October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child. A day declared by the United Nations to demand attention for the position of girls worldwide. We spoke to Maggie Doyne, CEO and co-founder of the BlinkNow Foundation. This organization, based in Nepal, is dedicated to creating a world where every girl is safe, educated, and loved. Like Maggie, we focus on woman empowerment at A Beautiful Story. By creating jobs in Nepal for artisans, their daughters can attend school. This provides them with a better perspective for the future. Maggie's story gives hope for change and inspires us to work together for a better world.
How do you look at the life of a girl in Nepal in terms of education, violence, and general welfare?
It is my experience that there’s still a strong preference for sons over daughters. Men are often seen as more important and therefore, for instance, inherit the family property. While many girls drop out of school because they are married off. Furthermore, I think society has other expectations of girls. Such as dressing modestly, being gentle, and not expressing yourself too much. At BlinkNow, we’ve seen several cases of severe domestic violence, sometimes resulting in suicide out of sheer desperation. I’ve also witnessed many cases of female feticide. This is when a woman has her female fetus aborted after taking a fetal sex determination test.
Many women, especially the older generations, who were greatly affected by the civil war in Nepal, never got the chance to sit in a classroom. As a result, there’s a lot of illiteracy and a lack of female leadership. But I am hopeful that the next generation will change that.
What do you think is a big challenge for girls in Nepal?
There are extra expectations and responsibilities of girls when it comes to housework. They also still face the threat of marriage at a young age. One in three girls in Nepal marries before the age of 18. And yet, over the past 15 years that I have been working in Nepal, I have seen many positive changes as lots of people from different industries have become actively involved. For example, we have an active club for girls at our school that focuses on empowering our female students.
When it comes to girls’ empowerment in Nepal, where do you notice progress?
Girls' enrollment in elementary school is the highest in the country's history. At Kopila Valley School, more than 50% of our students are girls, which is wonderful to see. The next challenge is to ensure that girls across the country continue their higher education and that they get the best quality education possible.
If you had the power to make this world a better place for girls, what would you change?
I would ensure that every girl has the resources and support to be safe, educated, and valued. Kopila Valley is a safe place for girls to get that support. That’s what I would wish for every girl in Nepal and around the world. I always look at every possible opportunity to empower or change a girl's life. We all need to work together to achieve equality and peace.
At A Beautiful Story, our core values include Believe In Magic and Never Ever Give Up. It will take some time before there’s equality in the world. But just like Maggie, we believe it will happen. We believe everyone has the right to live the best story of his or her life. As a brand, we will contribute as much as we can to ensure girls in Nepal can do just that.