In this edition of Voices, noted social activist and Founder/President of Maiti Nepal, Anuradha Koirala shared her journey from the self to others.
“I was born in a Gurung family. My father was a Colonel in Indian Army. Despite the social ills and the taboo that girls are not to be sent to school, I was fortunate for my father always said his dowry to me is the education he will provide,” Koirala shared in reminiscences of her childhood.
She elaborated, “As a child, I always wanted to become an airhostess. However this dream did not materialize. After my education in Kalimpong in India, I came to Kathmandu at the age of 18. Eminent Indian musician Ranjit Gajmer, musician and author Peter J Karthak and I entered Nepal together. I started teaching in a school here. That is how my career began.”
Koirala added how she then got married but her married life took turns as she herself became a victim to gender disparity.
“I am neither divorced nor do me and my husband live together. We got separated very early and I moved out with my son in a rented flat in Kathmandu. It was easy for somebody like who was raised in a family of senior ranked military person to struggle for every penny in Kathmandu. My one of the visit to Pashupatinath defined my whole objective of living,” Koirala began her story of forming Maiti Nepal.
She added, “One fine morning I saw some women, who were looking healthy and sound begging around Pashupati Temple premises. I asked them why they wouldn’t work somewhere. They all enjoined together who would employ them. Each of them were victims to violence in some or the other form. In a country like Nepal where no jobs are given without a strong reference, it was an obvious but a thoughtful question to raise. I spoke to these women everyday on my way to work. One day I went and told them that I’d give them job. I bought street side winnow shops for them from all the little money I had and in return they had to pay me two rupees each, each day so that I could offer the same to other such women.”
“Soon, they asked me to shelter their daughters so that they don’t become victim to trafficking. I moved their daughters in my small rented flat along with me. Many other women soon visited me to protect them too. It was not easy. Though I registered Maiti Nepal in 1993, by 1995 I was going through financial crisis. Many donor organizations wanted me to dance to their tunes and I chose to beat my own drums. I always said no to seminars on trafficking within sophisticated walls and rather chose to be at vulnerable places of trafficking. In 1997, I was suffering from severe tuberculosis; I had lost my individual space with son in the quest of working against trafficking. I did not give up. It was difficult but it wasn’t impossible to minimize human trafficking. Decades ago, innocent girls were lured to put into jobs in carpet factory and now the new term in fashion to sell women for commercial sexual exploitation is foreign employment,” she shared.
Today Maiti Nepal owns its own rehabilitation home to provide shelter to those trafficked who don’t have anywhere to turn to. It has 13 transit homes, two hospices and a high school.
“Absolute eradication of human trafficking is a myth. But at least we can join hands to minimize this social ill. So far, Maiti Nepal has freed 25,000 trafficked women and 1600 criminals have been convicted. I was conferred CNN HERO award in 2010. This only reminds me that I still haven’t contributed much and the problem still lies around us. There is so much still to be done. Let’s not blame the state alone, let’s not put it all to the policy, to the law. Let us also look at ourselves, what we have contributed in minimizing human trafficking. If only you will look those little children as your children, many problems will be solved easily. Lets unite to say no to any form of violence against women, it’s a shame to humanity,” she concluded.
Secretary of B.P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation, Abhay Kumar shared, “B.P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation and Nepal Bharat Library would be honored to contribute some books to the library of Maiti Nepal.” He also thanked Koirala for her invaluable talk in 21st edition of Voices.