"My Daughters Will Do Better"

womenLEADnepal
Posted November 24, 2016 from Nepal

“My daughters will do better.” In a country where men are valued more than women, my parents had the wisdom to speak out and believe in their daughters, even if it meant being abandoned by their family.

It was a lovely August day and my entire family had just gathered to celebrate the annual Nepali festival of Teej. My relatives were dancing around in their colorful kurtas as the lyrics, “Teeja ko lahara ayo barilai,” echoed around the room. My cousins were running around excitedly awaiting all the treats they could eat and fun they could do without getting scolded. As the music blasted across the room, Saloni, my sister grabbed my mom’s arm and pulled her to the dance floor. My dad sat on one corner of the room and glazed at my mom as she danced and showed off her moves.

Despite this happy moment, I soon remembered that life wasn’t always easy for my mother. She wasn’t always allowed to dance to the tune of her own drumbeat. Born in a society where boys are valued more, my mom faced her own challenges for being a woman. Bringing up two daughters was even harder.

My mom was born in a family where girls were meant to do the household works and boys could go wherever they wanted. And while she had a chance to study until high school, her parents immediately forced her to marry a man she had never met or saw. Raised in the hilly region of Nepal, she was married to a man from the Terai region, where she was even more discriminated for being a woman. There she had to wake up at 2am, do all the households, then go to sleep at around 11pm. If she was late doing any of these works, she would be punished so severely that she feared even in her dreams.

After she got pregnant, everyone in the family was happy, not because she was pregnant, but thinking she could give them a son. When I was born, a girl, the family only started resenting her more. On a visit back home after my birth, my dad found out about his family’s treatment toward my mom and fought with them on her behalf. When the fight got worse, my grandma stopped and yelled:“The one who couldn’t give birth to a son shouldn’t have a loud voice.”

Hearing this, my dad replied, “Let’s see how your grandsons do in life. I can guarantee you that my daughter will do better than all of them.” That day, my mom, dad, and I headed to the bus station, bought three tickets, and came to Kathmandu to start a new life.

My parents rented a small shop for earning. My mom used to look after the shop while my dad drove a taxi. After couple of years, my sister was born. Having one more member in the family made the expense increase. So my parents started working harder and sleeping less. Having just two daughters, people would tell them to have another child, a son. But my dad and mom refused saying, “My daughters will do better.”

Giving us education has always been their first priority. They never bought nice clothes for themselves because they had to pay for our school fees. I still remember the time when they said to me, “Listen, if it’s for your studies and career, we would sell ourselves to get it for you.” And their hard work is slowing paying off. My parents made my sister and me the first ones to get a degree in their family—the same family who abandoned them for having a daughter—all because they believed in us. It is because of them that today I am an engineer and my sister is studying nursing.

Knowing the struggle they have made to break the cultural beliefs has made me care about my parents even more. My parents always taught me to be strong, no matter what the situation. And whenever, in any point of my life, I feel like quitting or become upset because of the barriers I face because I am a girl, I look up to my parents and feel satisfied. In the society where they were abandoned for not having a son, they brought up two successful daughters. If they chose daughters to a son knowing the consequences, why would I let them down?

My dad always said, “God has made every child equally and with the same effort. If you think God didn’t give you strength like boys, remember that boys can never be blessed with the capability to give birth. If you think girls can’t do what boys can, remember you are the first one in my family to graduate. If you think being a girl is your weakness, remember you survived in a society where people support boys even though they are wrong.”

While I’m in the middle of this thought, my mom pulls me in the dance floor, and I realize what a happy moment it is. I start dancing along with the crowd realizing that there’s nothing to be sad about now. My mom and dad are both happy and proud of what they have done. And we, their daughters, are more proud of what example they have set for our society.

Shivani Chhetri is a 2013 graduate of Women Leaders in Technology.

This story was submitted in response to Wisdom at Every Age.

Comments 6

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Jensine Larsen
Nov 24, 2016
Nov 24, 2016

Dear Womenlead, Welcome to WorldPulse!!

I feel like I am with you in this moment of celebration in all you and your parents have made possible. I want nothing more than every little girl to have such a moment with her family...to dream, to achieve, and to celebrate with those she loves. And I know you are making this possible for so many. Congratulations and thank you.

womenLEADnepal
Nov 28, 2016
Nov 28, 2016

Hi Jensine! Thanks so much for your support. This surely was a moment of celebration, and we're fighting to make sure all women and girls in Nepal have that same opportunity.

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 25, 2016
Nov 25, 2016

Dear Womenlead,

As I read your story my heart was rung out with sadness at all that your parents have gone through, and your and your sister as well, being aware of the many times they stood up for you, protected you, believed in you. But even stronger my heart lept in joy  knowing that you are dancing and celebrating together. So many ways your parents found to make sure that you had opportunity to discover your life. So many ways your mother's life has changed due to the real love between your parents and their determination to challenge discrimination. "She wasn’t always allowed to dance to the tune of her own drumbeat". What a celebration that now she can. How great to meet you here within WorldPulse.

In sisterhood,

Tam

womenLEADnepal
Nov 28, 2016
Nov 28, 2016

Hi Tam. Thanks so much for your support. We're excited to join the World Pulse community and meet others fighting for gender equality as well!

coolasas
Nov 26, 2016
Nov 26, 2016

WomenLead this is a wonderful story, full of positivity and full of hope. Nepal is close to my heart and I have lots of friends whose trying to break the tradition of accepting women as lesser than men, women whose living their dreams and carving their niche in this world. 

Continue sharing your stories to keep inspiring parents and young women that gender is no hindrance to enjoy life under the Himalayan shadow and beyond. 

Kudos! 

womenLEADnepal
Nov 28, 2016
Nov 28, 2016

Hi Coolasas! Thanks so much for your support. It will be a hard battle, but we're definitely working towards a better Nepal where all women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys. It's nice to hear that Nepal is so dear to you, and hope we'll see you back here soon!

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