Phul Maya’s name means ‘beautiful flower’. When I visited the Khairang, she was walking around with her new-born baby in her arms, struggling to cope. Phul Maya has a husband but they have no land or home of their own, a familiar story in this remote community. After being taken in early marriage by a boy, she had given birth to her first child at the age of fifteen. She and her husband lived with her parents who themselves struggle to make ends meet.
Stand by Me is promoting education aimed at helping families break free from traditions that allow girls as young as even twelve to follow the cultural expectation of marriage at an early age. Our loving staff equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to avoid these dangers. We help them with advocacy, understanding their rights under Nepali law, and teaching about the benefits of a free choice in marriage and delaying marriage until girls are physically mature.
Education also extends to the parents, encouraging them to not be passive in these situations but help protect their daughters from becoming trapped in the same cultural bonds of the generations before them. This education also includes the men and young boys and we are encouraged by the positive attitudes for change shown by so many in this remote community. It may have come too late for Phul Maya, but her little sister will now have education to make personal life choices to benefit herself and her community.
Shree Maya is Phul Maya’s mother. She was also a child bride. Her family home is little more than a mud and stone hut, with no water supply and no sanitation other than the fields around. The family scrape a living through subsistence farming like most of their neighbours.
Some of Shree Maya’s younger children attend the Khairang Bethany School supported by Stand by Me. As well as basic literacy and numeracy, Shree Maya’s children are learning about hygiene and health. These are lessons that have come almost too late for many of the adults.
In November 2016, Shree Maya gave birth to another child, but knowing nothing of the process of childbirth, did not understand that a retained placenta was a serious complication and needed rapid intervention. She had no idea that a placenta should come away within an hour of the baby being born and that to wait any longer was to invite life-threatening infection and serious haemorrhage. It was not until a week later, when she was bleeding and weak with infection, that her family finally contacted Stand by Me’s manager in the Khairang for help. He asked them to bring her to the hospital in Hetauda which involved an eight hour walk through the night with Shree Maya in a dhoko basket on the back of a friend. At the local hospital, doctors said she was only hours away from death and her only chance was to be taken to the ITU at Bharatpur Hospital, another two hours drive away. Here, surgery, a blood transfusion and medication saved her life.
Shree Maya made a miraculous recovery. Prayers from the church in the Khairang and from those in Hetauda and the UK were answered. After her recovery Shree Maya began to attend the church and has since accepted Jesus as her Saviour.
On a subsequent visit to the Khairang, I was able to meet Shree Maya who came to say thank you and brought her small son, now a healthy baby of several months old. She asked our staff to name the little boy and so we gave him the name Ashish which means ‘blessing’.