Women play an important role in the development of family and society. So when women in Nepal shared their heartbreaking stories brought on by the lack of opportunity to education, an inspired participant of the Global Peace Women’s Leadership Academy, Sapana Bhulun, initiated a program to work side-by-side with them to uplift and nurture their innate talents as a leader in the family and community.
Sapana struggled herself to complete her basic education until her twenties, but now pursues her higher secondary education towards becoming a social worker. Explaining that her passion is to empower other women through education, Sapana described the inspiration for her project saying, “Without education, one could not adjust in today’s competing world. Thus, through my project, I would be helping those women who are deprived of education and are limited to household chores only. Also, it will be empowering women with the knowledge and skills so that they could lead themselves and have their own strong individual identity in their family and society.”
In a 2018 survey, it was found that many women from the Bhaktapur area in Nepal had the willingness to pursue their education. However, a significant portion of families had migrated to Kaushaltar, Bhaktapur from outside valley, where most of the women were illiterate despite having the interest to pursue their education. Women were therefore not able to complete their education as they had to settle down in the migrated city area and were moreover focused on strengthening their family's low economic status. Other factors have included being unaware of the importance of education and the inequality of opportunities between women and men.
Unfortunately, many women share the experience of being humiliated and ignored by their family members, relatives, and other community people for being an illiterate person, an illiterate mother, an illiterate wife, and an illiterate daughter. Even day-to-day tasks, like helping children with homework and signing documents were daunting undertakings. This reality is changing, however, thanks to a literacy program initiated by Sapana through the Global Peace Women (GPW) Leadership Academy.
"Beforehand, I used to feel ashamed because I was not able to sign my name in the bank papers for my children's school,” said Mrs. Krishna Chaudhary, a participant. “But after the literacy class, nowadays, I am able to write my name. Also, I can recognize English and Nepali alphabets very well. I wanted to learn not only from my experience but also wants to enhance my knowledge through formal education."
Sapana’s literacy program was conducted from January to July 2019, empowered twenty-two women between the ages of 20 to 60 through education and skill development programs which have also fostered entrepreneurship by learning how to read and write in both the Nepali and English language. The literacy class was not limited to basic education from the program itself, but also provided the inspiration for the women to pursue a formal education in school. Throughout the six-month program, participants not only learned to meet everyday literacy demands in both Nepali and English, but also income-generating capacity, such as how to make products like liquid soap and keyrings from recycled plastic.
In their own words…
“Education is very important in today’s world and life is incomplete without it. I joined this literacy class and I am very happy and glad to be part of it. Previously, I could not able to read any words written in the Bible but after joining literacy class, nowadays, I can read some words of Bible at Church." —Kanchi Maya Bomjan
"Previously, I could not able to read and write. Also, I used to face difficulties in dealing with people at my workplace. But, after attending the literacy class, I can read and write as well as able to develop my self-confidence to communicate with others.” —Goma Thapa
"I am very happy to be pursuing my education through this literacy class program. Further, I also got a chance to participate in the awareness program, from where I came to know about the importance of each family member and the power of complementary relationship. Even our small negligence or ignorance can weaken our family bonds. The program was very fruitful and meaningful. I would like to suggest the team to conduct such program further in our community focusing the participants that include both children and parents." —Bimala Shrestha
"Gradually, I am being able to read and write and also, able to develop my self-confidence day-by-day. This literacy program has brought positive changes in my daily living. As I am a shopkeeper, I can now easily calculate and take care of the money transactions in my shop, on my own. Furthermore, I am trying to learn to write the names of different places and to write messages on my phone by learning roman alphabets. " —Shila Thing
"I am very happy to join this program, from where I am improving my literacy skills day by day. These days, I am able to type messages and send those to my friends through my mobile phone. Also, my family members are very happy to see my educational growth." —Sabina Tamang
The participants were motivated to come to class on a regular basis, where many of them joined these classes out of their own initiative. A total of 22 students completed the course. In addition, The women literacy course expressed their eager desire and interest to continue to study further. Sapana is planning to approach various organizations to build partnerships to further develop her project. But in the meantime, she will be giving her time and knowledge as voluntary support.