WOW | WOW Feature

On A Mission On Social Media

Whether it is storytelling sessions for kids or promoting self-sufficiency, some spirited individuals on social media are on a mission to create a better world. WOW caught up with three such groups to know what they are doing and why.

Text: Pabita Dahal

Rumee Singh

Katha4Nepal

When the government declared nationwide lockdown, the first thing that came to every parent’s mind was how to keep their children engaged at home. Rumee Singh, CEO of Hamro LifeBank and a mother of two felt the same. Inspired by #SaveWithStories campaign led by Hollywood actor Jennifer Garner where celebrities read different children’s books and post it on social media, she decided to create a similar platform. Hence, Katha4Nepal came into existence.

“My children love listening to online stories but there has always been a lack of local language in storytelling sessions. All schools and book shops are closed right now and children do not have access to books. There was a need for this platform for kids where they can reach for stories, and that gave birth to Katha4Nepal,” she says.

The initiative kick-started in the second week of April and within three months the platform has managed to get 80 stories by the known faces from different backgrounds like actors, doctors, social activists, and educators reading stories to a young audience. Most stories are in Nepali, some are in English, and some in local dialects like Newari and Tharu as well. The team of Katha4Nepal selects and ensures that the content is inspiring, educational and empowering for the children. They then request recognised persons to read out aloud and posts the video on Instagram and Facebook. Rumee clarifies that the reader doesn’t necessarily have to be a celebrity, “Anyone passionate about storytelling can read for us. Many people are approaching us; we just test their pronunciation and grammar”.

“Children absorb things they get exposure to. If parents tell or read good stories to their children, it helps to build their conscience as well as a strong child-parent emotional bonding. It also makes them more curious about the world. And their listening habits become great too”

Rumee, an avid reader, strongly believes in the power of good stories for the development of children. “Children absorb things they get exposure to. If parents tell or read good stories to their children, it helps to build their conscience as well as a strong child-parent emotional bonding. It also makes them more curious about the world. And their listening habits become great too,” she observes.

Katha4Nepal is being praised not only by locals but also by the NRNs. Sebi Thapa lives in the USA and shares that stories of Katha4Nepal remind her of her childhood when she listened to stories from her parents and teachers. “Our six year old daughter enjoys listening to these stories. We like discussing the lesson learnt from the stories as well. With this, she is improving her Nepali and she is also planning to record her reading this week for Kath4Nepal,” shares Sebi.

Katha4Nepal aims to educate and entertain children through great content of not only the Nepali language but also other languages so that children get access to more interesting and impactful stories. Recently, The Asia Foundation’s Lets Read Nepal initiative and Srijanalaya launched 20 Tharu children’s books and those stories were read at Katha4Nepal in four languages: Nepali, English, Bara Jilla Tharu, and Dangaura Tharu.

Rumee is highly pleased with the feedback. “Followers on Instagram are gradually increasing, but the rate on Facebook is tremendous. I think we are in a good way, and hopefully it will grow more impactful. Let’s see what happens,” she concludes.

Anmol Gurung

Nepali Tongue around the World

Nepali Tongue around the World is a virtual community of Nepali speaking people living in various parts of the world and connected via different social media platforms. Led by a group of Nepali speaking people from Kalimpong, India this initiative was started in May and has been promoted by Filmmaker Anmol Gurung. “We are indeed divided politically, geographically, and even by lifestyles but what unites us is the common tongue we speak. We believe that there is more to understand ourselves as a community and a race. So, the discussions with each other and different forms of art can help us to identify issues within us and educate ourselves about us,” opines Anmol. He quickly adds, “Besides it also opens up market opportunities for every possible business and also a global stage for the entertainment and arts industry.”

“It feels like we have touched the right pulse and many people agree to our vision. However, we are just starting and haven’t even scratched the surface but we are sure we will grow immensely”

Different artistic content is shared in the group and discussions are held bringing the community together. A few weeks ago, they did a panel discussion on the issue of the remark ‘Nepali Whore’ used in an Indian web series Patal Lok to understand how the community feels on the subject especially women and people belonging to the field of creative arts and filmmaking. “It was a mass study that gave us super rich understandings into our psychology and emotional intelligence. We felt that it was extremely therapeutic and much needed,” elucidates Pemela Sherpa, one of the founding members of Nepali Tongue around the World.

The group uses poems, short films, proverbs, sarcastic expressions, panel discussions and more to connect. If anyone wants to be the part of this platform, they can connect via messenger or email to nepalitongue@gmail.com.

Over the weeks the initiative is getting good response. Anmol shares that the audiences are sending them passionate suggestions in which they also feel a great sense of ownership. “It feels like we have touched the right pulse and many people agree with our vision. However, we are just starting and haven’t even scratched the surface but we are sure we will grow immensely,” he ends.

Shilshila Acharya

Seeds of Nepal

For a long time, Shilshila Acharya, CEO of the Himalayan Climate Initiative was thinking of ways to save local seeds. She had collected 12-13 types of local seeds for a year. She planted some of those seeds just before the lockdown and they turned into saplings as the days rolled by. She posted saplings of tomato on Facebook asking if anyone needed it. Many showed interest but the locations were far which was not possible to reach during the lockdown. Instantly, she thought of forming a Facebook group that would allow people who live nearby to each other to exchange seeds and saplings. She gave shape to that abstract idea and the Facebook group called Seeds of Nepal came into existence. Preserving local seeds and encouraging self-sufficiency are the main goals of this initiative.

According to Shilshila, there are various other initiatives and groups like Kaushi Kheti where people grow their vegetables but they only care for products, not the seeds. Most of the people grow grains and vegetables out of hybrid seeds even in villages. Local seeds are on their way to vanishing. “Hybrid seeds do not grow as local seeds do. For local food, seeds also need to be local which is good in terms of nutrition, health, and environment,” she informs.

“Hybrid seeds do not grow as local seeds do. For local food, seeds also need to be local which is good in terms of nutrition, health, and environment”

The group was formed in the third week of April and comprises 200 members. “The members are beginners who have just started to grow their food. So, even a small amount of product they share can inspire many,” shares Shilshila.

She has developed a form for the members to acknowledge their location as well as seeds, saplings, and knowledge they have about growing local food. This information helps her to recommend nearby members if anyone needs anything. Most of the members in the group belong to the Kathmandu valley. “We are avoiding any new member from a foreign country considering geographical constraints,” she says.
Being an environment activist, Shilshila’s ultimate goal is to make people self sustained. “Even if they grow very small amounts they engage themselves physically and play with mud which is good for health. They have started making compost manure in their capacity. This results in waste management,” she states.

Agreeing that it saves money, she adds, “Once they start and know the importance, they continue themselves. Change does not come overnight and we cannot expect to grow all the vegetables we need.”
Shilshila is planning to go forward collaborating with other groups and experts. Her ultimate goal is to add more members to the group and encourage them to grow local food as well as preserve local seeds so that they can establish local seed banks in various areas of the valley and in the country.