Sixteen days to go. The countdown for International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action continues and so does NCBL’s poster campaign. This week, the spotlight is on the NCBL, WODES, and Taiwan’s Eden Social Welfare Foundation’s (ESWF) collaboration to launch the Youth Ambassador (YA) program.
The purpose of the YA program is to reach out to girls through Mine Risk Education (MRE) and to invigorate them to pass on their knowledge and personal stories to fellow youth. Our organizations seek to mobilize girls who are survivors of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), from marginalized communities, from poor backgrounds and remote regions, part of the Dalit caste, indigenous, and living with one or more disabilities. Enriching the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged youth must include a plan of action that considers the future.
NCBL seeks to expand the YA program so that more girls are able to grasp onto their strength and the boundless value they can add to society. Eden is currently trying to help NCBL/WODES to recruit more ambassadors via Youth Profile Forms, which describe the dire situations of Nepali girls who have been impacted by landmines. Anita Chaudhari is one eighteen year old applicant from the Lamahi Municipality in the Western, rural part of the Dang province who hopes to receive subsidies for her education and give back to her community.
Anita has a heart wrenching story. She was only seven years old when she was hit by the indiscriminate and inhumane explosive device. On 14 January 2007, the day before the Maghi festival, on her way to witness the traditional pig killing, she was distracted and intrigued by a pen shaped object. As a curious child, she naively picked up the “beautiful material”, declared it her new favourite toy, and brought it home. It was the winter season so her grandparents were warming up the house with a fire which gave the young, inquisitive Anita the idea to experiment with her toy by throwing it in the fire. It was not long after where a loud sound and explosive blast transpired in her home. She as well as her grandparents were rushed to the hospital, which was a three hour drive away. Anita’s innocent experiment resulted in her losing her right hand and her grandfather losing his hearing. She felt better off dying than living as an amputee as she had to learn how to complete simple, daily tasks differently and with much more difficulty. Nonetheless, she persevered and gained the confidence to eventually attend school while ignoring the occasional teasing. She was connected with NCBL a few years later through her class and was subsequently given a scholarship until Grade 12. Anita’s personal, unfortunate obstacle encouraged her to propagate landmine and IED knowledge, to learn from other victims, and to support others’ enduring physical disabilities.
A second sorrowful story of a mine victim is that of Tulsi Darji, a 21 year old girl residing in Gorusinge, Kapilbastu. She and her family illegally lived on a piece of land that belonged to the Forestry Department, which was also fifteen metres away from a wired fence of an army barrack where landmines were placed during Nepal’s civil war. The children in her community used to play in the area between the fence and her house. Despite there being danger notice signs hung on the fence, it’s significance was not common knowledge. Tulsi knew she was not supposed to cross the fence, but was unaware of the great potential risk. Subsequently, when Tulsi’s goats passed the fence into the barrack area on 8 May 2005, she crossed the restricted area to retrieve her animals without hesitation. Little did she know that she would step on a landmine and as a result, become a severe amputee. On that day, Tulsi, at only the age of eight, lost one leg. She eventually received a prosthetic with the help of a bursary granted by the NCBL/WODES girl child education program. NCBL has been supporting her socio-physiologically because it is understood that she is part of the Dalit caste, which means that she is at a social as well as a physical disadvantage in her community. NCBL is proud to call Tulsi a valuable member of the survivor network who has blossomed her confidence and engaged with fellow landmine victims through her organization of several educational events in local schools.
NCBL, WODES and ESWF aim to expand the YA program by accepting more Youth Profile Forms from girls like Antia and Tulsi. Likewise, the collaboration is committed to being persistent in requesting more funds from generous, compassionate, and relevant organizations. Anita’s and Tulsi’s story are just a couple out of hundreds. Nepal’s clearance of landmines should not turn a blind eye to those individuals and communities who were profoundly affected by the weapons. This International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, NCBL would like to shed light on various youth narratives and the significance of physical and professional empowerment, to transform victims into agents of change.