Big Sisters’ Home
“The world will change when our girls and our women are educated.” -Maggie Doyne
It’s not easy to be a young girl growing up in the patriarchal society of rural Nepal. Girls are faced with challenges including the practice of chhaupadi, limited access to healthcare, healthy food, and clean water, with an increased risk for abuse, sexual exploitation, child marriage, and child labor. Daughters are seen as inferior to sons; oftentimes, the girls in a family drop out of school to help with family housework while their brothers are encouraged to continue their studies.
The students who attend Kopila Valley are some of the most at-risk children in our community of Surkhet. We noticed that some of the teenage girls at KVS were being abused at home, living in flood camps made from plastic tarps, or working as domestic servants. Others were at risk for child marriage or suicide.
In conditions like these, the girls did not have enough time for their studies and their grades were suffering. We realized that school counseling was not enough for these young women. We were educating and supporting them at school and then sending them home to the same toxic environment that was causing their problems in the first place. We needed to change their living situation.
After three years of hard work and planning, our dream of creating a Big Sisters’ Home was achieved in August 2017. There are currently 10 girls living in the safe house. We provide them with healthy food, a cozy home, extra counseling and tutoring, and a loving community of support and friendship. The girls maintain active communication with their families through phone calls and home visits, and we are preparing them to reintegrate into their biological families after they finish 12th grade.
Empowering the girls means teaching them basic life skills such as keeping financial records, advocating for themselves, shopping for groceries, using public transportation, maintaining personal and household cleanliness, establishing healthy study habits, practicing English writing and public speaking, and learning about sexual responsibility.
Changing the living situation of the most vulnerable girls at our school has saved their lives and secured their futures. When girls are educated, they are less likely to have a child marriage or contract diseases like HIV/AIDS. They are better able to take care of their future families and lift their communities out of poverty. Since settling into their new home, there have been many positive changes in the girls.
Their grades have improved, their behavior in the classroom has improved, they are participating in more extracurricular activities, they are sharing their problems more openly and they have been showing confidence in their future. The girls are happy and healthy. They will become the changemakers of their generation. They are motivated to improve their own lives and the lives of their families and communities.