Day 2 Kathmandu
Today was a real eye opener for us on the lives of the Nepali. In the morning, we visited the school where we will be teaching: the Deeya Shree English Boarding School. For some of us the school was bigger than expected, but for others, the tiny classrooms were astonishing. The one story school building is about the size of our RCHK secondary gym, with classrooms barely fitting our group of 14. The students were very friendly and excited to learn. It was interesting to note that each grade had a wide age range with one class ranging from 8-13. The sad reality is that many students are not sent to school until a late age or are unable to attend school at all because of their family’s financial situation.
Similar situations are happening country-wide as we heard from the Seven Women Center in the afternoon. We were greeted warmly with “namaste” from the women of the center. Each of us received the tika blessing – a red pigment swiped on our foreheads and some flowers sprinkled on the top of our heads, to welcome us. We then proceeded to listen to Anita, the center’s director, who told us how the Seven Women Center was founded. The organisation was founded by an Australian student, aged 22, who had made a trip to Nepal and met seven women with disabilities who were living out of a tin hut, trying to sell the things they were making but struggling against discrimination. There is a huge problem in Nepal where people with disabilities are being shunned as many believe having a disability is punishment for doing evil in a past life. She saw these women trying to make a living for themselves and wanted to help them gain independence by supporting them through social enterprise, and it all began from there.
The center’s focus is empowering women, who are marginalised in Nepalese society. Some families do not send their girls to school as they believe that only boys should have an education and that their purpose is to clean, cook, and be forced into arranged marriages. Anita told us that she herself ran away from her family and village at 14 to escape this life. Many women in Nepal are left as single mothers after being left by their husbands for giving birth to a girl and not a boy, and have to support their families alone. The Seven Women Center provides a place for women to learn the skills to provide for themselves, such as sewing and handcraft making, and teaching. They have a school they encourage and support girls and rural children in attending, so they can have an education, aspirations and break the cycle of poverty.
The center provides cooking and language lessons to tourists, which the women run. They also sell handmade products to different countries such as Australia. These help cover their costs of providing year long scholarships to children for attending school. The center hopes to provide scholarships to children so that their parents will not pull them out of school and send them away to become monks, or child labourers. Anita told us how this is a common problem and that parents are persuaded they can’t afford to look after their child and send them to these places where they are often at risk, especially girls.
As we learned Nepali and cooked Nepalese tarkari (vegetable curry) and kiri (rice pudding), we were able to experience the Nepalese culture in depth and really connect to the women who were teaching us. The stories told by Anita allowed us to step into the shoes of the women in Nepal and sympathise to them. By the end of the session, everyone was empowered to make a difference. We purchased several crafts from the Seven Women’s store and made plans to promote what we learnt in our own school community. We will be selling these crafts in our booth in the RCHK College Fair where all profits will go back to the people in Nepal.
We were deeply inspired by the difference that one determined individual could make and that we can be empowered to make a difference of our own.
Find out more information and donate at http://sevenwomen.org/donations.html