My house is on a hill in Sangachok, Sindhupalchok, so in order to get to my friend Sita’s* house, I walk down this hill, through an alley, and cross the road. I would meet Sita, who is one year older than me, every morning before going to school. This day was no different. I have known her since we were children, and have watched her family grow from her having three siblings — all sisters– to seven.  I walked into her home and greeted her mother. The family members were sitting on the floor, eating their morning meal, while discussing getting a citizenship card (“nagarikta”) for their older children. The citizenship card is required for almost everything, including getting a job and registering to vote. At the time, Sita was 15 years old, and was in 10th grade in school. She sat quietly as her family spoke around her. I decided to chime in, “Sita should also make her nagarikta when she turns 16 years old. It will open up more opportunities for her. I also plan to get my nagarikta at 16.” Her mother reacted strongly, almost yelling, still with a mouthful of rice. Apparently, this was a ludicrous idea. She argued that her daughters don’t need those opportunities; they don’t need to work.

I was frustrated by her reaction and lack of understanding. Many parents in Nepal, including even mothers, do not believe that their daughters should have a chance to be independent and earn their own income. In Sita’s family, three of the daughters were married while they were still in school, and Sita just got married this year while studying in class 12. I know that this would not have been the case if, instead of daughters, they had sons. Although their family has probably forgotten about it already, this moment has stuck with me. It made me realize how women have few options in life, and even when the law opens up opportunities, unspoken social norms prevent women from being able to make their own choices.

This is just one example of discrimination in my society and my country. In Nepali society, the discrimination between men and women is one of the biggest problems. Many women are still unable to get equal rights. Parents spend too much time searching for a wealthy husband for their daughters but don’t understand what power and happiness girls can get through their own independence. I wondered: why do people still stick to their old ways of thinking? Perhaps it is lack of education. But even some educated people that I have met do not have progressive views. The lack of skills and self confidence are other reasons that women struggle to move forward in society. Unfortunately, many women also do not seek legal help even when they know that they are being exploited or mistreated because they worry that it will be more harmful for them in the future. When women do not have other skills, they struggle to escape the dependence of their husbands.

I have reflected a lot on how to change people’s mindsets. Firstly, it starts with myself. I want to make sure that I set a good example for others. Next, I do not believe that a fear of the law alone will make change happen. Many forms of discrimination have been outlawed in Nepal but they are not properly regulated. People need to understand and believe within themselves what is right and what is wrong. At the least, I think the government can do more to support individuals who challenge the system. There should be good support, for example, for women who divorce their husbands so that they are able to stand up on their own feet. Finally, although the number of educated people in our country is increasing, I think the quality of our education should improve. Even though human rights issues and examples of discrimination are taught in our classrooms, many students study them just to pass an exam. Once they leave the class, they do not practice what was taught. I think education should be made more practical. We should not study only for our marks. We want to be educated to improve ourselves and our society, so teachers should also consider what students really process in the classroom.

These are not changes that will come easily or quickly. I know also that I have much to learn about these issues, and the efforts that are already underway to change them. This is why I want to continue studying and ultimately become a lawyer. Although I boldly express my views, I know that as a lawyer, my passions will have more credibility. Maybe once I get my degree, people like Sita’s family will take my recommendations seriously. In the future, I hope to have an impact on the lives of women and girls in Nepal.

Susmita wrote this post after a blog writing workshop and continued to work on it after a one-on-one editing tutorial. She is a sixth cohort fellow at Samaanta, currently studying Management at V.S. Niketan.Susmita has been offered a scholarship to study the International Baccalaureate Diploma at the United World College in Mostar, Bosnia. She will start in September 2018 .

 *Name has been changed due to confidential matter.

Don’t think we need this section here for the UWC announcement.