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My Community: A Wealth of Gender Discrimination

Discouragement from her family couldn’t stop her, and neither could restrictive cultural mores. Voices of Our Future correspondent Sunita Basnet continues to fight for a Nepal where women and girls can dream big.

"We want to fly in the sky like birds, but we don’t need wings because we don’t want to fly away from our country."

“You are a girl,” my mother and neighbors would tell me as a child. “When you grow up, you should be soft like a doll. Your husband will dominate you. He will control your path in life. You cannot go outside without his permission. You will have no male friends. You should not burst out in laughter because you are a woman.”

I was compelled to accept these restrictions—though I did not believe them—because I live in Nepal, a society where, as a woman, no one hears my screams.

When I was young, I used to go to a nearby pond to swim with my friends. I never asked my parents’ permission. I knew if I asked them, they wouldn’t allow me to go. When my mother found out, she locked me in a room and beat me with a bamboo stick. After that, my freedom was bound inside the home, looking after my four sisters. For Nepalese women, their family is their world, their husband is their power, and their children are their fate.

Although I was born in a low-middle class family, people often tell me that I am very lucky. We have a little piece of land in a village, where we grow our own crops and survive. My father owns our house and land. He is a farmer and my mother is a housewife. My mother is in her forties, but she never looks her father in the eye when she talks to him.

I have been lucky. My father has supported my decision to go to school. In Nepal, educating a daughter is considered a no-return investment, while educating a son means investing in his ability to look after his ageing parents. When a daughter marries, she becomes another family’s asset. We don’t have any schools in my village so he sent me to a school called Janta School, Bhutaitole, to study. I remember my first day. We studied sitting on the cold floor below an open roof. We had no female teachers. In Nepal, 40% of primary schools lack women teachers and there are strong social and political barriers obstructing female recruitment.

At Janta School, we used the bank of a nearby pond for a toilet. UNICEF reported in April that Nepal has the highest rate of open defecation in the world and that about 61% of Nepalese still lack access to toilets. Poor sanitation in Nepal causes diarrhea and kills many Nepalese children. "The dearth of toilets in schools across Nepal—where poor sanitation remains a major obstacle to development—is tied to increasingly high drop-out rates for girls,” says OneWorld.net, referencing recent UN reports.

My friends Sangita and Apsara dropped out of school due to the fees and the long distance from their village. When they turned sixteen, they got married. According to UNICEF, the rising cash costs of schooling, along with high opportunity costs, are locking thousands of girls out of school. I am a firm believer that education must be made free and compulsory for all, should take place in adequate facilities, and should be in accessible locations, so that everyone can receive an education.

Ever since I was a child, I have been very curious about the outside world. I wanted to be involved in every program and activity in my school. I joined student government in 10th grade, against my mother’s warnings about getting involved in meetings, seminars, or rallies. I was the treasurer of the Nepal Student Council where we organized weekly meetings. One time, when our meeting ran an hour long and I arrived home late, my mother scolded and beat me. She told me I shouldn’t get involved in politics because it’s a bad game and only bad people play it. She also said that politics would not provide food, and we cannot live without food.

Nonetheless, the political environment, especially during the war, was a huge influence in my life. Nepal’s Civil War started in 1996, when I was only 9 years old. I saw female victims caught in the crossfire. Women were raped and killed by the Nepal army and the Maoist rebels. On April 25, 2006, the armed forces opened fire on a crowd of about three thousand civilian protestors in Belbari, Morang district. Seven protestors were killed and 50 others were injured. A woman named Sapana Gurung was raped by three security officers and then shot.

In 2005, I joined the Human Rights Journalism Forum and met many people who have suffered from the war. When my parents found out that our journalism forum president, Deepen Neupane, was injured in the Belbari incident, they yelled at me—this was not the work they wanted for their daughter. However, the work of ordinary people like us, along with the government, is what is needed to change Nepal’s situation.

Just last year, after years of civil strife, my country held elections and instituted a Maoist democracy. Nepal won political freedom, but there still exists a huge gap between men and women when it comes to gender equality. . . .

Comments

deanssbeans's picture

Great work, Sunita!

You are a wonderful example of the Bhagavad Gita's prescription to "add your light to the sum of lights". I believe that each of us can add a little light or defer to the small dying of the light in this world. Thank you for your work illuminating the struggles of girls and women in Nepal. I was touched and educated by this.

sunita.basnet's picture

Thank you So much

Thank you so much for your beautiful words. Yes what we all can do is to "add your light to the sum of lights" so that we can brightened in every corner of our country and gradually ot the world.That is all we the educated daughters can do for our sisters and ofcourse for our country. I am glad that you are educated from my post and this is not only what I faced but there are many sisters who are facing more than me.

I have jsut send you a friend request please add me. Once again thank you so much for your valuable time you made to read my post and leave a comment. I willl be expecting more comments from you in the future.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

jenwarren's picture

beautiful one

Hello Sunita,

Congratulations on your courage and your journey to speak your truth to the world. I for one am so happy that you did. You are light, a jewel, a beauty and a blessing upon your land. I am so glad that you are going to London, and I celebrate your commitment to reach past your cultures limitations, to expand their views and to bring them a brighter future. We hear your voice, and we are grateful.

Growing up in the West, in the US, I did not experience as overt as discrimination as you. But we as women are still recreating ourselves, still learning to dream that there is another way, an equal way, that celebrates our differences as well as our similarities. We have the right to vote, we expect education and careers. And still, it is an ongoing process to believe that our softness, our very femaleness, has worth in our hypermale society. So we are all in it together, albeit at slightly different stages of the recreation of culture.

With joy and celebration,

Jen Warren

sunita.basnet's picture

Dear Jen, Namaskar, Thank you

Dear Jen,
Namaskar,
Thank you so much for your best wishes and your support. Yes, I understand what you mean, the situation of women in Nepal and USA is in comparison however, somehow women in US are also discriminated in a work place………………………. Learning is a process we all women have to understand in our life. I also agree with you that learning does not matter our age.

Once again thank you so much for your inspiring wooords. I will be waiting your comment in my other post. as well. Please add me I have just send an request.
Thank you

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

jeffachen's picture

Ramro cha!

This is a wonderful perspective and an impressive young woman. I served in Nepal as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2002-03 and witnessed the treatment of women as second class citizens. I taught English in a small rural school in Ilam and the female students were my most eager and talented students. If Nepali society continues to undervalue women and their potential contributions, they are squandering a precious resource.

Thankfully, there are many great efforts underway by NGOs, Non-profits and women like Sunita to turn the tide of prejudice and inequality.

Thank you Sunita Didi for your bravery and leadership!

sunita.basnet's picture

Dhanyabad!!

Waoo ! I am glad to know that you have already been to Nepal as a peace corps volunteer. I believe you must be familiar with the women situation in Nepal. I have never been to Illam but i know it's one of the beautiful place in Nepal with many tea gardens. Thank you so much for your inspiring words and your valuable time and efforts.

Yes, there are many organization who are working to bring the equality in the country but at the same time I think we need to ive our more attention to remove the discrimination.

I wonder if I am your Didi, I must be your Bahini.... Whatever thank you so much for your valuable time. I will be expecting more comments from you in the future.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

jeffachen's picture

Re: Dhanyabad!!

Sunita,

You will have to visit Ilam some time. I have been to Biratnagar a few times. It can be a busy place. I had Peace Corps friends who worked and lived in Biratnagar, Itahari, Rajbiraj, and Dharan and visited them each a few times so I know your area well. I love Nepal and perhaps I can return again someday.

And, yes, I'm sure you are my Bahini, but I just wanted to convey my respect for you like an older sister because of all that you are doing. Just to speak out is commendable. The work you are doing and will do in the future will bring change. I understand how slowly change takes place in Nepal, but no effort is wasted. The Nepali people are good people and when the culture can get past challenges like "thulo manche" and superstitions about widows and such, women will have more power. Keep up the good work, believe in yourself and know that no act of kindness goes unrewarded, even though it some times seems not to be noticed.

Sincerely,

Jeff Dai

sunita.basnet's picture

We can

Dear Jeff Dai,
Namaskar,

Yeah! I will definitely visit Illam sometimes in my vacation however I am very familiar with Biratnagar, Ithari, Dharan and little bit of Rajbiraj. You are always welcome Jeff dai and I wonder when are you planning to visit please let me know…….
Waooooooooooooo! It’s my pleasure…………I believe that one person can make a big difference but to bring a change we need a support of like minded people. Ofcourse we can………………………….. Yes I do agree with you, sometimes the result comes after a long time and people become frustrated but we educated people need to have patience if we really want to bring change in our community. The norms that has been created to form a society has been cared from hundred and hundred years ago so it is not easy to bring the change but we should not give up thinking that we are unable to bring the change. It will take time and we will be able to bring the change one day.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

marietta64's picture

hi

beautiful indeed...

sunita.basnet's picture

Hello

Thank you so much for your valuable time and inspiring two words.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Ramji Prasad Bhattarai's picture

Great

Sunita Ji,
Thank you very much for your views.I am really impressed form you voice. It would be beter if you work in the welfare and rights of women in Nepal in future and we will also support you.

Sincerly,
Ramji Prasad Bhattarai
Kathmandu

sunita.basnet's picture

I will be back

Ramji JI,
Namsakar,

Thank you so much for your comment and support. Sure! I want to promote the human as well as women rights in Nepal and definately I will be back. There is no doubt. Thank you so much for your words and commitment.
Please keep in touch.............and I wonder if you can spend sometimes sharing your experience with pulse wire family........... We will love to see your post as well.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

vhallehohn's picture

Courage & Love

Thank you Sunita for your courage and love - to stay and be part of the change - to breath it in and hold it in your heart as you have so eloquently put it in your essay is so empowering - I pray that other women in Nepal will follow your lead!

Love & Peace
Vhalle

sunita.basnet's picture

Thank you

Dear Vhalle,

Thank you so much for your inspiring word. My courage is increasing everyday because of my readers inspiration and their support. Yes! There is a great need to be all Nepalese women together to bring the change in the country. Once again thank you so much for your pray. I will love to read your post in the pulsewire please use this wonderful network.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Ralph Risch's picture

Greetings

Dear Sunita,

I joined the World Pulse community today, and your article was the first thing that I read. What a wonderful introduction to this community! Your story is inspiring, and I am confident that you are already making change through the example of the life you are leading. I look forward to following your stories here.

I visited Nepal in 1991, and spent three weeks touring Kathmandu and trekking thru the Annapurna region. I came with my family to see the mountains, but what we found most amazing were the people. All that we met were so kind and welcoming! I could not believe the horrific stories I heard later of the war, and my heart goes out to you and all those who suffered through it. I hope some day to bring my children to Nepal so they can see the amazing history and natural beauty, and also meet the people as I did.

Best wishes,
Ralph Risch

sunita.basnet's picture

Namaskar

Dear Ralph,
Namaskar,

I am so pleased to know that my post was the first things you read in the pulsewire as soon as you joined this wonderful networked and is inspired from it. Yes, I have started my path to be a change maker from my myself because i believe that to be a change maker, first we need to change ourself in a positive ways. Don't worry Ralph, I will be posting more stories in the future.

I am glad that you have visited Nepal in 1991 and have spends couples of week roaming kathmandu and I hope climbing Annapurna mountain. Yes Nepalese are good to welcome guest and you can see the smiling face even if the Nepali girl is carrying double than her weight and sweating because we Nepali do not want to show our pain and sorrow. We try to pretend to be happy in front of other by hiding our pains.

Yes, I do agree with you that 12 years long Moaist and the governement war has displaced many Nepalese and many mothers have lost their sons and daughters, A newly married couple become window or widower the next morning and many sisters have lost their brothers and sisters. The country lost many skillful people during the war. many innocent people died.

Lets pray together for Nepal to be a peaceful country..................... A mother land of gautam Buddha............ Lets make a true mother land together..............

Once again thank you so much for your valuable time and efforts.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Phinnie's picture

Inspired!

Sunita--
I just joined the World Pulse community and read about you and your challenges and determination and I am truly inspired. A woman's place is in the world! I am sure you are inspiring many women in Nepal and throughout the world with your courage and willingness to speak the truth about oppression and your determination to seek a positive life for yourself and other women.
With love and admiration.
Phinnie

sunita.basnet's picture

Encouraged from your comment

Dear Phinnie

Thank you so much for your encoraging comment. I am glad that you are inspired from my small piece. Thank you so much for recalling the truth although it does not exist in the reality. Yea we have a place and we deserve it however our place has been neglacted. We need to be aware of it.

Please keep in touch. I have many things to learn from your experience.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Mei Li's picture

lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

I have had a World Pulse magazine under a stack of yoga journals for a little while. Sometimes we forget these small miracles that are right beneath our hands and hidden from the eyes. Since I found it, I read the whole issue cover to cover and my eyes kept welling up in tears. I read, "Yet, these days I hear so much more than breathing. Late at night, I can sense a crackling of the wires, raw voices arching and sparking across the earth.
Turn the page; open your throat, and free your voice; extend your arms, and tap into the pulse of a new world," which was written by Jensine Larsen in the opening of the issue I had.

When I read your post I had the same feeling of heart pounding out of ribcage, tears welling in my eyes - not because of what has happened or is happening, but because there you are saying our place is here, we must not neglect that and I can hear you, and here I am thousands and thousands of miles and sky away - our experiences rooted in different soil, yet one voice. Some days I cannot tell if raising morning glories and alyssum under moonlight to share with my neighbors is enough. I wonder if watching each moon rise and set, is enough. I wonder if teaching every small girl in my life that she is a moon goddess and her voice has the power of the ocean - is enough.

And I read your words and I hear the bamboo stick against skin, and here you are...singing...and i know that every breath is enough because we are gravitating toward the same progression

may the boundless love of our great mother protect you on your journey
namaste

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

sunita.basnet's picture

Namaskar

Dear Mei Li,
Namskar,

First of all thank you so much for your beautiful comment. I am glad that you read cover to cover and make aware of how our sisters are feeling in other corner of the world. I am so happy that you feel the same feeling from my post as Jensine Larsen said to you. Your sentence "I can hear you, and here I am thousands and thousands of miles and sky away -" remind me my childhood. From my childhood, I saw only few men gathered together to decide about the development of my community. Therefore, when I was fifteen, I was very curious to join and group and asked my father and relatives. No one listen to me, instead they told me that I should be voiceless woman even I have a voice to speak.

However, today I am glad that from thousand and thousand of miles and sky away, people are waiting to hear my voice. People are encouraging me to speak out for the positive change. People are waiting to hear more and more. This is all because of Pulse Wire. I am sorry that my post made you cry but it's reality that many sisters still are facing more than me. They are ignored and do not have courage to speak out.

Once again thank you so much for your supporting words. I am very sorry I am good in Sanskrit... "lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu"

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Mei Li's picture

: )

The crying was good, it wasn't in a sad way. Everything that is happening is sad, indeed, but the tears were more joyful because Pulse Wire has brought so many voices together and I felt so happy to find the resource and to continue to learn about what is happening beyond my own community. I work in education and help so many women every day enroll into college, I know the importance of education of women and how that alone can completely transform the world. I have helped many women go to school who before were in abusive marriages or relationships and were never taught how to take care of themselves, only how to take care of others. I love supporting them through the process of re-discovering themselves.

Your voice is heard, and people are waiting to hear more and more and more, because it reminds us that we are small in the holiest way that keeps us connected, that we can hear each other singing despite all of the silence. Sometimes we focus too much on the problems and forget people are still singing as they fight through it. It encourages me to speak more. I sometimes read poetry in my community at a small yoga studio that I teach at. People from the community can come and read their poetry or sing their songs, we all gather around and listen. I wrote a powerful and exposing poem and shared it a few weeks ago. When I read it out loud to people I felt it come alive inside of me. After, people came up and thanked me for saying things they thought, but were scared to express. It made them feel hopeful that they could be more honest with themselves and be able to connect with people solely as they were. I teach the young children in my life to read and write poems, to pick up pens and paintbrushes when they cannot vocalize what they desire to because I know there are so many little girls who are raised being told their voices have no value, and for that reason - i teach the ones in my life how to sing loudly, to speak clearly, to express from the heart space and embrace who they are completely. Eventually, we will all meet in the middle, or that is what I hope.

You are not voiceless - because at eight a.m. on a Friday, as I take my first morning sip of chamomile tea, I'm reading your words and feeling your voice. You wrote "I am very sorry" at the end of your last message - never apologize for speaking : )
I have done this many times too. I did not grow up in the same community you have, but I did grow up with an abusive alcoholic father who would not allow any expression in the home unless it was happiness. All other emotions were repressed. I know that living like that for a long time makes you apologize a lot as you grow because you speak from your heart and are taught that has no value, but I love hearing the truth from people, it is all we can offer each other aside from loving kindness.

May the sun shine kindly upon you today.

Namaste beauty.

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

sunita.basnet's picture

Hello Mei, I apologize to

Hello Mei,
I apologize to reply you so lately. I am glad that your tears were for a good cause and indeed was with joyful hearing many voices accross teh continents. I am glad that you have helped us and our future generation to send us in school and education us. Please continue and spread your good work accross the continents. we need you everywhere in Nepal, bangladesh, India and many more emerging countries.

it is my pleasure to hear that my voice is spreading all over the world. The person whom I have never seen is familiar with my stories. Isn't it a wonderful opportunities? On February, I went to London. I was sitting alone in a corner and thinking about the young people and their efforts to change the world. Finally, a lady came to me and said "Hey Sunita, I was searching to meet you why are you staying here alone? " I didn't know her, neither have seen anywhere but later I came to know that she knew about me from one of the world pulse member. I was so surprised.

Thank you so much for encouraging me to speak up about the truth. Sure I will do that! I will be expecting your comments in the future from you.

Thank you.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Jatra Thamel's picture

a good one!

a good one!

sunita.basnet's picture

thanks

Thank you Jatra.. i would love to hear from you in the future...

please keep in touch...

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Shaila Sharmin's picture

Hi

nice work

Shaila Sharmin
Undergraduate student of
PP&E (Philosophy, Politics and Economics)
Asian University for Women
20/A, M M Ali Road
Chittagong, Bangladesh

sunita.basnet's picture

Helo

Hey Shaila,
Thanks for your beautiful comment and I wish you will also continue writing here. I am so glad that every day, AUW students are increasing .

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Inspiration

Dear Sunita,
I stumbled upon this post again today and i read it all over. You are an inspiration. You are a strong woman and a gem for Nepal. I admire you!

Gifty

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

sunita.basnet's picture

I admire you too

Hello GIfty,

I am sorry dear, I was busy with my final examination and paper. How are oyu doing dear? I cannot wait to meet you next time in OYW summit.
I admire you too dear. I am very inspired from what you are working and doing for the future of your country's children.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

mafed99's picture

Powerful story Sunita

Dear Sunita,

How powerful is your story. But you know what? it 's no different from any story of an African girl. I wish every young girl today will read your story. I raise my cap for you girl.
Keep it up, Nepal needs young women like you.

Amanda Uzor

A.N.U

sunita.basnet's picture

Beautiful words

Dear Amanda,

I am glad that you find my story so powerful. I am well aware of many girls in Africa so are more discriminated than me. However, teh difference between me and them is that they hesistate to speak out and I don't. therefore, I believe that my publishing my story might encourage them to speak out for the positive change.

I am glad that I am able to raise your cap. Thank you so much for your admiration.

I will, you will be hearing many more about women from my coutnries and all around the world. Once again, thank you so much for your beautiful words
Sunita
VOF Correspondent.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile's picture

comment

Powerful and instructive article here. Women and their daughters are considered as objects in different countries of the world. They need to speak out and write on these plights so that the world can know how much they suffer. However, the culture is a big issue that must be challenged. Not all the elements of a culture are bad. We can encourage those which are fine and fight the ones that hinder people's development.

Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile
Founder of COFAPRI,
Safe World for Women Field Partner, DRC,
Writer for BroWaha

sunita.basnet's picture

I agree with you

Dear Mugisho,

Nice to hear form you. You are special to me because being a man you care us-women. I agree with you some parts of the culture needed to be modified. I know its so challenging and will take time but we together can do it.

I look forward to hear about your work and vision through PW. Please post in JOurnal about the situation of DRC so that we can support each other.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

frederica Maima David Gibson's picture

Today's Woman!

hey sunita! Your story is right in my life! Do you know how many off us walk this road? Today i can look back with a smile on my face. You are one off the world's most beatiful lady. you are not speaking alone. Particularly for our today's woman! You have spoken for many. Yes you did! Merry christmas and a bless 2011. cheers, Frederica

Y'ello,
This my new email address freddiegibs@yahoo.com
note that freddygibs is no longer my email address as it was hacked,
Frederica,

sunita.basnet's picture

Together we can make a difference

Hi Frederica,
I apologize for replying you so late. I am so glad that my story also represent you. I know there are millions and millions sisters who are walking in same road. Thank you .. Thank you so much for yor best wishes and I am so honored and pleased to hear that I am able to bring smile in your face.

Sister, I am also waiting to hear your powerful voice through PW journal. All the best to you too.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

dbunton's picture

Kudos

Sunita,

Informative, yet compelling. Resiliency is alive and well!

Darren Bunton

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