Girls Advisory Board share their COVID-19 experience

For the last few months we have been checking-in with our Girls Advisory Board to learn the effect of COVID-19 and months long lockdown on them and their communities. While all of their lives have been affected and they have their own way of dealing with the situation, we are proud how they also extended their service to the community. Our Girls Advisory Board members include girls aged 16-19 years residing in different Rural Municipalities of Sindhupalchowk district.

laxmiLaxmi Khanal (16)
“During lockdown violence against women have increased “
I have been doing lots of household chores during the lockdown. I’m more involved in agriculture with my family. Because of the long break from school, I am losing interest in studies. I cannot even meet my friends and have a little chat.
When the lockdown is over and things get back to normal, I want to focus on my studies. I aim to become a journalist. When i finish my education in journalism, I want to work to eradicate child marriage, untouchability, and other superstitious beliefs that exist in my society.
Lockdown has created fear and panic in our hearts. Maintaining social distance makes it difficult to work together and the number of supporters for our village has also decreased. By staying at home our workload has increased. At the same time, the cases of violence against women have increased. Many families are going through financial instability and difficulties. There is also discrimination in the community towards COVID-19 infected people.
I have written poems and essays covering lockdown experience. I think the government should pay attention to solve the problems of lockdown. Various organizations should give priority to women’s issues and initiatives should be taken to reduce violence against women.

sangitaSangita Jyoti (17)
“Menstrual health products difficult to get”
I could not attend my SEE (Secondary Education Examination) because of COVID-19. I wanted to do a bridge course after completing SEE, but it is not possible now. If things were normal by this time the result of SEE would have been announced. It is uncertain if the new session will start this year or not.

During the lockdown, I helped with household chores. We all have to stay inside the home so I spent time watching television. My parents are also worried about managing our household expenses. We are also concerned if we will have enough food for the coming months. I have heard many people lost their jobs after the lockdown. One or two people from nearby villages have also committed suicide.
Menstrual pads are in shortage because of the lockdown. This may be due to lack of vehicle mobility but it put us in a difficult situation to access menstrual health products.
After the lockdown, I have decided to go to Kathmandu and study in a good college. I want to study and become a social worker.”

SunitaSunita Shrestha (16)
“Online classes, just for the name sake”
I am helping with the household chores during the lockdown as the schools are closed. I am studying for a diploma in civil engineering. But in a village like ours, the internet connectivity is not strong. Colleges are planning online classes but in places where there is no electricity, such online classes are not effective. Lockdown has tremendously affected our studies.
Everyone is scared these days. There are reports on radio and television that children and women are not safe even in quarantine. It is scary to hear such news. I think we all should be careful. This kind of situation may happen again. Therefore, we should pay special attention to our health, hygiene, and food. We need to be health-conscious and take care of ourselves and our family.
The pandemic has added to my anxiety and fear. However, now I’m more determined to become a good engineer.”

Bishnu mayaBishnumaya Tamang (16)
“A lot of negative thoughts come to my mind”
I was supposed to take my SEE (Secondary Education Examination) but because of COVID-19, everything is uncertain. The government has decided to allow all students to pass the internal examination based on assessment due to this pandemic, which is somehow a good decision. I have taken tuition for my SEE so that I can get better marks than the sendup examination. I was expecting to secure better marks in my SEE. I felt sad that there will be no SEE. I also learned some of my friends attempted suicide near my village because of the lockdown which is why I never stay alone. I focus on different things to avoid negative thoughts. Sometimes I knit scarves and make paper flowers. Apart from this, I also spend time writing essays on various topics. I keep on writing to improve my handwriting and also revise my course books. Now it is cultivation season, I am also helping my family in farm work.
I have a dream of becoming a staff nurse. Now at the time of this pandemic, I have realized how important being a nurse is. After becoming a staff nurse, I will contribute to and support my society.

Lakmai tamangLakmai Tamang (17)
“I began to listen and read the news”
Usually, I don’t listen to the news. However, due to COVID-19 now there is a trend in my village to ask about health situations to whoever we meet. For that reason, I have started listening to and reading the news.
As this is the season for planting rice and cultivation, I do not have much free time. However, I see the boys roaming around the river and returning home late. I am a bit envious about their freedom. I feel scared to know that the whole world is struggling against this virus. Things are uncertain including the school. I am very curious about what will happen next. No one knows when the situation will get normal and when the schools will open. What will happen to our study? Whether or not we will lose this academic year? When can I meet my friends?

rojinaRojina Tamang (18)
“I began to help as a Social Worker”
We were about to appear for our exam when the nationwide lockdown was announced on 24th March 2020. Due to the lockdown, our exam got postponed so I went to my village.
After coming home, I participated in different awareness programs maintaining safety. The government organized some relief programs for single mothers, senior citizens, people living in poverty, and differently-abled individuals. I went to the ward office and opened bank accounts for differently-abled individuals and senior citizens. I counseled students in the village to attend online classes. However, due to the lack of internet and not being able to afford internet data on mobile phones, we could not join online classes from our village.
I felt happy that I could help people in my village during the lockdown. There are a lot of problems in my village but I see a lot of people have a psychological problem. Those who go back to the village from cities are treated differently by the villagers during this pandemic. The precautionary measures are not so effective. People are seen in a crowd mainly during relief distribution, it makes me scared of transmission of COVID-19. I wish I could study well after lockdown.
The government has decided to make internal marking for grade 11. I was hoping for better marks at the upcoming exam but it is not possible now. I will take the computer class and dance sessions after the lockdown.

pasmaiPasmaya Sangbo (16)
“There’s an increase in gambling and child marriage”
Our school is closed due to lockdown so I am mostly at home doing household chores. Sometimes when I try to read books, I can’t concentrate, it makes me frustrated. 

I see a lot of problems in my village because of the lockdown. Fear about the coronavirus among the people has increased but at the same time, the rate of gambling and child marriage has increased rapidly. There isn’t any income source. Families that have members working abroad have more fear right now. 

Signs of cough and diarrhea make people think that they might be suffering from coronavirus. That’s why I hope that we can all get rid of this fearful situation soon. I want to join the Nepal police force when I graduate from college. I have realized the job of police is significant not just during pandemic but in every situation. By joining the institution, I want to serve my community and country. 

binita shresthaBinita Shrestha (19)
“Feels like everything has been snatched away”
During my leisure time after school, I used to work at Jugal FM radio, which is situated at Lisankhupakhar, as a news reporter. But after the lockdown, my workplace got closed so I am at home all day. I do all the household work and help my mother. In the evening I try to teach two children at my village. If I get free time then I go to nearby hills to get fresh air. 

It has been four fearful months of coronavirus. All the income sources of most of the villagers have gone. Every time people are commuting to or from Kathmandu there’s always a fear of corona transmission. Maybe because everyone is home, the number of child marriages has also increased. Even my relative got married to a girl of his age. They got introduced through Facebook a month ago. I tried to convince them to stop the marriage but failed. Adolescent boys fear they might die from the coronavirus so they are opting for early marriages. 

I had planned to go to Kathmandu after the completion of my grade 12 so that I could financially support my family and work but right now exams are all suspended and we are not sure when it will happen. Due to family situation, I feel like my responsibility towards my family has increased but I cannot do anything right now. I feel like this pandemic has snatched away everything all together.

SabitaSabita Shrestha (17)
“Don’t let pandemic cause hatred and discrimination”
At this time, the exam would have been held but now it is not possible. Even the online classes are not as effective as the internet in the village is not strong. I’m mostly at home doing household chores. However, due to this pandemic and lockdown, the financial condition of my family is not the same as before. Some families are even more miserable. If some people return from quarantine, they are discriminated against out of fear of transmission.. At the same time, violence against women has increased. The village is short of not only medicines but also sanitary pads.
I think our biggest enemy is not the coronavirus, but the discrimination caused by the virus. So, we should share as much love as we can with each other. I believe love is the greatest power to fight this pandemic. We have the responsibility to not allow this pandemic become the reason for hatred and discrimination.
I hope the lockdown will end soon and I will be able to go to school again. As I am studying agriculture, I want to contribute to the modernization of agriculture.

jasbinaJasbina Thapa (16)
“Learning how to farm”
I was studying for a diploma in animal science. But I came back home as soon as the school was closed due to lockdown. Farming at home is going on as usual. Planting is also over. This time I learned a lot about farming while staying at home. I believe it will also benefit my studies.
Due to the pandemic, our economic situation is deteriorating. People are facing financial hardships. Asking for financial support from friends and family is not feasible. Masks and sanitizers are not available in the village even though we know about the social distancing.
My priority, at the moment, is to complete my education. I will continue my studies as soon as I can. If the financial condition of my family improves, I am thinking of continuing my studies further.

RanjuRanju Magar (18)
“I taught children who didn’t go to school”
Due to the current situation, there is no proper environment for studying at home as it’s difficult to focus and concentrate, hence I am affected. Even though I haven’t studied for myself, I organized classes for children which made me feel better. Due to heavy rainfall, the roads are damaged and not safe. I also volunteered at the road construction as well as cultural heritage sites in my village. Due to unavailability of menstrual health products it was difficult to manage menstrual hygiene. Even when we used reusable cotton sanitary napkins, we couldn’t sun dry due to incessant rain. I’m worried about menstruation.
Apart from studying, my interest is in singing. When the lockdown is lifted, I will continue my schooling as well as singing and make my parents proud.