As the Marginalised No More project in Nepal, led by Street Child, reaches completion, we spoke with Puspa who has been supported by the programme. Here, she tells us about her achievements, and reflects on her experience and the implications for her future and that of her community.
1. What were your expectations at the start of the project?
I hoped to receive educational support to help me re-join school after a gap of many years. Three years ago, I had to drop out of school due to financial problems at home. At the time, I was studying in Grade 7. I come from a large family of six and my father could not afford to send us to school. Although I wanted to study further, we could not afford school fees and supplies such as a uniform and books. However, things are different now - my father is working abroad and he is able to support us financially. After joining the Marginalised no More programme, I regained my confidence and wanted to go back to school. It felt like I was being given a second chance. I also wanted to learn life skills. I wanted to educate myself about my rights and reproductive health, and build my ‘soft skills’ - such as problem solving, public speaking, teamwork and leadership - to lead a better-quality life.
2. What did you hope you would achieve after graduating from the project?
After graduating from the programme, I wanted to continue my education and finish school. I want to achieve a Bachelor’s degree and work for organisations that empower vulnerable communities. I recently sat my Grade 8 exams and I am currently waiting for my results.
3. What challenges did you face after joining the programme?
After joining the programme, I had to learn how to balance my time between housework and my classes. Many people from my village commented that, as a girl, I should be more focused on helping at home and not wasting my time studying. While going to the learning centre, I used to be teased by the boys outside my community. These incidents often worried my parents. However, I was able to convince my parents that it was important for me to focus on my education. I told my parents that during study hours I will only study and will help them in future thorough my education.
4. What was best or most interesting part of the programme?
I enjoyed my time during the Accelerated Learning Programme, especially learning numerical skills. We were given worksheets and were taught through various games and activities which made it easier for me to grasp what was being taught. Learning in my own local language also made things easier to understand. The guidance and support from the teachers helped a lot. I could ask questions if I was not certain about something.
5. What are the things you would like to change in your community, based on what you have learned?
Since I joined the programme, I am more confident when I talk to others. I was shy and afraid to talk before. Today I am more vocal about what I want and I can even interact with local leaders.
I also teach others from my community what I have learned. I have taught my mother how to recognise numbers and letters. In the coming days, I would like to initiate a community clean-up programme. I want to uplift the women from my community, with the support of the local municipality. I also would want to spread awareness about child marriage and carry out awareness programme on gender-based violence. These are some of the important lessons I learned on the programme.
6. What suggestions would you like to give to the programme, if we were to do things differently?
My suggestion would be to also include Musahar boys in the educational programme. If boys are also given the support to continue with their education, there would be less school drop out of boys and that would lead to a positive impact in our community. Including boys in important lessons like life skills would help them to deal with daily life challenges and adapt positive behaviours.
Similarly, if Musahar parents are given numeracy and financial skills lessons, they too would learn about savings. Many Musahar parents have no prior education and throughout life they do not understand the importance of financial literacy and savings.
7. What are you most proud of about yourself after completing the programme?
I feel proud that I re-joined school and that I am able to continue my education. These days in school, I am confident when talking to my teachers and peers. The teachers often ask me to lead games I have learned from the programme.
8. Did you learn anything about yourself through the involvement in the project?
Through the Life Skills programme, I was able to build my soft skills. I am able to go to ward offices and meet government officials as a Kishori Chafal Kendra (KCK) member and talk to them directly. I am also more focused in my studies and have more clarity in what is being taught at school.
9. Did you find any difference in the support that you receive from the community after joining and completing the programme?
Prior to joining the programme, the people from my community would tell me it was useless studying and would tell me to get married instead. However, after successfully completing the programme and transitioning in school, everyone is happy that I am continuing with my education.
10. Can you share some thoughts on your membership of the Kishori Chalfal Kendra (KCK)?
Through the KCK I am able to take part in awareness-raising programmes and women empowerment campaigns in my community. This has led me to want to do more to help uplift my village. Together with the support of the community, the KCK network can bring many positive changes in the community.