We do today, it lasts forever
Growing up as the older male sibling to his sister, Yulan never witnessed any gender based injustices in his household. On the contrary, his parents always made sure that Yulan and his sister were treated equally, given the same education and provided with the same resources and opportunities.. However, his first encounter with gender based stereotypes was when he returned to his village of Janakpur in Nepal. He noticed that within a normal household, all the male members gathered to chat and relax while the female members did the household chores. He soon came to realize that this was in fact a minor occurrence compared to what was happening around the village. Girls in the village were made to attend local government schools only until noon so they could return and help in domestic chores, while boys could study full time at a recognized boarding school. The reason behind this unfair treatment was that female children were believed to be a “temporary” member of the family since they were sent off to their husband’s home after marriage. Whereas, the male members were believed to be the sole caretaker of the family.
When Yulan moved to Kathmandu for his higher secondary education, he learned that gender based violence is not just about physical assaults but the sexual, mental and spiritual trauma faced by women. He began to understand that whatever he witnessed in his village was all part of a deeply rooted patriarchal society that simply rejected the idea of supporting the independence and agency of young women. So, during his term break, whenever he returned to his village, he used to volunteer with different organizations, conduct interviews with self-help groups and informal mothers’ groups to research and learn more about this injustice. Based on these interviews and several training and volunteering opportunities he received, Yulan was motivated to create a comprehensive training module that focused on gender based violence and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR).
He created a project, “We do today, it lasts forever,” a series of workshops on sexual and physical violence, SRHR and women leadership through drama and roleplaying. Yulan and his team collaborated with the Janakpur national Karate team to provide self defense training to a select group of women in the village. Out of the 25 young women who attended the training sessions, five were selected as a qualified trainer to provide extensive training to other young girls and boys in the village. The main objective of his project was to support young men and women in his village to advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights and against the different forms of gender based violence. Yulan is preparing for the second phase of his project where he plans to expand his workshops to nearby villages as well.
Going through the project journey on the Peace First platform, writing out his project plan and doing a deep dive into the design process really helped Yulan to identify the root causes of the injustice in his community and create a well structured and comprehensive workshop curriculum to address them. The mentorship and coaching he received helped him map key stakeholders, partners and collaborators, like the local municipality and school administrators, SRHR and self defense experts. A total of 40 young women were trained during the first phase of the project, a number Yulan hopes to increase in future phases. One of the major challenges the project faced was the refusal of some parents to allow their daughters to attend. Yulan realized that the road to changing the narrative around the agency, power and equality of women is long and that the team is up against deeply ingrained traditional societal beliefs that will likely take generations to change. But he remains hopeful that it can be done - one workshop at a time.