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How Komal from Nepal was empowered to prioritize her education

“If I had not enrolled in the functional literacy classes, I would not have been motivated to go back to school”, says Komal, a student aged 15 from the Rajpur Faradawa Municipality in Nepal.

Despite great progress made in Nepal over the last 20 years towards gender parity in education, many challenges persist for adolescent girls and young women in terms of access, participation, and completion of school. Dropout rates increase among adolescent girls as they reach higher grades. The risks of gender-based violence and early pregnancy are also more present for adolescent girls who are out of school.

Komal dropped out of school by the time she was in grade 6. With her classes often cancelled due to teacher absences, she lost interest in her studies, and stayed home and took on household chores. However, two years later, she found her way back to school after taking part in functional literacy classes (FLC) held by the UNESCO-UNFPA-UN Women Joint Programme.

Opening new doors through functional literacy

Established by the Joint Programme, the FLC were made available across 14 municipalities one of which was close to Komal’s home. Komal’s mother encouraged her to join the class especially as it was being facilitated by a neighbour.

Through the classes, Komal improved her basic literacy and numeracy skills. She also learned about comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health including menstrual hygiene management, how to address health concerns, and ways to protect herself from gender-based violence and human trafficking.

The FLC provide girls like Komal with a second chance to access learning opportunities and build self-esteem to confidently express their needs and views in their homes and communities.

After completing the FLC, Komal confidently advocated for her learning and convinced her parents to enroll her back in school. The FLC empowered Komal to prioritize her education and opened new doors for her to discover her potential as a learner.  “I used to think that I was a poor student, but now I know I am a good student and can do well”, says Komal.

Engaging the community through radio

Building on the skills she gained through the FLC, Komal participated in a community radio programme organized by UNESCO to advocate for girls’ education and discuss the increased domestic burden, livelihood insecurity and gender-based violence cause by COVID-19 related school closures and lockdowns in Nepal.

Komal moderated a conversation on youth-focused topics, health and education and interacted with local leaders and stakeholders from her district. “While it was exciting, I was also nervous because I had never spoken on the radio before”, says Komal says. The experience helped her to overcome her fear of public speaking. “By the end of the programme, my fear went away. I have become more confident.”

The community radio programmes contributed to the Keeping girls in the picture campaign efforts under UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition’s Gender Flagship. They have provided 170 young girls like Komal with a forum to express themselves and interact with community leaders to combat harmful practices and gender inequalities. Over 60 radio stations were mobilized across the country, reaching 1.8 million people across 5 districts and over 10,000 people via Facebook.

Not only has Komal’s life improved since taking part in the FLC, but she is also helping to inspire and reach many more girls just like her. Komal hopes to continue spreading knowledge in her community to support girls who may be at risk of or have already dropped out of school.

The UNESCO-UNFPA-UN Women Joint Programme empowers out-of-school girls and young women across 5 districts and 14 municipalities in Nepal through educational opportunities and livelihood skills development. The FLC have empowered over 1,870 out-of-school girls and young women, such as Komal.