The foundation’s mentoring program (Didi Program) provides opportunities for our scholars (Bahinis) to engage with Didis (Mentors). Didis inspire Bahinis through stories about their experiences and are role models for our scholars. Since the pandemic began in the Spring of 2020, in-person activities were suspended, but we were able to conduct Didi programs virtually for those who had online access. This past fall, the foundation hosted Didi Ms. Rajani Khatri Basnet as our special guest. Many Bahinis, mentors and our team attend to listen to Rajani Didi’s story. Most of our Bahinis knew her as a teacher of Setidevi School in Sokhel but did not know her exciting story.
Rajani Didi’s story:
She was born in a village called Dallu near Pharping. She grew up in a small farming family. Life was not easy, but her parents tried to fulfill their children’s needs. Rajani was very creative from her early childhood. Reading books, listening to songs and poems on the radio, and writing poetry was her favorite pastime. For Rajani Didi, the books she read became her inspiration. She said, “Inspiration can be found all around us”. When she was in the 4th grade, she composed her first poem in her classroom. When the teacher noticed her writing, he called her in front of the class and asked her to read it. She was terrified but recited the poem. The teacher praised her writing, and the class clapped. That gave her a big boost and motivated to write.
Encouraging Bahinis to read outside the coursework:
Rajani Didi loves to read books by famous Nepali writers like Parijat, Ani Choying Dolma, and Jhamak Kumari Ghimire. She encourages Bahinis to read inspirational stories to understand how people struggle and overcome obstacles and reach their goals. Rajani Didi said, “Reading books will help to explore many things and broaden our perspective”. She also noted that people get motivation by seeing successful people around them and others by reading books.
Take part in extracurricular activities:
She encouraged Bahinis to take part in extracurricular activities for skill development. In her student life, such activities were very rare and were often discouraged. Rajani shared an incident when she and a friend asked their teacher to start “extracurricular activity”. Instead of encouraging, the teacher scolded them and told them to focus on their studies. She tells Bahinis to take advantage of the programs and resources to learn and explore their interests.
She understands the importance of having a women teacher talk about their problems like menstruation and other personal issues. In her time, all teachers were male, and they could not share their concerns with anyone. Nowadays, there is an increasing number of women teachers who understand girls’ problems. She encourages the girls to participate in programs that are offered to them.
Do not be discouraged if you fail:
Rajani mentioned that she was considered an average student. She failed her S.L.C. examination on her first try. She thought that her failure might bring shame to her family; instead, her father encouraged her to work harder next time. She was pleased with her father’s encouragement and worked hard, and passed the examination next time.
Fight Child marriage:
Didi shares her own marriage experience at the age of 20 before finishing her studies. The political and social environment at the time was volatile, so she accepted the marriage. Luckily, her husband was a proponent of education and worked hard for improvement in the welfare of the students. He encouraged his young wife to continue her education and take part in any activities of her interest.
Although being married at a young age did not hinder her aspirations, she strongly urges Bahinis not to get married before they finish their education and become independent. Didi went on to talk about how responsibilities grow after marriage. She became someone’s wife and soon became a mother. She had to take all the household responsibilities and look after her child because her husband was very busy. Besides, not all men share household duties and take care of the child with their wives. She shared how she sometimes cried, thinking of her free days in her parent’s house.
She writes poems on social issues like poverty and caste discrimination. Her recently published book “Pidama Khusi” ( which literally means – happiness in agony) has been distributed to many districts of Nepal. After the lockdown, she plans to distribute her book to all the schools in the area.
After Didi’s story, one of the Bahinis, Sabina Rumba, asked Didi why she was interested in composing poems. To which, Rajani Didi answered that she loves writing poems, and the interest comes without any reason. It comes in an appropriate atmosphere. It can not be done if someone forces you to do it. Also, it might be the genetic quality acquired from her father, who loves creative activities and often uses rhythms in speaking with his family.
After the program, some more Bahinis shared their feelings and learnings from the Didi program.
Soniya Shrestha (G.L.O.W. Club member – Setidevi ) had this to say:
“Rajani didi shared her story in a very interesting way. We enjoyed listening to her story a lot. Through her story we learned that we should be hopeful and we shouldn’t give up in any case. Although she failed in the exam she tried again and succeeded. We also learned that we should be self aware about important information and we shouldn’t depend totally on others. As a human being we should treat all people equally and we should finish school and be independent before we get married”.
Thanks to Ms. Rajani Khatri for sharing her story to inspire our Bahinis.