Kanchi at her graduation from 8th grade
Kanchi at her graduation from 8th grade

What could be more fitting than to share a poem written by Kanchi on this day, the United Nation’s International Day for Eradication of Poverty. Kanchi was the first girl to graduate from the Sankhu-Palubari Community School, in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. Supported by The Advocates, the school educates some of the world’s most disadvantaged kids to prevent them from being sucked into child labor.

Kanchi was six years old in 1999, when the school opened its doors. Now a young woman, she plans to study agriculture in college, and hopes to bring organic farming techniques back to her village. “I want to live a healthy life, and give a healthy life to others,” she said.

Kanchi’s Poem

When I was born in small hut,
i’d be a heavy load,
i’d be a heavy load,

Anyhow i have to accept all the things
which were asked by father & mother
because i’m a daughter,
because i’m a daughter.

Father & Mother always used to say
that i don’t have any right to read & write
because 1 day i have to leave birth place &
i have to be someone’s wife,
i have to be someone’s wife.

They says that i cannot do anything in my life because
my life is like an egg which can
Creak at any time if it falls,
Which never be join back,
which never be join back.

They say that to do household work,
that’s my big property &
during the time of my marriage
when i get more dowry,
during the time of my marriage
when i get more dowry.

These heart pinches words
collided in my ear,
my heart nearly go to burst,
my heart nearly go to burst.

At that time my 1 heart says
that u have to leave this selfish world.
But another heart says that don’t get tired
to achieve goal u have to struggle more,
u have to struggle more.

Kanchi was one of 39  students in Sankhu-Palubari Community School’s first kindergarten class. To get to school, she had to walk 1-1/2 hours each way. There were other obstacles along the way, too.  At various times, her parents wanted her to stop school and help them with farming.  But she stayed in school and worked hard.  ”I want to do something different from the others,” she told them. She stayed in school and was one of only two girls in the first class to graduate from eighth grade.  Kanchi continued on to high school, and completed twelfth grade at Siddhartha College of Banepa in 2012.

In many ways, the story of Kanchi reflects the experience of girls in many countries.  All over the world, girls are denied equal access to education, forced into child labor, married off at a young age, and pressured to drop out of school because of their gender.

There are many good reasons to ensure access to education for girls like Kanchi. Educating girls is one of the strongest ways to improve gender equality.  It is also one the best ways to reduce poverty and promote economic growth and development.

“If we are to realize the future we want for all, we must hear and heed the calls of the marginalized,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Together, we can build a sustainable world of prosperity and peace, justice and equity – a life of dignity for all.”

Read more about Kanchi in Jennifer Prestholdt’s October 10, 2012 blog post. Prestholdt is The Advocates’ deputy director and director of the organization’s International Justice Program.

By: Susan L. Banovetz, The Advocates’ communication director

Helen Rubenstein

A request by the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia opened a new door for The Advocates’ Women’s Human Rights program. The embassy approached us about traveling to Malaysia to speak on violence against women. Our work with embassies in Latvia, Lithuania, and Serbia has gotten a lot of attention, and our experience prompted the embassy’s invitation. As a result, during The Advocates’ first venture in Southeast Asia, I spent a week speaking with groups ranging from women parliamentarians to police to NGOs to law school faculty to radio hosts.

My work was divided between Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, and the large city of Penang. In both places I met with members of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality, a consortium of seven women’s human rights groups. I met some wonderful, dedicated people and the contacts are valuable to our work.

One of these groups, the Women’s Aide Organization (WAO) in Kuala Lumpur, opened the first shelter for abused women and their children in 1982. In addition to providing services to victims, WAO educates the public and advocates for legal reform on domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, and migrant domestic workers.

In Penang I met with the Women’s Centre for Change, which is also doing remarkable work assisting victims of gender-based violence and pushing for legal reform.

Perhaps my most rewarding meeting was with a group of women law school faculty at the University of Malaya. In earlier meetings with the NGOs they had expressed frustration about not having sufficient data to identify the scope of the problem of domestic violence and do effective advocacy. The law school faculty expressed a different frustration: they feel that they are doing research without a practical application. I suggested that they work with the NGOs to identify useful research projects to support the NGOs’ advocacy work. At the end of the meeting the organizer announced that she would schedule another meeting with the NGOs. It was great to feel that connections might be made and that there might be a concrete outcome to my work in Malaysia.

My colleagues and I look forward to returning to Malaysia to conduct in-depth training for police, prosecutors, and judges to advance the effective implementation of Malaysia’s domestic violence law.

By: Helen Rubenstein, deputy director of The Advocates’ Women’s Human Rights Program