Women are discriminated all over the world in various aspects of life and this is not something new to Nepal either. They are sometimes denied basic human rights, laws and policies and are also kept apart from cultural traditions. They suffer inescapable discrimination from the society. The widows are treated terribly and are treated as ill omens and are not allowed to be a part of family functions, also sometimes they are blamed for their husband’s death. They are tortured by their in- laws both mentally and physically.
One woman who helps in the uplift of widows in Nepal and beyond the country (India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka) is Lily Thapa, who was born in Kathmandu in a fun loving joint family with an army background. She was also the youngest person in Nepal to give SLC in the age of 13 and by the time she was 17 she was already a graduate. After graduating she got married to a medical doctor in the army. Unfortunately Lily found herself widowed at the age of 28 as her husband died while serving in the military in the gulf war of 1992. After this trauma, she had to face many hardships. She experienced a lot of discrimination and assaults from family and society but she maintained composure and helped others who were going through the same situation. In 1994, she started her organization, Women for Human Rights (WHR), to help the widows who were facing lots of discrimination and trauma in their lives. She first came across Laxmi who experienced bad treatment from her family after losing her husband in a tender age. She helped her come out of the tragedy and to relive her life. She helped her learn sewing and today she has a big tailoring business not only in her own village but also in the other villages around her own.
"There Is Still A Long Way to Go"
In a brief interview with Miss Lily Thapa she opened up the following things about herself with Shreya Gyawali:
Who was your idol as a child?
“My father. He taught me how to be a successful leader and make my own path rather than following the crowd. He is truly my idol.”
Of all the things you learnt from your parents, what do you think was the most valuable?
“My father taught me the team spirit, team building and the value of education for a girl child and my mother taught me how to compromise and cooperate with others.”
Who or what inspired you to work in this field?
“My own hardships and experiences as a widow helped me work in this field. After my husband died, I was looked down by my family and society. I was also boycotted from all family functions. I then realized how difficult it must be for people living in rural areas to deal with the trauma of widowhood. Therefore, to help all those who are being tortured and are facing the same difficult times as I did, I started this organization that helps them to be independent and achieve what they want without any sort of discrimination.”
What do you consider to be you greatest accomplishment?
“My greatest accomplishment is that I brought happiness in many women’s lives who have had to bear lots of tortures by being a widow. I’ve instilled in them the courage to be independent rather than unwillingly follow the orders of their in-laws. I’ve taught them to raise their voice against discrimination and for their rights and also to voice their opinions.”
Where do you see yourself 10 years down the line?
“I have been working with many ministries and have brought many changes towards the rights of widows but I still think there is a long way to go. Though many rules, policies and codes have been formulated for the widows in recent years, the mind set of people have not changed. 10 years down the line I would like to change the mind set of people towards the rights of widows and earn due respect for them. I will still be working for people who need me and will try to bring this discrimination of women on the basis of marital status to a halt.”