It is my great pleasure to introduce a girl named Sirjana from a Tamang (Waiba) family from a remote village of Kavre Palanchok, where people still think that educating girls is unnecessary. Girls’ role is limited to working in farming, household, and taking care of their younger siblings. Most of the girls are married at an early age. Sirjana’s mother, Muna, was one of those women.
Muna was married to a young truck driver who had left his home in Kavre to seek better job opportunities in Kathmandu. They lived in a small apartment in Pharping, far away from both of their family and friends. Sirjana was born when her mother was only 16 years old. It was a very difficult time for a young mother who was taking care of the baby by herself without much help from others.
A teenager, who had to face the challenges of motherhood all alone, made a promise for a better future for her daughter. A future shaped by education. A future where Sirjana would be independent. This was the starting point of Sirjana’s journey to education.
Sirjana was a pleasant and active child who used to imitate her mother while she played. Sirjana remembers the day when she went out to play with other children without asking her mother. Her mother became very worried and went looking for her. She was relieved to find her playing with other children, but on that day, she scolded her daughter not to leave home again without asking. Since that day, Sirjana never went out or did anything without the permission of her parents. She became a little helper of her mother when her mother was sick.
The road to Education
When Sirjana was four years old, she started Nursery (similar to Pre-K) grade at Arunodaya High school. Next year, she became a first-grader bypassing a few school grades. Sirjana adjusted quickly in her class and learned her lessons fast, but she had difficulty understanding Nepali. She was excellent in every subject and always topped her class. She had many friends and helped them when they needed help in their studies.
Life lessons at an early age
Sirjana had to experience a lot of hardship at a young age. Her mother was pressured by her family to have a boy. There was occasional tension in the family due to financial problems and her father’s drinking problem. Her mother had to work to support the family with the infant in her back. Her mother used to take Sirjana to her work to look after the baby. Sirjana studied or did her homework while the baby slept. Until today, Sirjana has been looking after her brother. She is his after-school tutor, sister, and caregiver. Even in such difficult times, Sirjana kept doing well in her studies.
Sirjana understood the hardship of child marriage in girls, gender inequality favoring sons to daughters, domestic disturbances, and violence against women early in life. She began to understand why her mother wanted her to get a good education and become independent. Her mother’s words, “every girl needs to be independent,” became her mantra, and her mother became her inspiration.
Becoming Rukmini Scholar
Sirjana was selected in the Rukmini program by our selection committee from 6th grade upon recommendation of her school. It gave her mother hope that her daughter’s education would not be disturbed due to financial reasons. She enjoyed the visit by Didis (mentors) after school or on Saturdays who shared their stories, listened to their problems, helped with their studies, and played games. She took inspiration from the stories of successful Didis and participated in every program organized by the Foundation designed to spread awareness on girls’ and women’s issues. Such programs helped her gain courage in sharing her thoughts, speaking confidently, and expressing her views. She started asking questions quickly with her teachers, she was confident in speaking in front of people and took part in school activities.
She took part in debate competitions and came first in one of the debates. She was involved in the Junior Red Cross Chapter in her school working as a Deputy Secretary, writing proposals and bringing a program planting trees in the School compound. Sirjana had set a goal to become a doctor early in her childhood. In 2019, she passed the 10th grade SEE Board examination scoring good marks. She decided to continue her education at Arunodaya Higher Secondary School pursuing in Education.
I believe that empowerment comes through education and education plays a vital role in preventing social evils like domestic violence and child marriage.
Becoming a Mentor
Sirjana became a mentor soon after the SEE examination. It was not a difficult job for her since she was one of the mentees till recently. Seeing her interest and her ability, she was hired as an intern at the Foundation. In the role of a Didi (older sister/mentor), she can inspire Bahinis by sharing her personal experiences and the inspiring stories of the Didis of her time. She speaks strongly against child marriage and inspires to be independent. She learned different activities involved in carrying out programs for girls and women empowerment. She is ready to take on any assignments like field visits, writing reports, helping with office activities, etc. She continues to attend her classes in the morning and works full time at the Foundation. She is working with the G.LO.W. Club as a Girl Ambassador and writing a curriculum to run the Clubs in schools. She is building her capacity to run different programs, which she shares with her Bahinis. She is mentoring the Arunodaya G.L.O.W. club successfully. She is constantly learning new things from Bahinis and takes inspiration from them.
Sirjana is awaiting her 12th Grade board examination results. She wants to continue her degree in Education. Her childhood dream of becoming a doctor has changed to being a teacher. She understands that all professions are equally important. She wants to be the kind of teacher who understands and appreciates every student’s unique talent. She is on her way to fulfilling her mother’s wish that her daughter becomes independent and educated so that she will not have to face the same fate as hers becoming a young bride and facing so many challenges in life.
For a young girl who had to face so many challenges since her childhood and not let them affect her education. Her ability to cope with the challenges and move ahead with the hope for a better future is a heroic quality. We can hope that her story can inspire others to work towards eliminating gender inequality and curb domestic violence in society.