Edition: October 2018


literacy - propelling my power and possibility

By: Kate Phelps


Srijana is a recent graduate of the Mothers’ Group Literacy Course with a story to tell!

Bubbling with energy, Srijana first recounted of her recent run for an elected position in local government. “I didn’t win,” she explained simply. But that was not the end of her story, it was the beginning.


Right after the November 2017 elections, the first elections held in Nepal for 17 years, Srijana joined Her International’s literacy course. She and the other women met every day in the evenings to study 2 hours by lamplight. The course covered basic reading, writing, math, and entrepreneurship. She told of how she soaked in each lesson and and then asked for more. “While in the literacy class I realized that I needed to learn more! I begged to learn more mathematics!!”


Srijana, almost bursting while her hands fluttered in the air illustrating her story, told how she took what she learned and applied it right away. First, at her political party meetings, she was more equipped to speak up and participate in the conversation and she felt confident to do so. She quickly took leading roles.

“I was made the president of the Road Committee to supervise the contractor and monitor the work being done.” Seeing that the project had been stalled because the government had only enough money to buy the supplies for new street lamps but not to install them, Srijana figured out how much money it would take to finish the project and then divided the sum by each house on the street. “I went door to door,” she explained, “I collected 500 Rupees (about $5) from each house. I used the money to get the street lamps installed. Now the street has light. It is safer. Everyone is happy.”

Even though she is not an elected official, Srijana uses her passion for the community and new-found skills to effect change - cutting down on corruption and increasing efficiency. “Now I can keep track of the government budgets. I watch how they use their money and pressure them to follow the plan and stay on track.”


Srijana’s mathematics skills and learned entrepreneurship training has also helped her build a successful vegetable business. “I grow mushrooms,” she said, “but now I also buy my neighbors vegetables and take them to sell at the district headquarters market. It is a bigger market and you can earn more there.” She runs the business together with her friend.


Eager to share what she has learned, Srijana is a teacher and mentor to others. She has taught some of what she has learned to others in her village and local Mothers’ Group who could not attend the course.


Srijana’s success and positive attitude hides her difficult past. Her parents were landless, a common problem for many ethnic Tharu people. As such, they did not have land to earn an income. They worked as sharecroppers, working another person’s land and then sharing the profits but this was not enough money to support the family. At nine years old, Srijana was sold into bonded servitude for which her parents received about $30 per year. She worked the rest of her childhood as a servant in a wealthy landowner’s home doing domestic tasks. Srijana worked until she was 18 years old than then she was married in an arranged marriage.


She gushes over how helpful the skills she learned are for community leaders. “Each class we started by introducing ourselves and speaking in front of the group. This would have helped me with my public speaking and meeting with voters,” she explained.

Srijana laughs, “I would have been able to read the pamphlets I was passing out!”

Even though she said she failed to be elected in the 2017 election, she has learned so much! When asked if she will try to run for political office again, she didn’t hesitate to say “YES!”


By: Neha (volunteer)


I first saw Sonika as she was sitting in the front row of her math class.  An attentive, and quiet girl, she first attended a government school in the district. Her math teacher says she was a weak student when she was transferred to the private school, however this is often the case with many of the students as the education standards in that particular school are subpar.  Sonika has made immense progress, in the time that she has been at Buddha Jyoti Secondary School, she has already skipped three grade levels.


As we arrived at her home, she busied herself in being a good hostess. Running around, bringing me a mat to sit on over top of the manji (cot), and some cool fresh water. I later learn that she takes care of the entire household on her own. Her mother passed away when she was only two years old, and her father is often busy farming, and with other work. He is also an alcoholic, a common issue for many of the families here. This means that Sonika has a lot to do. When she first arrives home from school- a half an hour commute by bicycle, she changes out of her uniform, and scrapes and cleans the dishes using the water pump outside, before turning her attention to cleaning the house. Once the cleaning has been taken care of, she will prepare dinner for herself and her father. Only after eating, will she have time to do her homework, lit by the single lightbulb in the center of the roof. Despite her limited time to focus on school, she always has her homework complete and is an excellent student. She tells me her favourite subject is Nepali, and her least favourite is science. The conversation then turns to Tharu culture, and I learn that she’s a great dancer! Her room, in typical teenage fashion, has various posters plastered on the wall. They range from celebrities, and fashion to her own drawings, which she loves to do. Her makeup is neatly and meticulously arranged. Although she only has a few possessions to her name, they are invaluable to her. Her room consists of two half walls, separating her from the kitchen area, and the room that her brother occupied.  Her brother and his wife leave for long periods of time to pick up labor jobs in the larger cities. She has a photograph of the two of them in above her bed.

From Neha - Sonika IMG_7524.JPG

On her one day off from school, Sonika will assist her father in the fields, tossing collected manure to fertilize the fields. A decade ago, not many 15 year-old girls would be in school, due to the pervasive notion of bonded labour. Today, there are just as many girls in the classroom as boys. Sonika aspires to continue her education, and become a teacher to pass on her knowledge.

About the author:

Neha is a second year medical student at Michigan State University, and is completing a masters in Global Health from McMaster. She has recently spent time in rural Nepal, speaking with local women and girls who are empowered through access to equal education; and in India studying the role of Ayurvedic medicine in healthcare. She has an eye for adventure and is full of compassion. Her passion lies in working for the international community, she hopes to take her learnt practice and knowledge to places in need. Her hobbies include reading menus, learning new languages and traveling. 

Unako Medical Scholarship recipients announced - FILL IN

International Day of the Girl - FILL IN

  • EDs will be speaking in Canada and China to audiences about the what the day means to the world and to you



Meet Her Ambassador: Esmee


In January we launched our Her Ambassadors program

“Her Ambassadors” are a group of passionate people who have committed to be ADVOCATES and ACTIVATORS for our organization. They work closely with our organization to develop their own fundraising initiatives, to sell Unako products, or to raise awareness for our cause. Ambassadors are featured on our website and awarded “Her Ambassador” badges for their websites and business cards.

Watch our first youth Ambassador, Esmee, talk about what being an ambassador means to her.

(Update to new video)

Shaved Ice Stand

This summer brought kids and youth of all ages across North America to raise awareness and funds to give girls in Nepal a chance to go to school. This group of girls in Boise, Idaho ran a shaved ice stand with the slogan KIDS FOR KIDS! They raised enough money to support a girl to go school and her mom to take part in a microcredit and life skills group for a month! Little hearts can make a big difference!




I Give a Dang

Check out Her Ambassador, Hugh Culver, spin his birthday on its head by choosing to give instead get.  For his 60th birthday Hugh chose to make a huge impact by launching a campaign to raise money to build classrooms in the region of Dang, Nepal. You can read about this exciting adventure over on his website here.  
(UPDATE??? Currently $16,310; going in November)



to buy jewellery that inspires


Manteo Resort Summer Market
JULY 19 & 20
We will be at this new summer market showcasing our jewellery. Come down July 19th and 20th between 1 and 7 p.m. to see this eco-chic line with each bead unique handcrafted from recycled glass bottles.  
3762 Lakeshore Road


Meadow Vista Honey Friday Night Market

This market will feature a mix of vendors, food trucks and musicians. Customers can sample various types of wine while shopping in a dreamy winery setting.
3975 June Springs Road


Excited by all that you see happening and want to have a say?
Become a member today for only $35 (tax deductible).

Your $35 annual contribution not only funds Her programs but also makes you a voting member of our registered charity. Members direct the future of Her International by voting on overarching organizational changes and the board of directors.You receive the Annual Report and are formally invited to our AGM in October. 

You also enjoy 20% off scarves and bags on our Social Enterprise website: Unako.ca! 

SAVE THE DATE: Our Annual General Meeting will be held on October 16, 2018.

Thank you for being a part of this journey in supporting and empowering girls & women around the world. 


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