A Feather In The Cap

Despite school enrollment campaigns, political manifestos and gender sensitive slogans, girls’ education is still on the backburner in our country. It is more so if the girls come from backward and marginalised tribal communities. Social stigma and biases still remain against daughters who are less preferred against their male counterparts. So much so that the segregation and discrimination starts from fetus in some backward and superstitious communities in South Asia. The governments had to ban clinics from disclosing the sex of fetuses during pregnancy tests to stop the tendency of female abortions. Existence of educated sons and illiterate daughters in the same family tells the worrying tale of gender discrimination in the Nepali families. The discriminatory beliefs are so deep rooted in the society that the girls are still not in the priority list of education though the stereotype is being shattered slowly. Males have the dominating role in the society as sons are highly regarded for their role in giving continuity to the family inheritance. Traditionally, sons are entitled to inheritance of family property and the daughters, to be married off to some other family, get lower priority. What is the use of educating someone who will go to her husband’s house? Such an awkward view had remained a guiding principle regarding girl’s education for a long time. Times and beliefs are changing but the discriminatory practice is far from totally uprooted from the society.

The constitution has enshrined principle of equality and inclusion to discourage and eliminate the prevailing gender discrimination. The law of the land stands against such practices. But as the old habits die hard, discrimination continues to show its ugly face as evident from the less priority the girls are getting in their education. But things are moving in the positive direction with encouragements from exemplary families and parents who see equal potential and role of girls just like the boys. One such torchbearer family comes from a marginalised ethnic community living in the far-western region of the country. Yagyabati Rana Tharu has become the first woman to complete the MBBS degree and become a medical doctor from the Rana Tharu community. Women of this community have refined artistic flair for silver jewelry and ethnic costumes. They attract attention during festive events with their unique wears and adornments but they are in shadow in terms of education. Yagyabati has made headlines with her medical degree as she has completed her MBBS from Bangladesh. Getting a medical degree demanded academic talents, dedication and hard work on the part of Yagyabati but equal credit goes to her parents who broke social barriers and walked the untrodden path despite disapproval from their neighbours and relatives. They defied social norms and proved that a daughter from a backward ethnic community can do what her privileged and more advantaged peers can. Yagyabati’s parents did not listen to the call of the skeptics and sold their land to educate her daughters. The parents who considered their educated daughters more valuable than their real estate property deserve a salute.

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