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Ain’t no mountain high enough

Rita's story

“Often, I must walk for days, climbing steep hills covered in leeches."

In the remote hills of Khotang in eastern Nepal, early marriage, stigma and the low status of women all combine to deprive girls of the information they need about contraception.

The barriers seem insurmountable, but the consequences - early childbirth, STIs and even death - are compelling young people like  22-year-old Rita Thapa to act regardless. They refuse to accept that things can’t change; that life can’t be better tomorrow.

Girls are not educated like boys in our communities. Families don’t allow girls out of the house except for working in the fields. There are also many cases of early marriage in our society, which I too had to face. They get married young and are compelled to have children at a tender age due to lack of access to family planning. Knowing this and wanting to bring change in my community, I decided to join Marie Stopes International’s mission.”

Married at 16, with no knowledge of contraception, Rita understands the challenges that girls in Nepal face. She has also seen for herself the tragic consequences that can arise when girls do not have the information they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy. 

“There was a teenage girl in our community who belonged to the Dalit group. She was at school when she fell pregnant. When her family and society found out she was beaten. They searched for the boy but he had already fled. No one could find him again. The girl then committed suicide due to shame and guilt.”

Sadly, the factors leading to this young girl’s death are all too common and Rita is determined to protect others from suffering the same fate. However, her task is not easy. Talking about sexual and reproductive health is considered taboo in many parts of Nepal, and for a female it is even more unacceptable. A lack of comprehensive sex education also creates a breeding ground for frightening myths and misconceptions that dissuade girls from using modern methods of contraception.  

“One of the most shocking myths I have heard regarding family planning is that the IUD causes the death of a person from lightning,” said Rita.

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“One life lost through ignorance is too many. That is why I keep going, rain or shine to spread understanding to my community.”

To raise awareness of the facts, Rita undertakes arduous treks to remote villages all over the district to talk to young people, parents and teachers about family planning.

“Often, I must walk for days, climbing steep hills covered in leeches. Many times, I have starved myself because there are no shops or houses on my route, but I want to continue serving my community.

“There would be huge unmet need if these services weren’t available. More young people would have unsafe sex leading to unintended pregnancies and STIs and more women and children would die due to early pregnancies.”

“One life lost through ignorance is too many. That is why I keep going, rain or shine to spread understanding to my community.”

No More Fairy Tales

Rita's story is featured in a graphic novel, which features four young people from East Africa, West Africa and Asia, who have been inspired by their own experiences of unintended pregnancy to fight the stigma and explode the myths around contraception and sex and help other young people avoid the same fate. No More Fairy Tales highlights the many challenges that millions of adolescents worldwide face in accessing contraception, and how a new generation of young people are saying enough is enough.

No More Fairy Tales

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