Changemakers Rani Bala Kumari and Najbun Khatun are committed to education for marginalised and disabled girls in Dhobini, Nepal. As ‘big sisters’ within the ENGAGE project (Empowering New Generation of Adolescent Girls with Education), they mentor their ‘little sisters’ when they encounter problems, encourage them to stay in school and teach them how to stand up for their rights. Najbun: “My little sister, like other children, wanted to go to school. I am so happy that, even though she is in a wheelchair, she now goes to school”
Many women and girls in Nepal face social prejudices, which prevents them from going to school or work. If they also belong to a lower caste or have a disability, their options are often even more limited. Rani and Najbun make the parents and the community of these girls aware of the importance of education by having conversations with them. They also help their little sisters with their homework. “As a big sister, I can be a role model for other girls. I can show society that girls can also learn and work,” says Najbun.
“My little sister is like my own sister to me. We share everything with each other.”
Rani and Najbun meet up with their little sisters almost every day and have formed a strong bond with them. “My little sister is like my own sister to me. We share everything with each other,” says Najbun. Rani: “Because we have built up the girls’ trust, we can talk to each other about all kinds of issues. For example, child marriage. We have agreed not to marry before we are 20.
Learn and change
The big sisters also get a lot out of the ENGAGE project themselves. Rani: “I would like to become a teacher. As a Big Sister I have already gained experience in teaching. This motivates me to learn even more.” Najbun: “By being in contact with other big sisters, we have learned a lot more about the issues that we ourselves and other girls and women in our community face and how we can change them.”
Written by: VSO Netherlands
Photos: VSO Nepal