Standing Up for Oneself
Aasha* name changed. Aasha never had a say in her life until she was empowered working in Hamri Bahini Biodegradable bags enterprise. In a nation where traditions and cultures set the rules for living in a society, most of us follow them without questioning them and most of us are the victims of the very tradition. One of such limiting practices can be noticed during marriage arrangement and marriage ceremonies itself. The act of giving away a daughter for marriage is called kanyadan, which literally means, “donating the bride” to someone else.
Women and daughters are seen as secondary citizens in their own houses and communities and these norms just reinforce the discrimination. Women are victims of dowry practices where not bringing enough dowries is looked down upon and sometimes-even leads to domestic violence. There are also practices where women don’t have a say in making their life decisions and choices like who or when to marry and this silencing of women seizes them of their agency over their lives. Aasha was a victim of this very silencing when she was forced by a policeman to marry her. This incident happened when armed conflict in our villages had threatened livelihood. Asha sadly noted that no one had the courage to speak up against anyone higher up in authority. She recalled that it was a normal walk to her house by the forest when she was attacked. A guy grabbed her by her ponytail and struck her with his gun. He bit her and took her to a shed where they took shelter and later moved from one settlement to another. Aasha realized that she was being abducted as part of a tradition of forced marriage that frequently happened in her community in Salyan. Aasha however didn’t question this practice because it was common in her village and returning home after such forced marriage proposal, would be looked down upon by the community. She decided to settle down with her now husband and claimed that he started loving and taking care of him. She was under the impression that things would be better after marriage because her husband started genuinely taking care of her. She recalled how her husband was most attentive to her needs when she was pregnant. Sadly, things were not going to last this long. After the birth of her third child, Aasha’s husband started separating with her emotionally, physically and financially. Upon returning to her hometown, she found out that her husband was set to marry his best friends wife. His soon to be second wife’s first husband was a migrant worker and had not retuned ever since he left. Aasha recalled how her in-laws approved of her husbands second marriage and soon after the approval she was discarded from the family. Asha’s in-laws even beat her and threatened her not to return to her in-laws again. She explained that the reason for second marriage could be monetary benefits. Aasha moved to Nepalgunj with her kids where she struggled to start a new life. She had been emotionally and physically tortured but she had to be stronger as a mother figure to take care of her kids. She went to women’s cell where she took shelter and got help temporarily. After that, she was recommended a temporary shelter and came to Kathmandu seeking shelter for herself and her kids. She stayed in the shelter with her children and she took some vocational training to support her family. During that time she heard about Hamri Bahini Biodegradable bags on the radio and decided to call and be enrolled. She started as a trainee and now is working full time. This job has now given her the confidence to take her own life decisions and choices. Asha now has complete agency over her life.