- Ms. Nelupa Wijesundera
Mines Action Canada Program Officer
Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL) visited the schools of Bardia, Dang, Kapilvastu, Rupandehi, Chitwan, Ramechhap, Dhading and Kathamndu to support girls through education in 2012. NCBL is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that is dedicated to banning the use of landmines, and supporting landmine survivors and victims through educational scholarships and income-generating programs in Nepal. During the decade long conflict in Nepal thousands of children lost their parents. Adult civilians injured by landmines often lose their means and ability to make an income to sustain their families while their children are marginalized and can no longer afford to pay school fees. The conflict has severely altered Nepal’s cultural and educational traditions. Especially education of girls, which already was receiving very less attention in Nepal, is now almost ignored in poor rural communities. In 1998 NCBL recognized the urgent need for education for girls and began the Girl Child Education Scholarship Program. NCBL provided an educational scholarship to one conflict-affected girl. The scholarship was designed to provide full financial support for conflict-affected girls to cover school fees and materials up to the high school level. Gradually with increased support from the community and various donors and collaborating with Women Development Society (WODES) the program has blossomed and is now sending over 220 girls to school.
Who does the Girl Child Education Scholarship support?
The program supports girls who have either lost a parent due to the conflict, or have been physically impacted by a bomb explosion and/or cannot afford to pay school fees.
Integrating other programs with the Girl Child Education Program
The Girl Child Education Program also provides opportunity to integrate and promote programs such as Mines Risk Education and Victim Assistance. When distributing school materials in various districts across Nepal, NCBL also organized meetings with the local community and schools to educate people on the dangers and risks of mines and unexploded ordinances. In the last scholarship distribution, NCBL conducted an MRE program in the Dang, Chitwan, Ramechhap and Dhading districts. Program attendees included the Village District Leader, Nepal Armed Police, scholarship recipients and community members. The victim assistance programs comprise of capacity building, leadership development, and economic empowerment programs. After the implementation of the victim assistance initiative, the victims have been conducting income generating programes such as animal husbandry, farming on lease, managing cosmetic shops, communications centres, nurseries, bicycle repair shops, and training centers. NCBL also offers vocational training for beauticians, tailors, and computer and mobile phone repair. It gave opportunity to the girls to participate various national and international meetings and conferences.
The Girl Child Education Scholarship program has proven to be successful due to the great support it receives from the communities of the scholarship recipients. Community leaders and NCBL district representatives work tirelessly to follow up and document the progress of every scholarship representative. Members of the community often conduct meetings to discuss issues facing conflicted-affected families and provide support and resources to conflict-affected people. NCBL frequently travels to meet with parents of scholarship recipients to inform them of the benefits, importance and value of education and also establish a supportive relationship. Parents often respond with decisions to keep their daughters in school after recognizing the efforts made by NCBL to ensure the girls receive an education up to the high school level. In this context, the popular phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child” is most fitting. The scholarship program is not simply a one-time donation. It is an ongoing effort by NCBL and various communities to ensure that conflict-affected girls are provided with the opportunity to receive an education that will help them to build a better future for themselves and their families.
Changes after support of Girl Child Education Scholarship program
After initial support of the scholarship program, conflict-affected girls begin to build more confidence in themselves and hope for their future. Many of the girls who have lost a parent to the conflict respond well to the support, care and concern received by NCBL and their communities. The schools serve as a community where the child and her family can get to know teachers and other families who may serve as sources of support. These relationships contribute to building the social skills of the child and her family to work through their traumatic experiences. The girls develop confidence and interest in their studies and challenge themselves to do well in school.
What is the importance of supporting a scholarship recipient up to the high school level?
It is important that educational support is provided up to the high school level so that girls can become aware of the benefits and opportunities that are available through receiving an education. When girls are encouraged to stay in school from a young age they are less likely to get married early and more likely to work harder to build a more secure future for themselves. Education up to the high school level provides well-informed girls the opportunity to make decisions that will bring positive change in their futures.
What are the causes for drop outs and in what regions?
In rural areas of Nepal, particularly in the Terai region, girls often drop out of school at a very young age. In many instances families cannot afford to send their daughters to school and have them marry at a very young age to relieve them of the financial burden. Once married the girls are burdened with domestic responsibilities and no longer have time to attend school and concentrate on their studies.
What can be done for the future?
The Girl Child Education Scholarship program is unique in the many ways to which it supports the recipients of the scholarship. As an intern for NCBL I quickly recognized that the time, resources, effort, and care that goes in to supporting the continuous education of conflict-affected girls is not only inspiring, but also deeply impactful on conflict-affected families. Unlike the larger more popular donor organizations that offer short term support and receive great recognition through various media outlets, NCBL’s work is continuous, thorough, and selfless.
During a field trip to the Tarai region in Nepal I was fortunate to see first-hand the tireless work that NCBL staff does. The staff drove long hours and distances to distribute school materials in some of the most rural parts of Nepal during the hottest time of the year. Purna Shova Chitrakar and Dinesh Subedi went through great lengths to meet with the scholarship recipients and their families, and also pay for their individual school fees. Their dedication is indicative of their compassionate and determined hearts. Furthermore, their efforts instill a sense worthiness and recognition in the scholarship recipients and their families. The feeling of knowing that an outsider cares about their burdens and worries enables a more trusting and personal connection to be made between NCBL and the communities it supports. NCBL staff members are unsung heroes whose work and achievements prove to be invaluable to the communities they support.
With Ms. Chitrakar’s leadership, the program helps to build communities through the education of its children, in particular girls. As NCBL is supporting over 220 girls, it is ensuring that the girls receive the necessary tools to support themselves and ultimately contribute back to their own communities. There are many significant benefits to the scholarship program. Unfortunately, the initiatives and successes of the program often go unnoticed by the larger donor community.
What is needed in the future is more promotion and recognition of the impact of the program in rural communities. Supporting girls up to the high school demonstrates to be more sustainable than providing a one-time financial donation. It is important that more people are made aware of the successes of the program so that more funds can be raised and more girls can be supported.