Empowering Nepalese Girls

Nov 19, 2010
*Special to asia!

A trek to the world’s highest peak gives rise to one of education’s greatest endeavours.

Last year, a friend of mine working with the United Nations Development Program in communities in Laos and East Timor, explained to me how educating and providing monetary support to a woman, usually a mother, also meant providing education and support for her family. But educating a man and giving him money, would end with him. Her two sentences were a simple explanation to the highly complex nature of people in desperate and disadvantaged situations.

It is not the first time the education of females has been given greater clout over the education of males. In a 2004 speech, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “I believed and still believe that there is no way that we can address the question of equity and social justice, that we can address the question of economics, that we can address the question of poverty, until all of us – the men and women in this room and millions and hundreds of millions outside – understand that the role of women has been grossly underestimated and under-reflected in many societies around the world…But I am absolutely clear that if we are to make a difference in society, that the role of women as has often been said is not just the role of educating one man to make him educated. The role is educate a woman and you educate a family.”

After working in Nepal for the past eight years, Patzer tells me that many people have asked if there is resentment that the LSF focuses on education for girls, and he explains that the people working with the LSF in Nepal have been excellent at working within the cultural confines of Nepal. He says, “To date, we have experienced very little kick-back. We take the needed time to stress and to communicate the importance of female education. As former Secretary General to the UN, Kofi Annan stated in 2003, ‘We know that there is no tool for development more powerful than the education of girls and the empowerment of women.’ The Little Sisters Fund addresses both and the people understand this and instead of being resentful, are appreciative for the opportunities we provide. Our support of girls also frees up additional resources for the other children to go to school (both male and female) and the families and society are most grateful for this.”

Those who will be even more grateful however, are the little girls that were once like Januka.

“My future plan is to do well in life and also to do something for the LSF which changed my life. Though I may not be able to help financially, I will always be there whenever I am needed.” That was the reply I got from Januka when I asked what her future plans were. It’s very inspiring to learn that after being empowered by this very unique gift of education, her future plans are to simply pay it forward.

“I hope they all will do well as they are very good and smart sisters. So far the programme has done so much for girls like us be it in education, health or other related things. I hope that later the programme will expand to other parts of Nepal, spreading the light of education to all the other underprivileged girls as well contributing to the country to produce enough human power for the development of the country.”

I could hear the young Januka again, the little girl that was touched and inspired. More importantly however, is the confident and hopeful revolutionary of the future that resonates within her – all fired up and craving for change to improve the lives of others like her.

The best part about all of this is that it isn’t something as difficult to grapple with and solve as say, climate change. Changing the life of even one girl is an effort that almost anyone privileged enough to pick up this magazine and comprehend it can afford. Finally, a state of affairs that doesn’t leave you sitting back and saying, “So? What can I do?”


For more information about The Little Sisters Fund, and on how you can donate, visit www.littlesistersfund.org

debby ngDebby Ng forayed into journalism following failed attempts at becoming a world-class equestrian. A wildlife crime investigator, underwater photographer, dive master and founder of a marine conservation organisation, she spends what remains of her time writing about the environment, its wildlife, and its people.

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