Internation Day of the Girl is an observance holiday celebrated by the United Nations on October 11. This day focuses on the need to address the challenges girls face and aims to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. To celebrate International Day of the Girl this year, PMC is sharing the story of Sangita Kumari Sadi, a young girl in Nepal who had the strength to say “no” to child marriage and advocate for her own future.
Sangita Kumari Sadi was never welcomed at school as a child because her family is from the marginalized caste group of the Naraha Barchhawa community in Siraha in the eastern terai of Nepal.
“The children of other castes call us untouchable. They don’t eat with us, play with us and don’t even drink water from the same tap,” says Sangita reflecting on her experience in school.
That caste or class division is detrimental to the education of women and girls in Nepal. In Sangita’s case, the discrimination against her and her family forced her to leave school at the age of ten.
Sangita was able to join the Janaki Women Awareness Society (JWAS), a non-profit dedicated to empowering girls with life skills lessons and other activities. At JWAS, Sangita and other girls started listening to Hilkor (“Ripples in the Water”) twice weekly as part of a street theater workshop organized by Population Media Center (PMC) and JWAS.
The goal of Hilkor, a PMC-produced radio show, is to motivate positive behaviors that encourage girls’ education and stop child marriage and gender-based violence. Listening to Hilkor, Sangita followed characters where education was improving their lives and women’s equal rights (or lack there of) was apparent when it came to sexual health and marriage – including the right to choose a husband.
Sangita tried to communicate lessons she learned from Hilkor’s characters to her family, but her parents still approached her with a prospective husband.
Sangita refused to see the man and was determined to delay her marriage in order to stay in the life skills classes offered by JWAS. This act of protest triggered a negative response from her father. He scolded and beat her in an attempt to convince her to marry, but Sangita did not waver on her stance.
Eventually, members of her community helped Sangita persuade her father to change his mind and he publicly stated that Sangita would not marry anyone until she was 20 years old. This also meant that Sangita could continue at JWAS.
Sangita had the strength to say “no” to child marriage and endure physical and emotional abuse to pursue education. Girls around the world should not need to fight their family to obtain education. Girls should not have their husbands chosen for them.
At its heart, PMC is a women’s rights organization dedicated to enhancing the well-being and status of women and girls like Sangita. And by producing shows based on PMC’s Theory of Change, audiences are simultaneously entertained and inspired by carefully designed storylines and role models.
Hilkor is a 104-episode radio show produced by Population Media Center that aired from April 2016 to April 2017 in the Maithili language. Characters of the show face decisions around child marriage, domestic violence, and gender equality and endure the consequences that come from any decision. Like all PMC shows, Hilkor was created using PMC’s Theory of Change.
Today, the show is broadcast to adolescent girls in street theater workshops organized by PMC and JWAS. The goal is to motivate positive behaviors and normative change regarding child marriage, girls’ education, and gender-based violence.
About Janaki Women Awareness Society (JWAS)
Established in 1993, Janaki Women Awareness Society (JWAS) is a women-led NGO seeking to empower and improve the lives of marginalized populations across Nepal, including women, Dalits (members of Nepal’s lowest caste), youths, tribes, people with disabilities, and people affected by disasters and conflicts. JWAS’ vision statement affirms their desire “to change our society through sustainable community development based on social, economic, political and gender equality.”
With considerable experience creating street-theater performances for Maithili-speaking regions of Nepal (Maithili is the second most common Nepalese language), JWAS sought partnership with PMC in 2018, pursuing a goal of increased impact in the fight to improve girls’ education rates and reduce the number of child marriages. Child marriage and girls’ access to education are two challenges JWAS has been dedicated to addressing across the nation.
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