When Ratni Rana Magar, from Lekhparajuli, Surkhet in Nepal got married at the age of fifteen, her life changed dramatically. She was unable to complete her studies and began taking care of her aging grand-mother-in-law her new large family and, now, her 3 year old son. At the age of twenty, however, her life took a turn for the better.
A Discussion Centre was established in her village by Oxfam’s partner Women Association for Marginalized Women (WAM). Since Ratni studied up to class 10, she got selected as treasurer. At the Centre she learned skills training such as stool making.
Ratni also joined campaigns against child marriage, domestic violence and untouchability. “I have always been interested in social work and now I have been shown the way. Women have to come out and ask for their rights,” says Ratna.
Now the young farmer is the chair of the Ward Citizen Forum. She is trained in program planning and budget allocation.
In her one year tenure as chair, she plans to open at least one Child Care Centre in her village. She also lobbies for road construction and improved drinking water.
Ratni’s family supports her interest in pursuing social work. Her husband is behind her and her in-laws share the household work. But the rest of her community has a different attitude. “Society does not support me in the way my family does,” says Ratni. “They make derogatory remarks like ‘Here comes Ratni our leader’. But when I hear that I get more determined to go ahead.”
The young farmer's new life is much more than about being a mother and caretaker. She thinks she should try to pass her end of school exams: “I need to build my capacity, and I need to attend more workshops and seminars. I want to progress further.”
Ratni is one of the many beneficiaries of Oxfam's Women's Leadership Programme (WLP). This story and many others can be found in 'Towards Independence', a collection of case studies showing the impact of WLP's activities on the lives of individual women in Makwanpur and Surkhet.