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Girl children are not considered as children (case study)

It was 6 a.m. on 8 May 2011. We were at Deulekh (Bajhang District) on the way back to Nepalgunj. Actually, we had made an overnight halt there. I noticed a lady was observing us. I smiled at her and started to talk with her. She told me that she lives in the same VDC almost half an hour's walking distance from there. She brings milk to the hotel where we stayed that night. Normally, in Bajhang you don’t get milk in hotels. Everywhere, you get tea with milk powder, the reason being that if milk/tea is drunk by low-caste people (untouchable caste), then their buffaloes/cows will get sick and they will give little milk. I was surprised and shocked after hearing this. The hotel owner had started to sell milk from last year.

I asked the lady if her buffalo gave less milk since she was selling milk to the hotel. She smiled and said that hotel owner did not sell the milk to low-caste people. I said to her that I was low-caste and I drank the tea with milk and not with milk powder. She smiled and said that I could not be low-caste.

I asked her how many children she had. She replied that she did not have any children and did not know why. I asked her again, "No children at all?" She replied, "Well, I have four daughters but here they are not considered as children." I was shocked. I could not say anything for a while because a mother of four daughters was saying that she did not have any children. How could I believe this? But this is a fact. I was hearing this statement. She explained to me that girls get married and go to their husbands' homes. Therefore, here people do not consider a girl child as a child and people do not recognize women's work. They think that women cannot work as hard as men do. When she was talking I recalled that lots of women were carrying big stones on our way to Bajhang.

I continued the dialogue and asked her if her husband agreed with this. She said that her husband was very kind and innocent but her younger brother-in-law was asking for their property to be transferred to his children since he had 2 sons. I felt sorry for her and I tried to convince and empower her a little bit. Therefore, I told her that, according to the law, girl children have property rights; hence, she should not give her property to her brother-in-law but to send her daughters to school and later on she could give her property to her daughters. I told her not to give all her property to her daughters because you never know what will happen. Maybe, her sons-in -law would take care of both her and her husband if they had their own property. I asked for her name but she looked uncomfortable to give her name. Finally, she said that her name was Maya Raule and she was 37 years old. Maya looked older than that.

I am asking myself that where are we now? People do not consider girls as children in Bajhang and we are talking about gender mainstreaming? How do we change the attitudes of people? I have been thinking and thinking. If you have any answer or idea, please let me know.

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