Gyan Maya's Story

Like many young girls in the rural villages of Nepal, Gyan Maya Tamang is a victim of forced, early marriage. She was married by the age of 12 and gave birth to her first child at the age of 16, only to further suffer when her alcoholic husband married another woman. She then moved in with a family of seven members, working as a manual laborer to make ends meet while raising her 5 children.

Gyan Maya Manual labor doesn't end for women in Nepal, even when pregnant

After countless years of hard labor, Gyan Maya began to attend a local READ Center's literacy class at age 66. For the first time in her life she learned the Nepali alphabet. It wasn’t long before she learned to read, write, and solve math problems.

One day, while going through a book at the READ Center’s library, Gyan Maya saw a picture of a street vendor selling food in a bamboo tray (“nanglo” in Nepali). Inspired to set up her own small business, she took out a loan of 10,000 rupees from local cooperatives and started selling snacks and seasonal fruits in her own nanglo. Not only did she pay back her loan, but she now makes a profit of 400 – 500 rupees a day.

Gyan Maya Gyan Maya sits happily in her shop

“I am proud that I don’t have to beg my husband and sons for money. Instead, I help them. If only I had studied earlier, I would not have lived my whole life in dark,” she says.

Gyan Maya has proved that it’s truly never too late to learn new things – no matter what age, hard work and determination can lead to success. It’s been 2 years since she opened her shop, which she now dreams of expanding. “Literacy classes have not only taught me how to read and write, but also taught me how to speak. I can speak confidently in meetings and community gatherings. My daughter cannot read or write, and I hope to send her to the literacy classes next.”


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