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“Very few girls miss school in this community now” – Nirmala’s story

Nirmala, 16, is a Little Sister on VSO’s Sisters for Sisters’ Education project in Surkhet, Nepal. Before, Nirmala was struggling at school, getting fail marks.

Big Sister Durga Bista convinced Nirmala’s parents of the value of education and inspired her to attend school regularly.

A big barrier to girls’ education in Nepal is the taboo surrounding menstruation, but Durga also taught Nirmala to make reusable sanitary pads – and sharing this knowledge with her friends means that girls no longer have to skip classes while menstruating.

Durga (Big Sister) and Nirmala (Little Sister) VSO/Suraj Ratna Shakya

Durga has helped Nirmala get the education she always wanted.

I really like coming to school. It’s much better than sitting in the house alone. I like studying, the teachers, and most of all I like being here with my friends. Every time I go to school, I learn new things.

A long time ago, my school attendance was irregular. There used to be a lot of housework and my parents would say, “Don’t go to school today, you can go tomorrow – but today you will do work.”

Durga is my Big Sister; she’s helped me a lot. She convinced my parents to send me to school rather than do a lot of housework. These days I still do work, but it’s less than before and my studies are a priority.

Now even if, for example, I have a sore throat and want to stay home my parents tell me, “No! You must go to school; you can’t miss your class.” The same parents who used to say I should stay and work!

Breaking the taboo

Before, there were also a lot of girls missing classes during their period.

But there was training on making reusable sanitary pads to use during menstruation. I’m not able to use the disposable pads that are available in the market, so I have to use the reusable pad or folded cloth. The market is very far and the pads are expensive.

I made and distributed some extra pads for my friends who missed the training using what I learned. I felt like if they missed out, then they might miss their classes. So I thought if I bring them pads, it can help them go to school. There are very few girls who miss school in this community now.

Ambitions for the future

My ambition, since my childhood, is to be a teacher, because I want to educate the illiterate and uneducated people in the community. My family belongs to the Dalit [untouchable] community. I want to make society aware and take away the stigma around untouchables, remove some of the harmful practices.

Whatever comes in life, I am going to struggle hard and try to become a successful person. I wish that projects like this were also working in other parts of Nepal so every girl could go to school.

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