Room to Read is conducting a post-secondary transition study of our Girls’ Education Program. Researcher and guest blogger, Kirsten Anderson, travelled to India, Nepal, Vietnam and Cambodia to interview current Girls’ Education Program scholars, alumnae and their parents. In celebration of Mother’s Day in many countries, Kirsten shares her conversations with the mothers of some of our scholars in Nepal. This is the second in the series of blog posts from her travels (read her previous post here). Findings from the post-secondary study will be released later this year.
Sitting in the shadow of the majestic Himalayas in Nepal, Dilmaya, a mother of one of the Girls’ Education Program scholars described her childhood:
"When I was young I went to school for two days. I had to walk two hours. My family refused to give me food because they didn’t want me to study. They thought that if girls studied, we would write letters to boys. So I gave up my dream of education because I couldn’t go without food.
Later, when I got married, my parents told me 'Santan le dadha kadha dhakos' (which translates to 'May you have children to reach from the Himalayas to the plains'). That is why we have so many children. We really used to think it was a good idea to have many children."
The other mothers in the group nodded and smiled in agreement. They remembered that particular proverb well. Their ancestors wished them a future of many children—a wish that had come true for all of them. Among them, only Dilmaya could sign her name on our interview consent form. The other mothers watched as she very carefully wrote each of the letters of her name. She had been taught to write her name by her daughter, a participant of Room to Read's Girls' Educaton program.
When asked a probing question about what the mothers wished for their daughters’ futures, they described a future that included finishing their studies, acquiring a higher education, finding a good job, and making their own decisions about marriage. Dilmaya added:
"I have six daughters and one son but I don’t differentiate between my son and my daughters; they are all equals to me. But it’s really difficult to manage everyone’s education. We have a constant financial problem. It’s been six years since I have been involved with Room to Read. My daughter is working very hard. In addition to studying, she helps to look after the house and also helps to sell wool. She likes studying computers. I want her to get a job in the computer field. I have suffered a lot because I’m uneducated—but I want my children to be educated."
Another mother agreed, “In our generation, we would tell our daughters to get married, have children and have a good life. But now life is different. I want my daughter to be independent and have her own job and do well in her life. I want her to be able to make her own decisions in life. That is what I wish for my daughter.”
In conversations across Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, and India, the young women in our Girls’ Education Program overwhelmingly agree that the support of their mothers is crucial. Mothers often take on extra work to support their daughter’s education and without their mothers’ help, it would be next to impossible for these girls to continue their studies.
Sitting in the shadow of the Himalayas, Dilmaya and several other mothers sat together and joked. They were optimistic about the lives their daughters may have. They described a changing world where the proverbs of the past no longer apply. And they expressed hope that future Nepali proverbs might include wishes for young women to be independent, educated, employed and able to make their own decisions about marriage and family.
Dilmaya spoke with assurance when she said, "I want my daughter to follow her dream and become a success in her life. If young women are educated and independent—that is a great combination. Study and aim high."
All gifts matched through May 31! From now through the end of May, all donations to our Girls’ Education program will be matched up to $250,000. Honor mom -- or any other special person that has shaped your life -- by supporting the next generation of women. www.roomtoread.org/MayMatch.