History of the Project
The District Education Office (DEO) established a 6 month literacy program in 2002. The teachers, who eventually became the founders of Shree Prarthana Mahila Samaj, were all young people that had a desire to help their community.
Shree Prarthana Mahila Samaj Begins
At the end of the six month program, the teachers lead by Urmila Suwal, who is the founder of the project, saw the need and recognized the desire of some the students to be more educated. The teachers decided that they would begin their own Non-Government Organization, Shree Prarthana Mahila Samaj.
The first class had four students. Initially the District Educational Office provided some stationary material, but this soon stopped. With no support, the teachers ran classes in their own homes hanging sheets from the ceilings to create makeshift classrooms.
The first two month term was difficult. Three more students joined the four that had initially signed up. The project began charging a small fee, about 30 Nepalese Rupees (less than $.50) monthly, to cover expenses. In principle the two classes had seven students. In reality, none of the students came regularly.
We conducted a household survey to try to overcome the obstacles. We found that many women were illiterate, and wanted to learn. We were very impressed by their desire to study and felt we had the right platform to assist them.
Our classes grew from 7 to 20 to nearly 60 now. The number of students fluctuates dramatically because the women must seek permission from their husbands and mothers in law to be educated. If there is work to be done or ceremonies, they will not receive permission.