Residing 570 kilometers away from the capital and traveling hours across barren and muddy roads to get even the necessities of life, Puja Paudel hails from Simta, Panikhola. Growing up in such conditions has been tough for Puja, but they have taught her the importance of hard work and perseverance. Marred with a childhood of struggles and hardships which many children only read in books and on television, Puja has already had to take on responsibilities far beyond the age of 17. 

Daily household chores throughout the day, for her entire family, keep her pretty busy when she’s not at school, but that’s the story of every poverty-stricken household of her village. 

In a path of woes, Puja finds solace in her determination to learn and make a difference in this world, but alas, her school is way too far and there are no means of transportation in between. So, she studies in a hostel provided by the school, but given her weak economic status, she’s not allowed to intake on the expensive courses, but still her determination does not waver. 

The Beginning of Puja’s Journey  

Amidst the challenges, Puja found the opportunity to be a part of KISHORI – an initiative by the Shequal Foundation which aims to encourage, empower and equip adolescent girls with foundational, financial, digital & life skills. When her school was chosen for the KISHORI project, she was able to attend multiple transferable and life skill sessions which gave her the knowledge and awareness she needed about vital menstrual hygiene practices. 

Traditionally, Puja and her friends used to practice Chhaupadi (a tradition involving banishing young girls to mud huts or sheds away from home during their period, as they were considered “impure”) and spend hours in a cold room. Unaware of the fact that this was not at all the right way of dealing with menstrual bleeding and scared by the belief that not practicing Chhaupadi will bring bad luck and ill health, she suffered. But through KISHORI, not only does she now know the right way to take care of herself during her cycles, but also has been empowered to raise her voice against those harmful traditions that force women and girls into isolation during such sensitive periods of their life. 

From being scared to raise her voice to now finding a sense of perspective and a deeper appreciation of self-confidence and empowerment, Puja, through KISHORI, is now more vocal about her aim to become a deputy inspector. To make her family proud and protect her nation, this brave bird’s determination has impacted even her community and is an inspiration to us all. 

Becoming a Positive Force for Change  

Puja’s journey has not been easy, but she has persevered in leading her to overcome tremendous obstacles. Her story is a testament to the power of education and empowerment, and how it can transform the lives of those who are struggling. Her experience with KISHORI has further reinforced her commitment to becoming a positive force for change, and she is determined to use her newfound knowledge and skills to serve her community.  

Puja’s journey has just begun and her gratitude towards Shequal and the KISHORI project is immeasurable. She is eager to see where life takes her after KISHORI for the project has been a life-changing experience for her. At the end of the project, she simply said, “I am immensely grateful for the opportunity that the KISHORI project has provided me and am eager to continue my journey of personal growth and development.”  

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