Second phase of Awareness session at Panchakanya Secondary School

Recently, we conducted a school based Awareness program against early child marriage at Panchakanya Secondary School – Bhandharkharka. This was a follow-up to a recent program we conducted. We were led in this program by counselor, Ms. Kripa Sigdel who is a Program Producer and Presenter at Manojigiyasa Radio Program on Psychology and Mental Health. Her background includes a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Tribhuvan University.

Ms. Sigdel shared her own teenage experiences to relate with the students.

This session focused on the classes 9 and 10, and our focus of the program was to be able to reach at least a few of these students. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Our hope was that this one counseling session from one school will get people to look at ending child marriage in at least one community, and hopefully this community will inspire another community to do the same.

Our program was well attended by 31 students, including 21 girls. Ms. Kripa Sigdel started the session with a drawing exercise to get the students thinking and participating. The task was to draw the students’ house and also the way to school. The students enjoyed the activity as they drew a picture of their house and also the roads they took to school. Through the pictures, they interpreted their problems which they face in their homes and also on the way from home to school. The objective of this drawing is to know how many of the students draw something about marriage or whether there are other pressures at home.

Students working in teams to answer some challenging questions.

After this exercise, which got the students thinking and excited, Kripa Didi asked some questions of the students like what do they do if someone teases their friends on the way to school? What would they do if someone tried to force a marriage at an early age? The students were divided into 5 groups and given the task to find solutions of such problems. The answers varied. For example, some students said that they will do whatever their parents told them to do, which is quite common. Some of the students said that they will call the police, and some of them even said that they will run away from their homes if they faced such problems.

Realizing the seriousness of the questions and answers, Kripa Didi suggested that the students try to talk with their parents and explain that marriage is ok, but only when you are independent and have completed your studies. She said that one minute of communication can make years of difference and can change many big decisions that parents may take. Developing good communication skills, especially with parents and elders is very important. She also said that students can educate their parents about the negative consequences of child marriage instead of thinking about running away and avoiding communication.

The counselors provided a very detailed overview on the realities of child marriage in Nepal. They shared data and stories. The session especially emphasized the negative consequences of early marriage, which can affect not only a victim’s future educational and career opportunities, but also their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. This was a powerful session for everyone. The students were very involved in asking and answering questions of the counselors.

Besides the issue of child marriage, the counselors allowed the students to ask questions about anything they may have to deal with. “What can we do if our friends force us to take drugs?” asked a student, Tirtha Tamang. Kripa Didi said that “you can try to educate your friends about the negative consequences of taking drugs, and try to get them involved in other activities, which makes them too busy to be doing drugs.” She again focused on communication and thinking about consequences, but also standing up for yourself.

Simple exercises to calm the mind and relax.

Along with these serious discussions, the counselors got everyone involved again by doing some basic meditation exercises to show the importance of mental health and adolescent wellness. This taught the students, and us mentors that it is important to try to take care of ourselves, and even simple exercises can help.

Everybody who attended the program found this to be very highly impactful. Kripa Didi recommended that we conduct similar programs in different schools and also try to bring in the community as well. We agree with that idea, and we hope to be able to do more of these programs in the future. She said that she was inspired by the work that is being organized by our foundation, and she wants to work together with the foundation on other programs as well. The students that were interviewed after the event felt that additional programs like these were necessary in order to keep raising awareness about the problems of the youth and to help young people to better communicate about these issues with parents and even friends.

Puja Pudasaini
NPF Coordinator, Rukmini Foundation

I am very happy to be a part of this program. I understand better about the impact of child marriage to the rest of a life. I will never think of marrying early.
Puspa Waiba

Student, Panchakanya Secondary School

The tutors and mentors are helping me to improve my studies, and I am more confident about the upcoming final exams.

Roshani Rumba

Rukmini Scholar, Panchakanya Secondary School

About Puja Pudasaini

Puja was one of the first 10 Rukmini Scholars and while completing her 10+2 she began volunteering with Rukmini Foundation during various mentoring and special events. Now she joins as an Associate Didi to not only mentor the younger Rukmini Scholars, but she is also playing a critical role in a new project that we are launching thanks to a grant by Niwano Peace Foundation to address the needs of historically disenfranchised communities in the Pharping region.
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