the scholarship, she was in danger of being pulled out from school as her family’s income was limited. Her father is a carpenter and her mother an agricultural laborer so by having her education paid for, they were able to invest more money in their business and raise their standard of living. When she was younger, Dikshya was shy and introverted but now states that she really developed a sense of self-confidence and public speaking ability during her time as a Rukmini scholar, especially through the Didi program.
Jonisha is part of a family of six and graduated from Pharping Higher Secondary School this past June. She is continuing her studies in business management and wants to become someone who can finance others’ education fees, clearly impacted by the opportunity she was granted with the scholarship. What Jonisha enjoyed most about the Rukmini Scholar program was meeting new people who were openly vocal about past experiences, which made her more comfortable in speaking her mind and believing in her ability to achieve more.
Rama (left) with fellow 2015 graduate, Anu, all smiles!
Rama recently graduated from Pharping Higher Secondary School by passing the SLC exam with First Division. Unfortunately, with this success came much hardship as her family was significantly affected by the earthquake that occurred on April 25th, 2015. As their home was only built with mud and stone, it was completely destroyed. Nevertheless, she is determined to continue her studies. She is currently working in commerce, a career interest she developed with the Didi program.
Rama explains that in Nepal, every family considers having a daughter as a burden. Sons are important for many cultural practices as well as inheritance and financial support, so it is a disappointment to give birth to a girl. It creates social ostracization, such as abandonment by one’s husband, family, and society, if a woman is unable to have a son. This patriarchal thinking is dominant and even speaking with Rukmini graduate Rama, she refers to herself as a burden for her family and the scholarship is what made her family’s burden less. This constant reminder that being a girl is insufficient and a failure by the mother to birth the correct gender is unacceptable. The whole point of the mission of Rukmini Foundation is to disperse the thoughts of girls being inferior to boys. As shown by the career goals and accomplishments of the Rukmini scholars, young women are just as capable of providing for the family through a successful job, gained by higher education. Their eternal determination to continue their studies and independently earn an income is a personal rebellion to the societal opinions they were raised in. Therefore, Dikshya urges girls to outwardly voice the importance of changing stereotypical views and advocate for each other’s equity. In her own words, “a girl with forward thinking is never wrong and a society must understand this.”
Clearly, Rukmini scholars gain more from the program than just academics. Dikshya, Jonisha, and Rama all emphasized the importance of assertively supporting their unique views and to dispel the societal stigma they face of being a familial disappointment. Each scholar brings an individual capability of change and the best ways to expand it is through personal achievement and outright conversation.
“I raise up my voice – not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
– Malala Yousafzai