The men of Tallo Gaun in Simikot love to hate Ujeli Rokaya. They consider her a threat to their patriarchal society, which strongly believes that educating girls is a very bad idea.
Last year, 16-year-old Ujeli shocked her community of Rautes when she left her husband's house to attend school. UNICEF's village facilitators were going door-to-door to encourage girls and women to attend the Out of School Program (OSP) and Ujeli just could not resist the offer.
Her husband was in Kathmandu and Ujeli was left at the mercy of in-laws who strongly refused to send her to the program. Her father-in-law is an educated person and the VDC secretary. "They said I would never be allowed to enter the house if I dared to enroll. I just walked off to attend the program," says Ujeli, recalling the day she left the house and joined the OSP.
It's been 10 months since and Ujeli has completed her basic education and enrolled in grade five at a government school. "The day I pass my SLC, I will return to my husband's house," she says brightly. She is amazed at her own transformation-from a shy, reluctant wife to a confident, outspoken and fearless girl.
"Now I can read and write like any educated man," says Ujeli and proves it to us by writing her name. "Many girls still have to live under the strict rules of our community but I will change that."
Once she finishes school, Ujeli wants to be a teacher and educate as many girls and women as possible. Every day as she passes through her village, she has to endure ridicule and insulting remarks from the men and boys. But this brave girl is unfazed. She says, "All I know is my parents are very happy and that is enough for me. Nothing can stop me now."