Bonita Sharma is a young change-maker in Nepal. She participated in an intensive learning platform for young women supported by the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education, the Female Champions Fellowship. As a Female Champion, she has empowered girls and women in Nepal through her project on nutrition education. Girls’ education is a must for Bonita and she is working with her community to ensure all girls in her country receive a proper chance at learning.
In Nepal, not all girls have the chance to go to school. How do you think education transform lives? How has it transformed your life?
I believe that education influences the entire life cycle of a girl.
A girl child who has access to a quality education will grow up to become a confident adolescent, aware of herself and her surroundings. When she becomes an adult, she will make informed and independent decisions regarding her health, her career and her family life (e.g. marriage and reproduction). As an educated mother, she will pave the way for the next generation of girls to live a brighter future.
I feel fortunate that I had the chance to receive a proper education without any discrimination. It enabled me to transform into a young change-maker in my community. Education has empowered me to empower others.
Through the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education, you are empowering girls and women in Nepal with an education focused on nutrition and health. What has been the impact of your project on young people and their communities?
My team and I have already reached hundreds of girls and boys, women and men, in Nepal through my Action for Nutrition project. Our programs have not just improved their knowledge on health and nutrition, but we were also able to unlock their creativity, confidence and leadership skills.
Manamaya Gurung, a student from Shree Indreshwori School in the Sindhupalchok district did not feel comfortable talking about menstruation. After participating in our educational program, she was able to explain menstrual hygiene to visitors with confidence during our Swasthya Mela (Health Exhibition) event.
It is really gratifying to see young girls like Manamaya become emissaries in their own community; monitoring the health, nutrition and hygiene practices of their family, peer groups and community members. Teachers, mothers, fathers and female community health volunteers have also become more responsible towards addressing the problem of malnutrition, junk food consumption and poor hygiene after participating in our programmes.
We often speak of the importance of female role models for girls and their education. As a Female Champion, who inspired you to become who you are?
My mother had just completed her high school education when she married my father. Society, at the time, expected women to give up their studies to care for their family. My mother did not give up on her dream of getting an advanced degree. She accomplished her goal despite all the criticism, barriers and hardships.
I witnessed the persistence of my mother and the supportive role of my father from a very young age. Growing up in this environment shaped me to become the Female Champion I am today. I learned determination and the value of education from my mother. I strongly believe we need such role models in our homes, schools and communities to inspire us from a young age.
What are your future plans as a Female Champion?
In 2017, I founded Social Changemakers and Innovators (SOCHAI) with a vision to empower women and girls through youth-led innovation, education and social entrepreneurship. We have developed two innovative bracelets, Nutribeads and Redcycle, which are essential tools for nutrition and menstruation education.
Through SOCHAI, I am taking small steps to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, and ensure a quality education for all because there is still much to be done.
In the coming days, I plan to expand our educational programmes all over Nepal through multi-sectoral support and collaboration ranging from policy to grass-root level. By integrating health, nutrition, gender, entrepreneurship, innovation, technology and infrastructure in education, I aspire to empower millions of girls and women in the future.
What advice would you give to girls and women worldwide?
Education is the key to overcome the barriers and reach our full potential in life. It is the key to positive change all of us wish to see in the world. As Malala said, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. So, let us pick up our books and our pens.