Her Life, Her Script! by Reeti K.C.
I feel strong and confident because it is me who is holding the pen while I write my own story!
I held the pen in my hand, its sliver metallic nib tracing the smooth white surface of the paper. It’s every touch forming a constant curve in my lips as I glided the black ink to form shapes, curves, lines and dots. Those scribbles creating a new world where I am the writer and my life is my script.
I come from a place where the vermillion in a women’s forehead is her greatest strength and weakness , a place where the bangles in her hand becomes hand cuffs and a place where her dreams are tied up with the bun in her hair just for a reason that she are a girl.
Nepal is a country where only 44.5% of women and girls can read and write, 64% women are suffering from domestic violence and 86% are unsafe in their own community.
Nepal is culturally rich, its tradition and norms an asset. The preserved morals and values like respecting elders, treating guests as god, and giving the utmost place to teachers or mentors are things to be proud of. Being a Nepalese, especially a Hindu where the Sanskrit verses are taken as guidelines to lead a good life has set us on a morally restraint path.
With the traditional values that are being passed on from a long time, I’ve learnt to live in the norms of my society and family. But we cannot ignore the fact that Nepal is a country where patriarchy is in practice and the norms were made by men where I live as a girl.
I’ve been brought up in the city and am not kept in the four walls of the society without education or freedom. But more than 90% of girls like me are deprived of the freedom that I am enjoying. Though I live in the city, I come from a family with tradition and customs to follow that sometimes lack rationality but cannot be questioned for the tradition has to be continued.
For example: During menstruation, I am not allowed to go to temples, put tika , perform holy rites and even enter certain areas in my house like the kitchen because that is the time I am believed to be ‘impure’ and ‘untouchable’.
The situation is worse in the western part of Nepal. Girls during menstruation are kept in a shed outside their home for five days and women for seven days where they become victim of two legged and four legged predators and suffer with reproductive diseases due to unsanitary practices. They are also forbidden to have healthy food such as curds, potatoes, milk and other items during this period. The practice of secluding girls during menstruation is called Chhaupadi. It was made illegal in 2005 but is still followed in some Hindu communities of Western Nepal.
These moments when rationality washes away like that of words written in the sand, girls are coaxed to stay in an invisible boundary built with the fear and frivolity. These boundaries form the limitation that we as girls have to learn from our childhood. The dos and don’ts that have been pre-determined compel us to stay in a box where dreams and desires are just words or rather an illusion that can never be achieved.
Since birth, our life is scripted. Girls are taught to be polite, soft spoken, and humble, to sacrifice, play with ropes and learn how to make others happy. They are never taught to dream about their future because it does not matter. When girls are younger, they are sheltered by their father. When they are married and sent to the husband’s house, her happiness comes in the bottom most of all the priorities that she has to fulfill. She never gets to hold the pen while writing her story because it’s pre-written. A woman is never considered complete without her male counterpart. She is incomplete without the vermillion in her forehead, the red sari, beads and bangles that define her. A woman has lost her individuality for she depends on a man’s shoulder to cross every stream in her way.
In Nepal, 41% of girls are married before their 18th birthday and 10% are married before they turn 15. Their wings must not be tied with beads before they even grow and their braids must not be decorated with responsibilities as a mother before it is long enough to hold the weight. Girls from very young should be taught about independence and to have their own dreams. Their dreams about the identity they will have for themselves and not just as a wife of someone else.
Young girls in Nepal should be equipped with strength of education that can make them powerful enough to write their own story. Education will enable them to know their self-worth, introduce them to their individuality, identity and power as a girl.
It is found that girls with 8 years of education are 4 times less likely to be married as children. A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult and educated mothers are more than twice likely to send their children to school.
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, ‘Empowerment’ means to give authority and power and also enable. But empowerment comes only when there is a change in paradigm of thought in a person. Whether it is a man who considers women inferior to be suppressed or a woman who undermines her strength must have this change which is mandatory and intrinsic. Then we will be able to see young girls rising high, strong and confident. That is when I will feel proud of Nepal not just for having the highest peaks in the world but women and girls reaching and touching the height themselves because it is her story and she is the script writer!