Change is Possible
"Whenever I think of UDAAN, I become all smiles. It has helped me become who I am today, and has given me that strength to dream of a better future.” Sunita shared with a big smile on her face. Sunita Harijan, a 19-year-old girl, currently leads the Girls’ Right Forum in Rupandehi. But things were a lot different for her just a few years ago.
Sunita comes from a poor family in Mujhana, Lumbini Sanskritik Municipality, Rupandehi. When she was in fifth grade, her family experienced financial difficulties. Her mother also felt sick at the same time. As it became difficult to manage finances and household chores, Sunita had to drop out of school. She would sit back at her house and see other children walking to school. She shared, "I wanted to go to school and study. When I saw other kids going to school wearing uniforms, I wished it were me. But it was just like a daydream."
It was during that time that CARE Nepal's UDAAN program reached her community, and she got enrolled in UDAAN. With a bright face, Sunita shared, “They convinced my parents and I was able to study again. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if UDAAN had not created the opportunity for me. I doubt I would have a good future. I would probably be married at an early age, and I might have suffered domestic violence too."
The participatory and focused teaching methodologies of UDAAN helped Sunita to transition back to her “mother school.” She also expressed, "UDAAN helped us become expressive, and made us aware of our rights too. When we transitioned to mother school, I did well in my studies. But, I was also very vocal to ask for what I needed in the learning process. I felt loved by teachers, and people in my community too."
Other parents also notice the transformation in girls like Sunita, and have started sending their girls to schools, supporting their greater decision making, and allowing more freedom of movement within the community. Like Sunita, more girls now have their birth registered, and have started receiving citizenship certificates. Today, Sunita’s family motivates her to do things that impact social change. Sunita wants to become a nurse, and her parents and brothers are very supportive.
Sunita is passionate to work on social change, which led her to the GRF. Recently, Sunita was elected chairperson of the girls' rights forum (GRF) and now leads it. The GRF is currently advocating on issues affecting adolescent girls, through frequent meetings, discussion on the issue and initiatives to assure the issues are heard and addressed. The local GRF, led by Suinta, is working to address the pertinent issues in the community such as child marriage, the dowry system, girls dropping out of school at an early age, and birth registration and citizenship of girls in the community.
Sunita is hopeful of change and staying focused on solutions that work: "A lot of problems continue. A lot of girls are still dropping out of school like I did once. I wish all such girls could get a second chance like I did, because they also deserve a better future. I want all of them to have a program like UDAAN in their lives."
Sunita, 16, was supported with a bicycle by World Vision International (WVI) Nepal, which has helped her reach school on time and improve her studies.
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