Story

Local youth champion determined to change attitudes after working with FLC Class

After working as a facilitator for the UNESCO Functional Literacy Class (FLC) supported by KOICA, 21-year-old Niva Kumari Gupta, of Rajdevi, Rautahat district, wants to work in local government to continue having an impact on women’s development in her community. 

Through the programme, Gupta prepared adolescent girls—some who had never been to school and others who had dropped out—to become eligible for Grades 1 and 2. She also taught them about the dangers of child marriage.  

Gupta, who is from the same community as the participants of the Joint Programme, has seen a clear impact from it. “Of the 20 participants, 15 are still unmarried. It’s because they were able to tell their parents about the lessons learned from us and refuse to be married off.” 

Prevailing attitudes are a big hurdle facing girls in Gupta’s region. “People still hold old attitudes about daughters’ ability to work or learn. They don’t get the opportunities that the sons get. These attitudes are what get girls married off young.”  

Gupta believes a change in societal attitudes is necessary to uplift girls. “Villagers tease older girls about being too old to go to school. The girls internalize this and become too shy to go to school with younger children,” she says. “Programmes that educate parents and guardians and help change their attitudes about girls would be a big help.” 

Poverty keeps girls out of school, and many are forced to help their families to generate income. Gupta says that more vocational training to economically empower families would help alleviate poverty, which in turn would have a positive effect on girls’ literacy.  

Gupta says that working with the FLC has clarified her the need to sustain such efforts. “Lasting change doesn’t occur over just one project. Just as girls begin to gain confidence, projects end. Without follow-up support, they don’t end up going to school,” she says.  

She believes that working through local government is a more effective and consequential way of making an impact. “Officials understand the community they come from, and they are responsible for the programmes that have an impact on people.”  

In 2020, Gupta moderated a radio advocacy program organized by UNESCO where local government officials were questioned about issues like child marriage, girls’ education, health management and the government’s work in these areas. “It was my first time speaking on the radio. After the event, I gained the confidence that I can do anything I want,” Gupta says. “It was a great experience.”  

Gupta now wants to impart that same confidence to other girls. “The situation is difficult. Women cannot make decisions on their own, even just to leave the house,” she says. “I want to see women become more capable. Success brings confidence, and I want to help other girls become successful.”

About the UNESCO-UNFPA-UN Women Joint Programme

“Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women through the Provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education and a Safe Learning Environment in Nepal” is a Joint Programme led by UNESCO, UNFPA, and UN Women with support from KOICA aiming to empower girls and young women through an integrated approach to education, health, and gender equality. For more inquiries, contact the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu at kathmandu@unesco.org