Dema* with her 2 children

May 14 is Mother’s Day. Being a mother is never easy, with stress and responsibility, but a mother finds strength in facing them. Thimphu, capital of Bhutan, attracts people from across the country seeking employment and opportunities, but they often end up living in urban poverty, experiencing violence, and mental health issues. Dema*, a 17-year-old girl living in Thimphu with her family, already become a mother of two children, tragically resulting from sexual abuse. No matter how tough the life gets, she remains strong for her children.

Struggle with Livelihood While Balancing School and Childcare

Dema*’s mother helps to look after her young children, allowing her to attend school and pursue her education. The family is facing financial hardship with her brother’s limited income. Dema* said, “My mother looks after my children when I go to school. However, I am currently preparing for my exam, despite being on medical leave. My brother earns Nu.30,000 (~HKD 2,800) and pay Nu.13,000 (~HKD 1,250) as rent. The relationship between my brother and mother is also not good, we hardly talk.”

Dema*’s mother sells homemade meat pickles to support the family’s livelihood, but the business did not go well. Dema* shared, ‘My mother is very anxious about the business, and I reassure her that she will do well’. Under life pressures, Dema* struggled with depression and anxiety, while juggling studying and childcare.

Empowering with Counselling Service and Livelihood Support

She received counselling service under the programme “Empowering Communities to Address Violence Against Children,” which is supported by Save the Children Hong Kong, and operated by a local NGO partner, Nazhoen Lamtoen.

After conducting an assessment, the team consulted with Dema* and her mother to develop a plan for her family. The programme arranged regular family visit to Dema*’s family and follow up with local police and her teachers to ensure our support to Dema when the case of child abuse is still under investigation. Dema* and her mother were provided with livelihood support, including practical items such as diapers, milk, and warm clothing for the babies as well. In addition, we provide financial support to Dema ‘s mother to restart her home-based meat pickle business, which had been affected by the pandemic.

Carol Szeto, CEO of Save the Children Hong Kong said, “Every child deserves to grow up in a safe and secure environment. The “Empowering Communities to Address Violence Against Children” project in Bhutan helps children and families, like Dema* ‘s, overcome difficulties and provides a safe environment for them to grow up healthy, learn, and be protected.”

Thanks to the programme, Dema* and her mother have gained more financial independence. They are now able to provide for Dema*’s education and no longer solely rely on her brother for financial support. Dema* expressed her appreciation for the assistance she received, saying, “I am relieved that I can now focus on my studies without worrying about financial constraints. The programme’s support has enabled me to aim for better opportunities in the future.”

* Name changed to protect identities.