‘Smart Chhori’ preparing daughters of martyrs of conflict for a better future


The Kathmandu Post

A total of 189 girls from 16 districts are receiving education at Shahid Smriti Residential Secondary School

- DURGALAL KC, DANG, Sixteen-year-old Kalpana Adhikari, a tenth grader, came from Kalikot to Tulsipur. She was a little girl when she lost her father in the armed conflict. Soon after, her mother married another man, leaving Kalpana to chart out her own path.

Six years ago, Kalpana joined the Shahid Smriti Residential Secondary School at Bankatti in Tulsipur sub-metropolis. The boarding school is home to 189 girls like Kalpana; most having lost their parents or guardians at an early age. 

The child victims of the armed conflict that lasted from 1996 to 2006 have now grown into young adults but the protected life they live inside the four walls of boarding school haven’t prepared them for the world outside. To rectify this, the sub-metropolis started a campaign called ‘Smart Chhori’ (smart daughter) wherein the adolescent girls are given lessons on topics that will broaden their knowledge of the world outside the school.

Participants take part in a ‘Smart Chhori’ programme organised at the school in Tulsipur, Dang. Post Photo: DURGALAL KC

The campaign, started from the current academic session that began from mid-April, aims to help the girls look beyond the traumatic phase of their lives, and prepare for a better tomorrow.

“We don’t really see much of the world outside our school. We spend most of our time between the school and hostel. The classes being conducted in our school have helped me learn a lot. They teach us about self-confidence and how important it is for us to know about things outside of our coursework,” said Kalpana.

Gokarna Dahal, chief of the health department of the sub-metropolitan office, said these girls have had to deal with severe mental trauma of losing their guardians to the conflict and had to spend their childhood without a guiding light. Keeping the girls’ backgrounds in mind, the department decided to run programmes that will help the girls overcome their trauma and equip them with self-confidence to live a life without the burden of post traumatic disorder.

“This campaign helps boost self-confidence among girls. We provide them not only with basic skills needed in one’s everyday life,” said Dahal, “but also with knowledge about child rights, sexual health, sexual abuse, self-defence, and financial literacy so that these girls will grow up to become confident independent women.”

The Smart Chhori campaign, which started from Gurujajur Primary School, will also be expanded to other schools, according to Dahal.
Bhabi Pun Magar, 14, of Libang Municipality, Rolpa, also lost her father in the conflict. Like Kalpana, she too was left alone in the world when her mother decided to remarry. She came to Tulsipur five years ago and is now in grade 9.  She said, “I always had inhibitions about being a girl thinking that I would have to depend on a man to help me live my life but now after attending the Smart Chhori classes, I’m beginning to understand that I have numerous possibilities to live a good life.” 

An aspiring singer, Chahana Pariyar, 11, originally from Tila Rural Municipality in Jumla, now has the confidence to believe that she will one day make it big in the music world. “I would always feel weak and under severe stress following the death of my father during the conflict years. But I’ve been taking stress management and women empowerment classes, and that has given me the confidence to believe in my dreams,” she said. 

Principal Narayan Poudel of Shahid Smriti Residential Secondary School said that girls from 16 districts are receiving residential education there. He said, “It is important to equip these girls with training and skills to lead a wholesome life but most importantly, it’s imperative to give them the confidence to believe in themselves.”