“My daughters will go to school…..”

Masina Khatoon with her daughters
Masina Khatoon with her daughters. Photo: UNDP Nepal

Within the span of 14 years Masina Khatoon gave birth to 11 daughters – it was the couple’s desire to have a son. She is one of the many women from the rural communities of Nepal who give birth to many daughters hoping for a son to be born.

Masina Khatoon finally ended the physical pain of going through labour by daring to stand up against the long-held traditional norms, to dream for her daughters, to say ‘not any more’ and finally to decide for herself !

Highlights

  • In 2011, with LRP support, 6,003 disadvantaged households have received seed grants to start Income Generating Activities.
  • In 2011, with LRP support, 105 Women's Rights Forums were formed, trained and mobilised.

And while she builds a future for her daughters, will another pregnancy come in the way? No ! She has decided not to have any more children. Although the society that she lives in is not yet totally respectful to women without sons, she has made the move. And for a Muslim woman from her society, her move is extremely courageous. Her husband is also now supportive of her decision.

Many daughters in the villages of Nepal are neglected and denied their fundamental rights, because they are daughters, not sons. It is not like that with Masina anymore ! Masina now dreams of educating her daughters to make them independent. Unfortunately two of her daughters are now too old to attend regular schooling. But her three daughters – Jaymul, Apsana and Samsa, go to school. “Another two will go to school when they are of school-going age”, says Masina. Sadly, four of her eleven daughters are no more.

And this change was brought about by UNDP’s Livelihood Recovery for Peace (LRP) project. The LRP project mobilizes community groups across its implementation districts. These groups, formed amongst the most socio-economically deprived and vulnerable communities, run regular Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) sessions facilitated by the project’s peace and livelihood facilitators and provide an opportunity for the group members to learn about how they can access and exercise their basic rights and work to transform their communities. The sessions also provide members with the chance to join together to promote social and environmental improvements.

One of the things that members of the Nuri Shanti Samuha, one of the LRP community groups in Kolhuwabagaiya village of Mahottari district have learned from the PLA sessions is gender equality – that sons and daughters are equal. They have also learned that it is not the woman’s reproductive ability that determines whether a son or a daughter will be born. The community encouraged Masina to go for surgery to stop having any more children and to focus on educating her daughters. Masina heeded to the groups encouragement. The awareness brought into the society by the weekly PLA sessions has transformed the thinking and behavior of Masina and the future of her daughters.

Masina is now about to start her own small business with a grant of Rs. 9000 that she will receive under the Income Generating Activities (IGA) from LRP. She already has plans for utilizing her future income. She says “If I have enough income to support my daughters’ education, I will make them go for higher studies.”