Babita, now 20, charms everyone she meets and is known for her curiosity and open mind. She was recently hired to support EDWON’s women’s program in Chitwon District. Her job is to help women’s empowerment groups run their savings and loan associations and teach them about their rights as women and Dalits.
She has always wanted to help people from the marginalized Dalit community, and this is a dream job for her. “As a Dalit woman, I would really like to help eliminate this caste system.” Although she cannot point to a particular incident of direct discrimination, she always worries and feels such an experience is waiting for her just around the corner.
Along with her job as EDWON’s field worker, Babita is studying education in a bachelor’s program. She has seen how young children without preschool preparation often fail in school, so early education has become her focus.
As the oldest daughter in a poor Dalit family with many children, she credits her own success to the financial support provided by the Ambitious Girls Fund. “It has given me the opportunity to study at the bachelor’s level. I am becoming a better person every day, and I can dream and take action towards my goals,” says Babita, “I hope this program will reach many more students like me.”
Every day Laxmi would wake up at 5 in the morning to brush her teeth, prepare breakfast, gather grass for the family buffalo, and study. Thanks to earning the Ambitious Girls Fund stipend she relished her daily routine despite the 1½-hour hike to and from Sivanandira College in her district of Arghakhanchi. She was just happy for the opportunity to pursue her passion: agriculture.
Laxmi explains her love of animal and plant cultivation as a natural outcrop of her Nepali heritage. She points out that Nepal is an “agricultural country” where she can contribute most to society by learning modern agricultural techniques. And, besides, she loves growing tomatoes. Her favorite thing is to watch a new tomato taking shape on the vine while all the other plants lie dormant—tomatoes are the only vegetable to grow in the off-season.
During Laxmi’s yearlong agricultural program she took courses in 11 subjects ranging from plant production to community development. Her favorite subject was plant protection. She was intrigued by the advanced methods she learned to protect her beloved fruits and vegetables from pests.
Laxmi is planning to take a follow-up two-year agricultural course in the near future to gain even more skills.
Taylor Knoop is an American college student spending a semester in Nepal while volunteering for EDWON. On a visit to Mulpani in Baglung District in August, 2014, she interviewed a young charismatic woman called Pabitra, a beneficiary of the Ambitious Girls Fund (AGF). Taylor describes Pabitra, 24, as “the brightest light in the room.” This is her story:
Pabitra was married off as a 9th grader at the tender age of 17—an all too common situation for rural girls—and soon she gave birth to a daughter. But, against all odds, Pabitra continued with her schooling. She even managed to pass the demanding national standard exam (SLC) at the end of 10th grade—no small feat for a Dalit girl. Pabitra had a burning wish to learn even more, but dared not dream to continue beyond 10th grade.
Mulpani is home to 5 EDWON women’s groups. Pabitra joined the Laligurans Group shortly after her marriage and became an active member. With small, short-term loans, she built a modest vegetable and egg business—while raising her daughter and keeping house.
Through her women’s group, she also heard of EDWON’s Ambitious Girls Fund—a modest stipend to help Dalit girls with post 10th grade education. Grade 11 and 12 offers vocational training or prepares young women for further study.
Since Pabitra is ambitious and practical, she received the AGF stipend and went back to school for 11th and 12th grade. Her studies focused on education. She told Taylor that Nepali was her favorite subject because she “so enjoyed the stories, grammar lessons, and reading—especially poems, songs, and biographies.” All through school she remained active in the women’s group, conducted her business, cared for her daughter, and gave birth to a second child.
Pabitra’s husband was working in Dubai and, following Nepali practice, Pabitra was living with his parents. While traditional in-laws treat the daughter-in-law as a simple servant, Pabitra is lucky with hers: her unusual mother-in-law supports her in her wish to go to school, while offering help with the children.
Pabitra graduated from 12th grade in 2011. She is continuing to learn new skills, namely sewing and computer skills, in the hopes of one day becoming a fashion designer.
With modest investments EDWON is good at removing tiny, but insurmountable obstacles for marginalized women and girls.
Laxmi speaks so eloquently for the group of 33 rural girls who are benefiting from the Ambitious Girls Fund this year:
“I express my gratitude from the core of heart to all who helped me for this opportunity,” says Laxmi. “One day, I will become a nurse and help poor people, like my own father and family, who suffer from disease and cannot afford treatment. Similarly, I will help the organization (our partner, ADWAN) that gave me this opportunity as much as I can.”
When Laxmi’s father had an accident and his hand was paralyzed he could no longer work to feed his family. He was still in his thirties. Her mother went to work for meager wages and her brother and sister had to drop out of school. But the family wanted to keep Laxmi in school by all means, as she was such a bright student. And, in fact, beating the odds for a rural Dalit girl, she passed the difficult 10th grade exam with flying colors, which qualified her for higher education.
Influenced by her family’s situation, Laxmi dreamt of becoming a nurse—normally an impossible dream for someone like her. But, thanks to your help, she is approaching her goal.
By supporting the Ambitious Girls Fund through GlobalGiving, you are also helping 32 other girls, who are preparing to become teachers, administrators, technicians and social workers. Thank you.
We encourage you to write to us and comment on Laxmi’s story. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to help EDWON attract wider support for our Ambitious Girls Fund. It changes lives.
You may have noticed we have changed the name, Gateway for Girls to the Ambitious Girls Fund. Our aim remains the same: to help girls educate themselves and change the world.
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