Author: Bidhya Chapagain - Bidhya Chapagain, presenter of Sajha Sawal (Common Questions) - a weekly debate show broadcast across Nepal on TV and Radio - writes a letter to Ujeli, a 15 year old girl she got to know while visiting earthquake survivors in Selang.

In a special episode of Sajha Sawal, Bidhya stayed with people in the village, eating and sleeping there to share and report on life within a community still living in temporary shelters built after their houses were destroyed by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2015.

Ujeli captured the hearts and minds of thousands of viewers when she took Bidhya aside amongst the mountain rocks to share her story of hope and hardship.

Having had to quit school due to seizures, Ujeli was stuck at home and had been approached by a string of suitors. Her parents didn’t yet want to marry her off, but she was worried they would soon cave in under the pressure. “I’m not interested in marriage”, she told Bidhya, “I want to get educated and make changes in the village.”

Bidhya was so moved by Ujeli’s story, she wrote an open letter to her. Here’s what she had to say:

Dear Ujeli,

I was nervous, anxious and excited. It was 9pm and we were about to broadcast your story to the nation.

The show was about your life and your community, but with limited electricity and no TV in your temporary shelter, the show wasn’t accessible to you.

Ujeli, you may not know, but you’ve touched the lives of many – both at home and abroad. My taxi driver told me this morning, “My wife and I held each other and cried when we watched Sajha Sawal last Sunday. We talked about Ujeli and couldn’t sleep that night”.

Ujeli, you made the nation cry when you asked, “How long will I have to suffer in this life?” From your stoic perspective, lack of proper toilets, warm shelter, electricity, health facilities and education aren’t worth crying over, but do you know there are already hundreds of thousands of people on social media watching, listening and sharing your story?

Do you know people are posting poems for you on YouTube when they heard your yearning for education? Do you know there are hundreds of people on Twitter, tweeting to extend their support when they heard that you want to continue your education and not get married? The episode has been watched over 160,000 times on YouTube, many of the comments are about you.

Suna Gurung writes, “I’m just speechless. Being a daughter like you, I can feel your pain, even though I’ve not faced the problems you are facing. But people in my village in Rasuwa are facing the same problems after the earthquake.”

Raj Lama from Saudi Arabia writes, “As I watch Sajha Sawal thousands of miles away from home, I don’t feel like working today. I couldn’t hold back my tears when I heard what Ujeli had to say and I pray the Lord brings a smile onto the face of this village soon.”

Ujeli, I know that YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, fancy cars and big houses won’t mean much to you but I want you to know that thousands of people can’t imagine the life you have, the struggles you go through and the pain you take with a pinch of salt. They’re thinking of you and with heavy hearts, sharing their messages of support.

Ujeli, I hope you and your parents continue to refuse your suitors. I’m thinking of you and your quest for education. I ask you to be strong and not to steer away from your dreams, I’m asking you to be strong and remember your wish “to get educated and make changes in the village.”

Many politicians have promised a better life for people affected by the earthquake. With this in mind, Rup Rasaili, a YouTube user, has written a poem to you:

The city dwellers

Come with smiles on their faces

Butter up their lips, crack a few jokes

and vanish with promises.

I hope they are wrong. The fact that you entered the lives of so many will help realise promises for you and for thousands like you.

I’m confident that your story can become a motivation for a wider change. I’m hoping that the changes will be the ones you dream of.

May you shine like a bright light as your name so rightly suggests – Ujeli. And may bright light shine on you.


Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and related links on their work in Nepal.

Image credit: BBC Media Action

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