This is the story of youth activist SAJANA SUNAR
Once just a small child without any understanding of culture, norms and values of the society, Sajana Sunar had to face the bitter experience of growing up as a Dalit (low caste) child in Nepal.
Ever since truly starting to comprehend her social status, she felt she had no other choice than to spend her days sitting at home alone. There, she spent a lot of time immersed in her thoughts, wishing she had a way to get away from the society that discriminated against her and people like her so cruelly.
Eventually, she came to a conclusion that to overcome such omnipresent darkness, one cannot just sit and wait for the morning light to somehow arrive but to rather take active initiative — end the darkness by lighting up a candle. She decided to commit herself to carrying out any activity that was possible for her, within the society she lived in, to increase awareness and create a healthy environment for children and girls to avoid the situation she had lived in for such a long time.
This journey of proactive initiative started in 2013. Today, it is still ongoing, and Sajana is more committed to her cause than ever before. Her family members respect and encourage her for the work that she is doing, which further motivates her. Some of her friends, however, have told her she should enjoy life instead of dedicating time and effort to social work. She has replied to them, smiling, that she feels it’s her responsibility and she genuinely enjoys social work, far more than traveling or having fun. She has even suggested to her friends that maybe they could join her cause.
Sajana has been able to do major changes in the past five years
During this journey of five years, Sajana has worked in three districts in Nepal and gained a wide range of experience working with different kinds of people and communities. She has learned much and developed ideas of her own. This accumulated experience has made her more mature and even more devoted to her social work.
Sajana started her journey of change as one of the 25 girls in an awareness campaign that took place those five years ago. Today, she is part of the Save Girl campaign at Dailekh, completing the path of AASA (Animator and Adolescent for Social Action) network, she is a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) volunteer and also a member of the Civil Society.
“Originally, when I started to work as a volunteer for social change and justice, I focused on gender equality as well as equal and high-quality education. Later, however, I realized child marriage and chhaupadi (The women are banned from the house and are required to live in a cattle shed, or a menstruation hut, a makeshift dwelling, for the duration of their period.) are also major issues. This prompted me to start working on these issues. I set myself on a mission to start motivating young people to work like me and to join me on this journey. As a result, more than 400 campaigns have successfully been completed in three districts, handling child marriage, quality education, DRR (Disaster Risk Management) and sanitation, caste discrimination and gender equality. After the increase of rape cases and sexual harassment in Nepal, I have launched the Save girls self defence campaign. It has brought 20 schools and 3,000 girls awareness of self-defence and encouraged them to fight for justice. Nearly 4,000 young people have committed to contributing to social change. They are running campaigns of their own, in various locations, which really is the best part of it all. Thanks to them, more than 150 children are going to regular school and even receiving good marks. In addition, their parents are taking responsibility of their children.” Sajana Sunar
Working hard bears fruit
Here are some moments when Sajana feels most proud of the work she and her colleagues do:
- When a campaign to end discrimination and raise awareness gathers a thousand young participants
- When a child coming from a very marginalized background and undeveloped community achieves her goal and becomes a shining example to the entire community
- When a girl starts developing and progressing on her career in a manner only boys in her community were able to, before
- When parents take responsibility for their children, supporting and providing justice and equality to them regardless of their gender
Seeing things like this happen make Sajana feel amazed for other people and their bravery. Equally, people around her are deeply touched by her vision for the communities and the selflessness of her efforts.
Sajana wants to thank all the people who have supported her on her journey and enabled her to walk this path of achievement and success. She was dedicated to the mission of social justice and equality yesterday, she was dedicated to it today and she vows to be dedicated to it, come tomorrow. She believes campaigning for change will and should not stop until the society will be as aware and equal as Sajana and people like her have dreamed it could be.
Sajana wishes that this introduction became a reference of her and her work. She would like to be known as a youth activist.
This story is a part of awareness rising campaign on women empowerment and gender equality We Encourage 💜 IDEA Nepal
Photo credits: Amar Century
Editor: Hanna Veltheim