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Never too late to learn

Sunday, June 14th, 2015
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santa

From the Nepali Press

Devika Gharti Magar in Himal, 14-20 June

Shanta Chaudhary never went to school because she was forced to become a Kamlari (girl-child indentured labourer) at the age of eight.

When the CPN (UML) chose her as a member of the first Constituent Assembly (CA) under the Proportional Representation system, many were amazed to see an uneducated former bonded labourer participating in discussions over national issues in parliament.

When Chaudhary was chosen to lead the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means in 2008, she realised how difficult it would be for an illiterate lawmaker to work in the CA. Some CA members ridiculed her for not being able to read and write.

“I felt humiliated,” she recalls. “They would not have ridiculed me had my parents sent me to the school.”

Chaudhary was an indentured worker with a zamindar for 18 years. After being freed, she became active in politics and involved herself in a struggle for rights of landless farmers.

On the side, she attended six-month adult literacy class, where she learnt to read and write a few words, including her name.

In the first parliamentary committee meeting, Chaudhary took more than five minutes to write her name in a decision book. Other lawmakers watched as she picked up a pen, put it on the paper and wrote her name with difficulty.

In following meetings, Chaudhary signed her name with difficulty and refused to use her thumbprint.

Recently, she enrolled in Grade 8 of Danda Gaun Higher Secondary School near her hometown in Dang after passing an entrance exam.

“I didn’t have time and money to go to school in my childhood,” she says. “I now have both time and money, so why would I not use this opportunity?”

Chaudhary’s son Anil is in Grade 9 and daughter in Grade 8 in the same school. At first they were embarrassed to be going to school with their mother, and teachers at the school laughed when they heard. But she was determined to be an educated woman. “They have changed their minds now,” she says. “They are all supporting me.”

Chaudhary wanted to join school last year and pass her SLC in 2016, but she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and she is under treatment.

Two years ago Chaudhary published a much-acclaimed  autobiography of her life’s story from going from a child slave to CA member.

 

Read also:

Bonded child labourer to CA member

She has a dream

 

 

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One Response to “Never too late to learn”

  1. Prakash Man Singh on Says:

    Shanta Chaudhary, a former bonded labourer who became a lawmaker, is now enrolled in a school. Come on, this is the 21st Century and we still have bonded labourers. What does that tell you about our leaders?

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