GO Campaign is mentioned in the May issue of VOGUE! Phoebe Dahl founded the clothing line Faircloth Supply with a charitable component in partnership with GO Campaign.
For every item of her line sold, she gives a donation to GO so that a marginalized girl in Nepal will receive 2 school uniforms. These uniforms are distributed through our Local Hero Mahesh in Nepal who founded GWP to help prevent girls from being trafficked.
Check out her beautiful line of linen garments: http://fairclothsupply.com/pages/what-we-do. And, below is a piece Phoebe wrote about her trip.
We hope to see you dressed in one of Phoebe’s stunning pieces at our next GO event!
So where to begin….I’ve been in Nepal for 3 days and each has equally provided both adventure and education. On my first morning in Kathmandu, I woke up and met with Mahesh, the CEO and founder of GWP, General Welfare Prathistan. Over coffee we discussed our itinerary for the coming days. We would be touring the areas where there are support groups for mothers located in and around Kathmandu. After our discussion, Mahesh received several phone calls and informed me that there would be a change of plans. He had found out that area schools had been cancelled due to a spike in petroleum prices, a common issue in Nepal which occurs monthly and incites protest causing the roads to be blocked going in and out of Kathmandu. He then quickly rearranged the day, with impressive ease and patience, and ran home to pack a bag, but not before telling me to be ready in 15 minutes.
We hopped into a compact car and weaved our way through the crowded and narrow streets of Kathmandu, dodging stray dogs, cows, goats and bicyclists. We arrived at a bridge outside of the city and met our driver for GWP on the outskirts. There was an imminent rush, as the road to Hetauda (the town we were traveling to) was going to be blocked by protesters at any minute, stopping us from leaving the city. We made our deadline, transferred our packs into an SUV, and started our 5 hour drive up winding mountain roads, painted with lush and vibrant trees. There were moments where I felt like I was holding on for dear life in and around corners, coming within inches of SUV’s and busses also traveling this popular “highway”.
We arrived in the busy, smoggy and quite loud Hetauda and quickly started our visits to the schools and girls groups supported by GWP. The first school we visited, myself, Mahesh and 15 girls sat cross-legged in the school yard and the girls spoke of their experiences; what it means to them to have a uniform and the confidence and security it provides them within their community. Sex trafficking is one of the bigger issues that girls face in Nepal and when asked if girls in uniform were ever approached by traffickers, they explained how the uniform protects them from traffickers, that traffickers tend to not target girls in uniforms as they know that these girls posess a strong will and confidence, largely due to their education. One of the older girls explained that the at risk community for sex trafficking is primarily made up of young, poor and uneducated girls, who are not in school because they can not afford a uniform (a requirement in order to attend school on Nepal). One young girl took a particular liking to me, and as we stood to leave the circle she ran up to me gave me a HUGE hug, looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank you”. She then grabbed my hand and gave me a tour of her school with such pride.
We continued to visit 5 other schools, some much pooper than others, but all rich in stories of hardship and suffering. Our final school visit was located an hour and half away, on the border between India and Nepal, a primarily Muslim community. When we arrived, school was out of session and we sat for a moment in the school yard, waiting for the girls group to arrive. We watched women and very young girls picking grass for the cows while boys played stick ball and men relaxed under a large tree. A scene that I found beautiful at first quickly changed. It dawned on me that I was seeing first hand, the extreme contrast in gender roles in this country. This had been explained to me by the girls I met throughout the day, that they were involved in school to avoid these roles, but I had not yet seen this in practice.
Old and frail women teaching their young daughters how to collect grass in order to feed the cows, juxtaposed to the men lounging against a tree while watching their sons play stick ball, without a care in the world was unbelievable. This was the moment when I realized my place and purpose in this organization. Shortly after, 16 girls joined us as we sat in our last circle. Again, they explained what GWP meant to them and had done for them.
These girls were particularly well spoken and proud of their accomplishments in school. I listened to them attest to the changes GWP had made in their lives, heard them praise their education, while their background was quite literally, what could be their role in the community had they not attended school or the program.
Both Mahesh and the girls we had spoken with continually referenced that the goal of having an educated female community is to break the cycle of young women not going to school, growing to be mothers, and not sending their daughters to school and so on.
Half way through our meeting 2 older women joined our circle. They were the mothers of two young women we had been speaking with and they not only praised their daughters, but also expressed their interest in joining a group similar to what their daughters were part of. It was in this powerful scene and in this one yard that we saw the two communities of women. Both mothers and daughters who had not gone to school, working in the field – women who had not yet broken the cycle, 50 feet away from girls who were beginning to break that cycle – sitting with us in uniform, talking about their exams and their dreams for their futures, alongside their supportive mothers, whom were only able to speak of how proud they were of their daughters. The mothers continued tell me about how they never thought their daughters, or girls in general would have the safety and support that their daughters have found in GWP.
It was touching and wonderful to see the vast improvement from one generation to the next. I asked one of daughters, a six year old, what she wanted to be when she grew up, what her dreams were. She was very shy and timid and did not answer at first. Upon her hesitation, her mother quickly chimed in and said, “Don’t worry, you can speak whats on your mind, and say your dreams, I am your mother, I am here and I support you, you will not be beaten”. She then answered, “I want to work in an office”. Another girl proceeded to say, “We know what life is like here in Nepal and that gender inequality will never change, it is our culture, but we do know that we have a right to an education and that we can start making small, positive changes for women that will have a broad impact”.
I don’t want to and can’t change the world or Nepal for that matter, but I do want to bring these girls to their dreams of becoming whatever it is they want to be, give them safety in their communities, potentially helping them to no longer live in fear. This all starts with an education and more specifically a uniform – this is where I come in. 1 uniform can be seen as a building block in giving back the Nepali women’s understanding of their basic human right to an education – a knowledge that has been all but stripped of them in the past.
The girls groups give young girls the power and support to stand up for themselves, a power found in numbers which creates a unity that no man can infiltrate. The girls that are in school are girls that are strong willed and as I mentioned earlier – confident, not because their parents teach them to believe in themselves, but because they want to be there and make a difference for their generation and gender. Its their own personal journey, unfortunately, more commonly brought on by struggle, that has gotten them to a point of wanting to make a difference for themselves and generations to come. Their success rubs off on their peers and thus, the trickle effect begins.
Again, I can’t undo or try to change Nepal’s history of 300 years of trafficking, but I can make a change and a difference from this day forward.