Rukmini Foundation started with a dream, a dream to help bring education and literacy to girls and women who live in the shadows of poverty in many parts of Nepal. We started with aim of bring mental, physical and emotional well being to the girls and women living in rural areas of Nepal. Mom’s club of Rukmini Foundation is a new branch that started as a way for mothers of Rukmini Scholars to network and share with each other their experiences. Since then, Mom’s club has grown as strong force of women who support and help each other grow and find independence in Nepal’s patriarchal society
Every month, members of Mom’s club get together and discuss various aspects of their life and community related to their interests. This month, held at the local Briddhashram (Old-age Home) in Pharping, the Mom’s Club discussed the topic of literacy. The meeting was held on on International Literacy day (7th Sept), and in accordance with the outline of Mom’s Club, the Mom’s Club celebrated Literacy day by discussing the influence of education or lack there of in their personal and professional life.
After Usha Didi welcomed the participants, Bahini Puja talked to the group about the importance of education. She highlighted the importance of women’s education for the development of one’s society, as an educated woman not only brings developmental changes for herself but also to her children and family. Puja passionately explained that knowledge and thus education to gain knowledge is essential, because life without education is like living in darkness, unaware of most of the world around us.
After the members greeted each other with the Namaste song, the Mom’s Club followed its tradition and the members asked each other “what made you happy this week?” From being able to buy a new phone for oneself like Swarswati K.C to getting an opportunity to be part of the Literacy Day Program with the Mom’s club like Bima Shrestha, this ritual of the Club lets the women share parts of their life with each other to build a sense of camaraderie and community.
The Club members divided into two groups at the meeting to discuss the topic of the Literacy Day topic, “Condition of Educated Women VS The Uneducated Women in Our Society”. The members worked together in their groups, and wrote down their thoughts on paper: the conditions of educated women inside a big heart and the conditions of women without, outside it. The topic of discussion was close to the member’s heart as they themselves have has little to no education, and thus were left out of many life opportunities.
After discussion in their group, one member of each team was asked to come up and present their findings to the audience. This was designed to help members develop the skill of public speaking and presentation in accordance to this year’s UNESCO program “Literacy and Skill Development”.
The first presenter was Bima Shrestha, a local business owner who ran her own small clothing store. Bima expressed that lack of higher education made it difficult for her to expand her business. She presented the following findings of her team about Conditions of Educated Women:
- Preconditions for development are present in a society where everyone (including women) are educated,
- Families of educated women are often more active in society, as they have more self confidence
- They have better opportunities for employment, and thus can contribute more to community development,
- They are able to safegaurd the health and education of their children
- They have better understanding of their society and are able to approach the government/state when necessary
The second presenter, Saraswati K.C. from the second group also added that educated women were better able to raise their voice against any injustice they faced or witnessed. Their increased self confidence also gave them the ability to participate in politics if they so desired. Further, Saraswati added that education provided women in our society with recognition and more equal opportunities; opportunities many members of Mom’s club did not experience.
With only 8th grade education, Saraswati shares that she was not able to choose a profession of he liking to make a better living. Instead she is financially dependent on others. Saraswati went onto share with the audience, the list her group came up with in regards to the Conditions of Uneducated Women in our society:
- Uneducated women lack the recognition and respect of their counterparts,
- They lack independence as they often have to reply on others for financial support,
- They lack the confidence to participate actively in their society, often sidelined because they may not understand the different aspects of modern community,
- They are often confined to traditional gender roles and thinking,
- They are often unable to speak up, even in times of trouble like with domestic violence or other forms of abuse
Bima Shrestha added that lack of education often leads to diminished self confidence and the women are thus unable or unwilling to approach the government or state when needed. Uneducated themselves, many women in rural areas do not know the importance of education and may not be able to promote education for their family and children.
After the presentation by Bima and Saraswati, other members of the Club voiced their thoughts on importance of education and literacy. They were unified in their determination to provide higher education and better life opportunities for their children.
Mangallaxmi Shrestha, an office assistant in a municipality office spoke up about her own personal experience to the group. She shared:
“ I have studied up-to 10th grade. After that, I used to make alcohol at home to sell. However, my husband used to consume a lot of the readily available alcohol those days. I always wished I was doing something else, but it was very difficult due to my education level. I am recently employed by the municipality as an office assistant, but if I had higher education, I would have had opportunity for promotion to be an office manager. So I am determined to provide higher education for my two daughters and one son.”
All the women empathized with Mangallaxmi as they all have had similar experiences in their life. Srijana Biskunke, a professional farmer, shared her story too:
“ Farming is my family’s primary source of income. I only have 8th grade of education. Today, there are many opportunities in agriculture and I am always getting new training about farming practices. If I had completed my high school diploma, I could have become a JTA and done more for my family and community. So I am always encouraging everyone to get higher education. No household and society can progress without education.”
The personal experiences shared by Mangallaxmi and Srijana encompassed our discussion topic for the meeting, the difference in living conditions of women with education and without. This meeting focused on importance of education and skill training was a success as all women not only shared an understanding but also determination to help their family and society grow through education.
This Mom’s Club meeting on Literacy Day ended on a high note, playing games, singing, and dancing to celebrate the festival of Teej, a festival celebrated only by women. All the participants received gifts of bindi and nail polish, a gesture to celebrate womanhood and their bond with each other.