The following project was conducted prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Nepal is a country inclined towards Eastern Culture, which greatly depends on women as homemakers. In this same vein, women are also the core teachers of family values. Sadly, the valuable leadership of women in the home and community is often overlooked in a society that suffers from gender-based discrimination and violence.
In the case of girls in Nepal, 37% marry before age 18 and 10 % are married by age 15, despite the legal age for marriage being 20 years for both men and women. As seen in a survey by UNICEF, Nepal is known to have the third-highest rate of child marriage in Asia. Although immoral and unlawful, many of these young girls and women suffer violent conditions in some Nepalese households.
I applied to the Global Peace Women Leadership Academy (GPWLA) to advocate for the human rights of women in Nepal.
Through GPWLA, I sought to counter this disturbing trend through a year-long awareness, education, and counseling program I call “Family Values through Forum Theatre.”
To prevent the practice of child marriage in the surrounding Kathmandu area, the project was designed to share widespread education through the medium of theater and encouraging women to address these issues. Fourteen volunteers were trained in a two-hour-long drama performance and a 30-minute presentation on family values conducted at ten venues throughout the year. Over three hundred women participated in the forum theaters and workshops.
The program began in January 2018, but has made a lasting impact throughout 2019 and has given hope to many families into the new decade, with participants including women between the ages of 20 and 60, children as young as 13, and school teachers.
“I liked the drama very much,” said Janaki Shrestha, a participant in Bhardev, “It pretty much shows the true face of our society. Husband and wife are responsible for the peace within the family, and when they take approaches to make their family better, they can eventually make the society a better place.”
The project aimed to not only uplift women, but also encourage men to see their important roles within the family as part of a team. Parents play the integral role of raising children with values and a desire to contribute to their greater community and society.
A student, Malati Khadgi, shared her thoughts after a theater performance saying, “I am very thankful that you presented to us how we can live peacefully within a family. The relationship between husband and wife, their parents, and the family overall can become better with awareness programs as this one. I am very happy to have gotten to learn the importance of family values through this drama today.”
Sapana Bhulun, a teacher from Kaushaltar who attended the program was uplifted by the message of family-based peacebuilding saying, “We must invest our time with our family members to attain a happy family. Even though my husband is working abroad, my daughter and I make sure to talk to him at least once a day. It’s our routine, it’s our happy time. It has not only helped us increase our mutual love and trust, but it has also hugely contributed to making our family happy and healthy.”
The project also importantly provided counseling resources and aids (legal, psychological, and social) for women looking for assistance. Organizers plan on continuing training for theater performances and conducting Peace Begins in the Home workshops for women in Nepal.