Goma Chepang and her aunt Santkumari Chepang both live in the village of Rakshirang, in Chitwan district. They always followed the traditions and practices of their ancestors only and therefore remained silent for most of their lives, blindly following their husband’s wishes and demands and taking no action to enable a better life for their children. Joining a women’s group, taking an active part in the family business and being supported by Caritas helped them get out of this passive role. Now they can finally recognize and use their opportunities and work for better living conditions and future prospects.
“We always only did what our ancestors did. We couldn’t think outside the box and couldn’t do anything about it ”
Goma begins to tell. In the search for the deeper reason for these strongly manifested practices and related problems, one always stumbles across child marriages and lack of education -Two problems that do not go hand in hand at first glance. However, the reason and consequence of these early marriages actually is poor education:
According to a recent study by the District Public Health Office, 45 to 86% of Chepang girls marry between the ages of 12 and 15. Although this practice has been banned since 1963, it is still widespread among Chepang people. Since many girls previously did not receive adequate education, they had to resort to the teachings of their ancestors, so they continued the same traditional practices and in turn forced their own daughters to marry early. In other words, precisely because they were getting married so early, they had no time to go to school, which again did not leave room for social change. – A vicious cycle from which it is not easy to get out. Goma adds:
“We had no training. We didn’t know how things worked or generally why we were suffering. I think that’s why we felt so marginalized.”
Goma and Santkumari have received various training courses on generating income, hygiene and savings. They see these primarily as important tools for a larger goal, namely to bring about social change in the community and to ensure an improved quality of life for the next generation.
“When I was a young girl, a school was founded, but neither I nor my friends were allowed to attend. We should stay at home and take care of the household.”
Remembers Santkumari. She was one of the first women to motivate her children to go to school regularly. “Now that our children are being educated, they are already much more knowledgeable than we are. They made it clear to us once again that it is wrong to always follow the ancestors. This has hindered our development for a very long time.“ One of the first measures of Caritas was to distribute school supplies to children, which increased their enthusiasm for education. However, to foster this habit within the community, it was even more important to convince their parents to send them to school. “After we started gathering in female groups and received training, I feel much more confident as I know about my rights and the importance of education. My husband noticed that I am getting stronger, this is why he works hand in hand with me and lets me make my own decisions now.”, says Goma proudly
“And one of my decisions is to send my kids to school!”
Both women are very grateful because they have been helped in so many different ways to improve their living conditions. “Now that Caritas supports us, we can finally leave the old days behind. We have realized that it is necessary to work hard for our own benefit and especially hard for the future of our children.”