The Ultimate She’s the First Poem
Deepa is an STF Scholar attending Kopila Valley in Surkhet, Nepal. She was diagnosed with Lupus, a kidney disease, and so she hopes to one day become a nephrologist in order to help others with the same health issues.
In the meantime, Deepa loves to cook and to write poetry — and when the She’s the First team visited her in Nepal, she performed this beautiful poem.
“I wrote this poem because I wanted to tell the story about girls in Nepal and how they grow up here,” says Deepa. “It is about how they suppress their feelings. I wrote this because it relates to kids at Kopila [STF’s partner school in Nepal]. I wrote this about all girls in Nepal, because I have seen these bad things happen to them. People think girls are not strong, they can’t do anything in their life, they should just cut grass. They think it is a waste of money to spend on [girls’] education. It is important; girls need to be educated. If girls go to school, then the whole country will be educated and Nepal’s development will change. Girls are strong enough to handle their lives and make their own decisions.”
Follow the text of Deepa’s poem below— and share!
She’s the First
By Deepa N.
I am a girl.
A girl in Nepal, in the beautiful mountains.
The sun is on the horizon.
I’m getting older and with the passing of time I start to feel like the world is set against me. I am a girl on the side of a river bed breaking stones
Morning to dusk washing dishes and clothes
Working, earning, in someone else’s home, in the fields, in a city hotel
Sleeping gin the alley between the big buildings, under a piece of plastic,
or in a mud house.
Somehow I feel like I’m falling.
I am a girl.
I begin to dream.
I want to be a doctor, an engineer, a pilot, a teacher
I am told that I’m a girl who can’t get an education, knowledge, and opportunities.
I’ll have to get married and go to my husband’s house.
Spending on my education would be a waste of money.
So I work, in the kitchen,
in the fields like all the women who came before me. I am a girl.
I sleep in the cow shed, outside on the floor, in the cold, on a pile of hay
With the animals.
I can’t touch anything or do certain things for 5 days of the month,
because I’m suffering from something that I can’t control
When I have my period.
I am a girl, turning into a young woman.
I have feelings that I never had before.
Everyone says it’s time for me to get married.
There are rules according to my caste,
my age, my family, my wealth. But what about me? Why didn’t anybody ask me if I
was ready? I feel too young. I don’t feel mature. Is this for society to decide?But what about when society took innocent and illiterate girls to be trafficked, sold and forced to become a prostitute in a brothel?
But what about that sati pratha when society forced women to jump in the fire where their dead husband burned?
Who decided it was okay for so many women to live in fear in their own homes of fathers, brothers and husbands?*
I dig my feelings deep into the depths of my heart.
Dear mother I cannot breathe, in this tradition somewhere in between rich and poor, somewhere in between higher and lower castes,
somewhere between discrimination,
Let this all pass.
Let’s bring a change and make this a new Nepal, a new world.
Let’s make our failures the beginnings for the path to success.
I am a girl and I cannot suppress my feelings. I will not spoil my life. I will not
ignore my opportunities waiting in front of me like a new day.
I am going to defeat this.
The sun is on the horizon and I’m dreaming but I’m awake.
I am a girl but not a failure. Not anymore.
I am a girl and I am better than you think,
sturdier than I look, smarter than you know, braver than I show and stronger than you believe.
I am a girl.
I will be the first.
To go to school. To get an education. To have chances.
To love and express my love.
The earth will not be destroyed by me making my own decisions.
I can be like Miss Maggie Doyne or Florence Nightingale or Mother Theresa
or Ghandi or whatever I want. I will not stumble.
I’m going to shake up the world from the corners,
and light up the sky with my laugh.
And instead of breaking rocks I am going to rock the world.
I’ll wash away old traditions while I wash dishes and clothes,
and when I plant in the fields, I’ll plant a new future, a new path. One of equality.
I will be the first.
The sun is on the horizon and the day has come.
I woke up and realized the world was behind me. Fighting for me. Cheering for me. Set up for me to thrive and succeed.
This is a place where I will leave my mark.
And when I’ve done everything I needed to do, they will say,
She was the first.
*a stanza that Deepa added to the poem in April 2016
If you would like to support the scholarship of a girl like Deepa, please visit shesthefirst.org/donate.