Celebrating Womanhood 2012 Awardees

Bishnu Thakali - Annapurna

Bishnu Thakali, Founder member and President of Women Environment Preservation Committee (WEPCO) is the key person behind the growth of WEPCO. She is an active advocate and practitioner for waste management and recycling.

Initially established by a group of housewives WEPCO has worked for two decades in managing household waste and played an instrumental role in turning this waste into compost, biogas and recycled paper. In a year WEPCO manages approximately 1,000 tones of solid waste in a year.

Besides managing household waste, awareness generation campaigns and capacity development training are also part of WEPCO’s activities. Their constant campaigning has enabled the formation of 51 eco clubs in Kathmandu Valley. WEPCO’s work has earned recognition and admiration in the International arena. They have recently received the SEED Gender Equality Award 2011.

Neeta Sapkota - Bhagawati

Neeta Sapkota has been working as a program presenter and producer with Nepal Television for the past 17 years out of which her focus area for the past 10 years has been creating children’s programs in a country where there are no long term plans, policies and strategies for developing material to mould impressionable young minds.

Neeta has researched and worked at developing weekly educational, informative and entertaining shows for pre-schoolers, quiz shows for high school children, 52 TV documentaries targeted to 10-14 year olds based on underprivileged children and their fundamental rights and 15 TV episodes titled education for all among many of her productions.

She is the Founder Chairperson of Joining Hands Nepal, an educational media for children. Neeta’s experience and expertise comprise of preparing programs for mass media dissemination covering a spectrum of social, health, education, women and children issues. Her proposal for fostering literacy and education won the International Japan Prize 2008 organized by NHK, Japan. She is also the focal point of CHINA INDIA (a web channel for children) CHINA NEPAL CHAPTER.

Maiya Bisunkhe - BHAWANI

Just seconds before the race starts, she closes her eyes and focuses on the strength and courage needed to win. Then she speeds off with just the finish line in sight. She does not recall her mother’s face. She had a very difficult and painful childhood having to beg for her living on local buses plying in Damak, Jhapa.

The life of 19-year-old Maiya Bisunkhe, who was born without her right hand, has changed drastically since the day she was brought to the SOS Children’s Village 11 years ago. Maiya is today a pride for us all representing Nepal in national and international arenas. She gives credit to Father Robin Nepali of SOS, Jorpati as being the motivational factor behind her success. Despite having only one arm, she has taken part in and won various awards and certificates in athletics with two gold medals in the hundred and two hundred meter race category to her credit.

Maiya has participated in the Under 16 Asian Championship held in Japan, the Asian Para Game held in China and the Para Olympics held in London this year to name a few International competitions. She stresses that the state should develop separate policies and strategies to support the differently-abled national star

Mohana Ansari - DURGA

Mohana Ansari is a passionate advocate for women's legal rights and opportunities in Nepal. Hailing from a conservative Muslim community, she became the first member of her family to graduate from college and obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in law and a Master’s Degree in sociology. She then went on to become the only female Muslim attorney in Nepal.

Since the initial years of her career she has empowered women and children through free advocacy services, journalism and provided legal training at the VDC and local school levels. In the course of her career, she has worked in 45 districts of Nepal. She credits Dr. Shanta Thapaliya for encouraging her. As a member of the National Women’s Commission, she advocates a broader understanding of concerns such as right to obtaining citizenship in the mother’s name and quick and efficient health services to rape victims among many other issues. Her views on challenging and changing cultural practices that demean women questions the practice of Rishi Panchami, an annual ritual that requires women to take a purifying bath for the sins they commit knowingly and un-knowingly.

Today Mohana Ansari is a highly reputed and respected attorney at law working in partnership with various national and international organizations. She says that receiving the Celebrating Womanhood Durga award of 2012, is an added power vested on her to strive to do more.

Sabita Rai - KARUNA

Sabita Rai is the young energetic President of the single women’s group of Dharan, Sunsari who has been working for women’s rights and concerns for the last 11 years. She not only heads the branch but is in charge of all 14 districts of eastern Nepal.

Initially she contemplated on the different professions she could take up for her livelihood. It was by chance that she attended the national conference of Human Rights for Women, Single Women’s Group that was held in Dharan and was motivated by Lily Thapa, the President of the Central office in Kathmandu to join the single women’s group. She was just 20 at that time but made up her mind to commit her life to the cause of single and violated women. There was no turning back for her since then. She took up the challenge of organizing interaction programs for single women even if only 3 to 4 women turned up in many of the initial meetings.

Today after a decade, the Single Women’s Group has been successful in constructing a 5-room house that shelters victims of violence and old people who do not have anywhere to go. The shelter is selfsustainable. It runs atering services, provides packed lunch services to offices and schools and rents out its hall for residential raining. The group has also started saving and credit facilities for women.

Sabita believes in counseling victims and preparing them to face the police before reporting the abuse. She commits herself to the cause of women and believes that life is worth living if only you are able to live for others.

Om Devi Malla - Laxmi

Om Devi is the Executive Chairperson of Reliable Saving & Credit Cooperative Society Ltd. She holds the prestige of being a member of the National Cooperative Federation of Nepal among many other portfolios. Om Devi is a member of the seven-member National Cooperative Policy Development Committee that was formed recently after a 54 years long history of cooperative culture. She is also the only woman representative of the International Cooperative Alliance.

It is her staunch belief that every Nepali woman deserves to live a life of dignity and it is only possible when women are economically independent. She strongly advocates the establishment of the cooperative culture from the grass root level upwards as the only way out of poverty and towards a better future for Nepali women.

She is committed to continue her work at the decision-making level to make the economic policy of the country women friendly.

Prativa Subedi - Laxmi

Prativa has been striving to raise the living standards of those in need for the past 22 years. Her organization, the Women Awareness Centre Nepal (WACN) established in 1990, works to empower rural women and provide them with economic opportunities to live a life of dignity. With sustainable agricultural practices as the primary area of focus WACN has up till now established 41 women’s cooperatives, with 500 to 1,200 women shareholders in each group. WACN’s cost-effective poverty reduction programs are worthy of being replicated throughout the developing world.

WACN has generated more than NPR 4 million in women's savings and investments. They function from Kavre, Chitwan, Makwanpur and Kathmandu providing training and support to women in other districts. Prativa is also an author and has published four books on the women of Nepal to draw attention to gender and development issues.

Hari Devi Koirala - Mahamaya

Hari Devi Koirala’s contribution to the Nepali Folk music sector is beyond comparison. Her creations represent the feelings of the Nepali people. In the current day scenario when the Nepali folk music sector is dominated by the flow of crude and polluted concoctions mostly in the name of dohoris, we can still hope to find and take pride in the richness of Nepali Folk Music through creators like Hari Devi.

Over a period of 3 decades, she has written and sung songs raising issues related to women, children and social discrepancies. Her songs reverberate positivity. Up till now she has composed, sung and compiled 75 single and over 24 group albums. The state owned radio station Radio Nepal has over 200 of her songs in its library. She has written innumerous poems and songs and published 7 books as a poet and lyricist.

She established the “Hari Devi Koirala Sahitya Sangeet Samman Kosh” with the goal of promoting Nepali music and Nepali artists. The numerous honors and recognitions that she has been conferred fall short when it comes to honoring her talent, commitment and dedication to Nepali Music. Hari Devi is truly an inspiration to the new generation of music lovers.

Rajyalaxmi Nakarmi - Saraswati

Rajyalaxmi Nakarmi, Deputy Director of the Department of Education under the Education Ministry is a living example of a truly committed government officer. Her main area of work is to facilitate the implementation of education programs. Nakarmi started her career as a school teacher in 1977. She has worked in the Primary Child Development Department, Gender Equality Development Department, School Management Department and Education Material Management Department of the Ministry.

She has played an important role in developing a modern educational system during her tenure of nearly four decades in the education sector. Besides advocating for optional activities in schools, she played an instrumental role in introducing sex education and HIV and AIDS awareness in school curriculums nearly 20 years back when Nepali society was still not open to the idea. She shares, “When I raised the issue, I was single and some people even said that no one would marry me.”

She went on to join the planning and program department under the Education Ministry where she had to supervise all 75 districts. She did not limit herself to making plans and programs but visited each and every district to evaluate the outputs. She is a respected figure when it comes to working with development partner organizations.

She has always believed in equal and accessible education for all regardless of class, creed or gender. We take pride in government officers like Rajya Laxmi who have despite all adversities continued to strive to achieve the golden dream for Nepal.

KANCHI GOLE & SOMLAL GOLE - Shakti

I feel inner peace and fulfilled by helping others, says 53 year old Kanchi Gole of Markhu, Makwanpur. She spends her day providing free services and advice to children and pregnant women based on the 24-day public health volunteer training she took more than two decades back.

Kanchi’s husband Somlal takes care of the household chores. Somlal cooks, cleans and cares for the house and their cattle. At other times he works as a painter. Among the ten who took the training organized by the District Public Health department of Makwanpur, Kanchi Gole is the only one serving her community. Initially it was difficult sustaining an 8-member family including 2 blind children. But Kanchi did not make this an excuse to beg and present herself as an object of pity. She looked for opportunities and worked towards a better life not only for herself and her family but for the whole community. Kanchi has gained the respect of the whole area through her selfless service to the extent that the villagers are willing to work on her fields for free.

The Sirjana Women’s Savings and Loan Cooperative was established in 1999 through Kanchi’s initiation. Today the cooperative has 712 women share holders. Each share holder saves and deposits Rs. 100 per month from which they provide loans to farmers and other income generating activities. The economic situation of the share holders has improved drastically and the women feel proud that they no longer have to depend on their husbands for small expenses.

Upon hearing that she was being conferred the Shakti Award of Navadevi 2012, she shares that she could not believe it at first. She says, “This award has motivated me to do something more for the society.”