Based on a report by Sirjana Waiba and story by Laxmi Aryal
Chori ko janma hareko karma (“A daughter is born with a doomed fate”). This tragic Nepali proverb truly exemplifies how gender discrimination is deeply rooted in society. The causes of this discrimination is multifaceted, which include illiteracy, customs, traditions and social and cultural norms. The impact of this discrimination is enormous, and as the proverb clearly shows, girls face discrimination even in their homes.
Not only in Nepal, are women not treated equally throughout the world. Women receive less access to opportunities in higher positions, make less money for the same work, and face discrimination and harassments at workplace and at home. We must work together to discourage such discriminatory practices in order to move ahead towards sustainable development. This year, the Foundation celebrated International Women’s Day in a Tamang village in Bhandarkharka on March 8 by raising awareness through a street play.
Why Tamang Village?
The ethnic community of Tamangs, especially women face many social economic challenges. Many of our Bahinis are from the Tamang community that has been underserved for many years. The foundation decided to play a street drama to make the community aware of the discrimination between sons and daughters and its effects on girls. Since many Bahinis from the community do not share a common language, the play was selected as a medium to raise awareness.
A Spotlight on play
Street plays have a rich history in Nepali culture, especially in Kathmandu. Interestingly, the name Kathmandu was derived from KastaMandap roughly translating to wooden stage. Until recently, these street plays were written, directed and acted entirely by men. The foundation flipped this script by performing a drama written, directed and acted by an all female cast and crew. The play was produced by Usha Adhikari and performed by Bahinis, mentors and staff.
The Preparation: Road to Bhandarkharka
After many rehearsals of the play in the foundation office, on March 8, the foundation team rented a local van and traveled to Bhandarkharka village. The local people helped promote the event which was attended by nearly 200 people, including our team, mentors, and Bahinis. Right before the play, the audience was entertained by a beautiful dance performance of Bahini Purnima Shah.
Act 1: After the dance performance, Apsara Adhikari narrated the play, a drama about a family that treats a son and daughter differently as a way of everyday life. The play begins with mother Chameli scolding daughter Sandhya to cook the food as her brother is getting late to catch the school bus to private school. Sandhya prepares food quickly and serves her brother. The brother eats and leaves his plate where he ate, which Sandhya cleans. Chameli gives her son the lunch money.
Act 2: Sandhya does not get lunch money; instead, she has to make roasted corn and walk two hours to a public school. When she comes back from school, she has to cut grass for the cows and goats and do household work again. She feels sad and thinks that her parents do not love her; they only love her brother.
Act 3: Sandhya and her classmate Ramesh like each other in school. As they are close to each other, Ramesh proposes to marry her. Sandhya accepts his proposal, but her friend, Rama, advises against early marriage. Against her friend’s suggestion, Sandhya decides to leave home and elope with Ramesh. Running out of options, Rama informs her teacher, Sabina Miss, about Sandhya’s situation.
Act 4: Sabina Miss explains to Chameli that child marriage is illegal and punishable by law. Sons and daughters should be treated equally and given the same chance for education. Chameli finally brings her daughter back and realizes how she was mistreating her daughter because she was a girl. Chameli understands that girls can be successful as boys if given equal opportunities.
The play concluded with the message that girls are discriminated causing a severe impact on their well-being. Girls should be given equal chances to education to be successful and independent. After the drama, Rukmini Team sang an inspirational song. Bahini Purnima Shah presented another dance item. The program was liked a lot by the audience.
- RF Bahini Sanshree Acharya – Mother Chameli
- RF Graduate Bahini Susmita Tamang – Father
- RF Bahini Saru as daughter Sandhya
- RF Graduate Bahini Asmita Sunuwar – Rama
- RF Graduate Bahini and RF didi Sirjana Waiba – Ramesh
- Mentor Setidevi Glow Club, Talku – Teacher
People seemed delighted to see such an exciting and educational program. From their reaction, it looked as if they truly realized how they were discriminating against their own daughters. We can tell that this program led to effectively understanding the unequal treatment between sons and daughters. Discrimination based on gender not only affects the girls, leading to child marriage, school dropouts, illiteracy, it also hinders the development of the community, and slowing down the overall growth of the society.
Ram Maya Waiba, a participant of the program, said that “women were violated in ancient times, but even in modern day, they have been denied their rights. The play raised awareness for the mothers that they need to play a strong role in providing equal opportunity to both their sons and daughters. When a mother understands her daughter’s feelings better, she can give her daughters a better chance in life and to help them become independent women. This program was joyful, and I am very happy to get to see this drama that shows the reality of discrimination based on gender.”
Rita Rumba, a participant of the program, “I feel glad to participate in the program and I enjoyed the play as I learned a lot. Due to a lack of awareness, people have been discriminating against their daughters in favor of their sons. I loved the drama and the song, which really helped to understand the importance of being aware and for speaking out in order to protect our daughters.”
It seems puzzling to be part of a society that worships goddesses, but discriminates against women. Let us move from the archaic thinking that a girl’s and a woman’s life as “doomed” to a new of thinking that celebrates girls and women as change agents for our world. A Sanskrit sloka states, नारीशक्ति शक्तिशाली समाजस्य निर्माणं करोति, narikhakti shaktishali samajasya nirmanam karoti meaning Women empowerment can make the society powerful.
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