Sunita Bista* a 28-year-old woman, lives in Ward No. 5 of Khandachakra Municipality in Kalikot, Nepal. She was married at the age of 16 while studying in Class 9. She recalls that, at the time, she did not know what marriage actually was. After getting married, she discontinued her studies. Two years later, at the age of 18, she gave birth to her first child and after a couple of years she gave birth to her second child. She has one son and one daughter. Due to a lack of awareness about family planning, she gave birth to two children at an early age without proper birth spacing. During her second pregnancy, she joined her local Mothers Group, and began attending meetings. In Nepal, Mothers Group meetings are organized on a monthly basis and facilitated by local female community health volunteers (FCHVs). HealthBridge Foundation and International Nepal Fellowship (INF) support the Mothers Groups in Khandachakra by providing training and educational materials for FCHVs to ensure they have the understanding and skills to improve health outcomes for women and children in the community. During these meetings, Sunita learned more about her own health through discussions about the changes that occur to her body during pregnancy, the importance of antenatal and postnatal check-ups, institutional delivery, and other health-related topics. Sunita Bista shared, "Participating in the mother group helped me regularly undergo antenatal check-ups and take necessary precautions during pregnancy."
During the 112th International Women's Day celebration organized at the ward level, there were no female participants available to organize the program. Since Sunita had studied up to the 9th class, other participants requested her to organize the program. At first, Sunita lacked confidence and she was unwilling to take the stage. However, after encouragement from the other members of the Mothers Group, she appeared on stage. When she tried to read the words written on the banners, she faced difficulty. The male participants noticed that she was struggling, so they took charge of running the program. During this moment, Sunita realized the importance of education and being able to represent the Mother’s Group and other women from her community during celebration events.
Since this time, Sunita has been an enthusiastic and regular participatant in the Mothers Group meetings and the meetings have given her the confidence. While at first she was slow to express her thoughts with the group, within a couple of months she was able to share her learnings with the other Mothers Group members without any hesitation. Gradually, she developed her speaking and writing skills. She also learned how to organize sessions and even facilitated some of them. During the yearly 16 Days of Activism against Violence program, Sunita participated in a Deuda program. Deuda is a Nepali tradition of song and dance that can be used to convey important messages. Sunita and her team secured the first position and Sunita delivered a confident speech during the program.
Now Sunita is serving as the secretary of the women's network in Ward No. 5. During the 113th International Women's Day celebration, Sunita organized the program and successfully hosted it. The program helped her become professionally successful as well when she found temporary work in a local business.
Thanks to Sunita's dedication and the support she received from the Mothers Group and INF Nepal, she has become an independent woman who can earn for her family. Sunita says, "Motivation and active participation in the Mothers Group, facilitated by INF Nepal, has helped me speak confidently and secure employment. I have learned about the importance of sexual and reproductive health, gender violence, and child marriage. As a member of the women's network, I will strive to stop child marriages in my community and share my learnings."
* Not her real name
Story Written by Sangita Sunar,
INF Community Facilitator