Rama Bista’s day starts early in the morning. The 15-year-old daughter-in-law has to attend to household chores and fetch fodder for cattle before heading out to school in the morning. On some days she has to miss class because Bista has to bring the livestock back from the pasture, cook supper, wash dishes. This has been Bista’s daily routine for the past years.
Like many others in her village in the remote district of Bajhang, Bista got married when she was just 12 and in Grade 6. Since getting married, she has a difficult time concentrating on her studies and finds herself constantly thinking about housework. Like Bista, there are 53 other girls in Himalaya Secondary School who have had to juggle between school and housework.
“If we persevere and study even in difficult situations, the result will definitely be good, right?” says 16-year-old Goma Kumari Bista, who also married at age 12. In many of the villages in the district, girls are married off while they are still at school. Some drop out after getting married, but those who choose to stay on in school see their studies suffer.
“The performance of students who did well in their studies before getting married, suffer after they get married. Their attendance rate is also low,” says principal Nandaram Joshi. “They are not just weak in studies but also suffer mentally and physically.”
According to District Development Committee Bajhang, 530 girls under the age of 10, 8,842 girls between the age of 10-14 and 33,131 girls between the age of 15-19 years have been married. Kidnapping or stealing women for marriage if the parents of the girl don’t give their consent is still prevalent in the district, this is one reason parents marry off their daughters early.
In recent years, as parents allow their daughters-in-law to go to school, the girls have to fulfill the roles of being a students, daughters-in-law and even mothers which hampers their studies.