Report by: Prakriti Nepal
Ritu Ap is not only a famous actor in Nepal television, but she is also a social worker and a loving mother. She has acted in more than four Nepali series and also in some Nepali movies. She is a strong woman who devoted her entire life to her family, and one day decided to pursue her dream of becoming an actor and a social worker. Recently, she led our Didi program where she shared her story and inspired 40 girls by talking about how they can use their education to empower themselves and achieve their dreams.
Ritu Didi begins to share her story.
Born in Kathmandu, Ritu was sent to India at a young age for her education. She was a studious and hardworking student who developed a passion for communication and media from an early age. After finishing her education and returning to Nepal, however, her family hado other plans for her. She was soon married and her education, and her dreams were put on hold.
Ritu Didi’s words moved everyone in the room.
She shared with the girls about how her life had changed when she got married at the age of 16. Thinking that going along with the family’s decision would make her life better, she agreed, but thinks that it may not have been what she would have chosen for herself. Ritu Didi stressed to all of the girls about how family circumstances can put pressure on girls to take decisions which may not right for them. She hoped that the girls would not be a victim of such pressure, but instead be able to speak up for their own hopes and dreams. She added that the strength to fight against these traditional pressures comes from proper education.
Following the traditional pattern of married Nepali women, Ritu devoted herself to her household, seeking happiness for ten years in taking care of the family. However, she was not satisfied with simply being a good housewife, and decided to pursue her dreams of becoming an actor.
Ritu’s son, Dikshant (directly to left of Ritu Didi) motivated her to pursue her dreams.
As a mother of two children and a housewife, it was very difficult for her to break the social barrier and leave the house to pursue her dream. However, with encouragement and motivation from her elder son Dikshant, at the age of 25, Ritu joined a drama school to start her training. Through her education and training at the drama school, Ritu took the first steps towards her successful career.
A highly motivated woman, Ritu excelled in her training and emerged as a successful actor. Annapurna Post, a widely circulated newspaper in Nepal, did an article on her, which provided her with the boost of confidence and helped her believe in her skills. Ever since then she has kept reaching for the stars and never looked back.
Using her life story as an example, Ritu Didi emphasized to the Rukmini Scholars in Didi program the importance of following one’s dream and empowering each other to break the barriers our society puts on girls and women in our culture. She also put a great emphasis on education as the key tool for empowerment. For the scholars to be happy women in the future, they need to also pursue their personal aims and dreams. She encouraged the Ruku scholars to build up their confidence and courage to pursue their goals regardless of the obstacle that come their way. The girls should be strong for themselves and each other, so that they all grow stronger together to pursue their dreams. If they are not able to dream today, they may not have an opportunity to dream in the future and might lose their self identity.
During the session, the scholars were not only listening closely, but also asked some great questions. These questions were answered throughout the program.
Despite of the difficulties at home, what encouraged you to take a step forward to fulfill your dreams?
How did you get to become such a strong lady? Was it all internal strength, or was it motivation from your son, or something else?
After answering the questions, Ritu Didi said that her main priority for now is to support her son’s education and also to teach him to be an empowerer of girls and women. She said that at one point it was her son who motivated her to be strong, and now she feels it is her responsibility to do the same for him so that he can stand up for his dreams.
In closing, she said that a Nepali girl and woman face many challenges in life, and from her own personal experience, she knows that it is not easy to rebel against family expectations, culture and the mindset of many in society. However, she strongly believes that change starts from within, and by empowering ourselves through education, we can be prepared to fight for our hopes and dreams.
To make sure that the program was not just serious dialogue, Ritu Didi taught some dance moves that she has learned over the years. The girls really enjoyed dancing with Ritu Didi, and our Scholar, Sabina Rumba sang a song for Ritu Didi to thank her for sharing her stories with us. We were so proud of Rebellious Ritu for the strength she has shown throughout her life, and we feel that she passed some of that to all of us in the program. Thank you again, Ritu Didi.
Sharing my story with the girls in the Didi program made me feel proud. The Didi program is an important platform where not only scholars benefit, but so do the Didis. I was also happy because even though I was sharing some difficult things, I could share it with ease with the girls. I hope they can gain strength from that to fight the difficult circumstances they will face. Change starts from yourself, and I have tried to change and grow, so I am grateful to Rukmini Foundation for letting me help other girls from my experience. A big source of my motivation is my son, and I want him to grow up to support girls education and empowerment of women also.