With a bright, catching smile, Rousie dances with other women to the music, which comes from her phone. She has dyed dark red strands in her hair, is wearing jeans, t-shirt, sneakers. Sometimes she goes to the cinema with her friends. Her 20th birthday, she has celebrated in a small, local restaurant from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Then she had to be back home. It doesn’t suit a woman to be out after dark. In her village, at the foot of the Himalayas, she would not have had the chance of an apprenticeship not to mention academic studies. But by providing a home to the foreigners, she’s able to live a better life in Kathmandu.
In Nepal, men mean no harm if they see the duties of a woman in that sector. They just have never seen it another way. For generations, this image of women rules especially the rural parts of Nepal. Most of the women in Nepal do not study as much as men. They get married and care for her husband, children, and home. They officially have the same rights as men. Underage marriage is forbidden. The same with forced marriage. Nevertheless, the old traditions are deep-rooted in peoples’ minds. Nepal is an extraordinarily beautiful country, which varies from impressive mountains to rank jungle areas. Hindu temples alternate with Buddhist stupas and people have unity and peace apart from cultural diversity. Traditional rural life even shows up in the metropolis of Kathmandu. People spend much time outside, they meet for chatting, laughing, celebrating.
Over the last years, a new medium has found its way into Nepal, which we would often consider annoying: the smartphone. Almost every young adult has one and for people in Nepal, it is a blessing. On the internet, they see, that it is not self-evident to be in an arranged marriage. They read blogs of women who study, who work, who are even unmarried till thirty. This is what gives energy to women in Nepal, who anyway never lost their pride, back their self-consciousness to fight for an independent, self-determined life; for a life, where married women not only are responsible for washing and cooking but have equal rights to work and earn money.
Rousie, her mother and their friends meet on a hill above Kathmandu for a picnic. They listen to Nepalese pop music, dance lively, laugh and drink red wine. The latter is frowned upon, but the women don’t care. They show an unbelievable power. They are intelligent, eager to know, fighting, even if they are not (yet) allowed to show that at home. But their mind, their strong headed nature is contagious, it also awakens women, who so far have submitted themselves to their faith, have accepted it as given by nature. Rousie’s aunt at fifties now has seen the chance of the evening classes she visits. She tries hard to learn reading and writing. She stopped seeing her duties exclusively in cleaning the house and cooking for her family.
Rousie wishes to lead another life than her aunt’s. She also wishes for a life different from her mother’s, who got married very early to an unknown man and who had to quit school on demand of her parents in law, but who silently fights against the traditional role of women. She hopes, her daughter’s life will be different. Rousie studies, a first step in the direction of a self-determined life. Nevertheless, most of Nepal’s female students will not be able to have a job after graduating. Because they have to get married. And often their parents in law decides on them.
After university, it is Rousie’s big dream to be able to work, with which she can contribute to improving social structures in Nepal. She would like to marry a man whom she loves, who accepts and respects her as the person she is: a strong, intelligent woman, who wants to go her own way. Yet there are many obstacles along that way. But she’s definitely not the person who’s scared of obstacles. Her mother would have loved to continue going to school and learn a profession but due to the social circumstances, she remained a housewife. Her daughter’s got the chance to study. Even if she won’t make all her dreams come true against society’s resistance, Rousie at least puts aside some obstacles for the next generations.
Times they are a-changing, even in Nepal.