In urban areas, women are educated enough and are aware of their rights; but as my own experience from rural village of Mrigauliya, Nepal reveals, we women do not have rights in our own body. Before marriage, we exist to support our parents and after marriage our body is for our husbands and family members. Primarily the male family members decide what they want to do to our bodies. Many girls are forced to marry between the ages of 15-18. Most women, especially in rural parts of Nepal, are ignored politically, culturally, socially, and economically.
When I was 10 years old, my maternal aunt died after giving birth to a child. It is said that she was having the pregnancy problem for a week and was kept separately outside of house (in a temporary house made of bamboo especially for pregnancy), where children and men weren’t allowed to see her. All my relatives and neighbors believed that it was normal to have pregnancy symptoms for a week; but unfortunately, my aunt died two days after giving birth to a daughter. She died because of blood loss.
Because of superstitious beliefs, people thought that my newborn cousin took my aunt’s life. Thereafter no one cared for her. I still remember the moment when I was not allowed to touch my cousin when she was crying with her hungry stomach. Finally, my cousin passed away after two days. Since that day, I realized that I have to do something in my community so that none of the innocent people like my cousin and my aunt would have to be the victim of such mispractices and superstitious beliefs deeply rooted in the societies. I realized that activities that create awareness will be instrumental to addressing this problem, at least to some extent if not fully. Over many years, I have regularly been engaged in various activities and am still highly motivated to work on these fronts.
If I am selected as a winner of the Young Visionaries Contest grant, I will organize an awareness program which includes drama and free heath check ups for both men and women in my community as well as in some other rural parts of Nepal. I choose to organize a play by mobilizing young people rather than teaching health education to men and women because about 80% of the total populations of my community are illiterate. Even the 20% of the population which is literate does not care much about of women’s health.
Furthermore, I want to start from grassroots level by educating both men and women through the means of play. The social issues such as early marriage, birth spacing, class & caste system, maternal health problem, use of contraceptives, safe abortion, gender discrimination, and issues related with single women will be themetized in the play.
The reason why I have chosen as the location the Village Development Committee office area is that it will be an accessible for most targeted people so that it can have greater influence on a greater mass of people. I believe that, to make women aware of their rights, we also need to include men especially in a patriarchal community like mine so that they will also be aware and support their daughters and wives’ activities – therefore the participation of male members is equally important.
The program will be carried out in partnership with the Women’s Saving Group, a club in which I have been working as the founder. The project will also be supported by Mrigauliya Village Development Committee.