"I don’t want to go according to UN’s rule because they advise me to reduce the number of children in the orphanage which I simply cannot do."

Rachana Bhattarai

Kathmandu

A well-known name, Anuradha Koirala of Maiti Nepal, could be an ideal example for many Nepali women who want to achieve something higher in life. Though, Anuradha’s life is interspersed with many ups and downs, these phases have taught her many a thing about life and helped turn into a bold and confident woman.

Anuradha hails from a Gurung family. She was married to a Bahun. However, her marital life did not last long. She was separated from her husband some 13 years ago.

Anuradha shares the bitter experience of her stay with her husband. She says she had to seek her husband’s permission to do even a minor thing. She could only do and wear those things that her husband liked.

According to her, she feels freer today because she can wear whatever colour she likes and can go wherever she wants to. There is no one to restrict her interest, choice and mobility. Today, Anuradha is living with her only son.

Anuradha started her career as a schoolteacher. She used to get a small salary on which both mother and son had to survive. “Being a single woman and a mother it was not easy for me live a peaceful life especially in a country like ours where male supremacy still exists. I had gone through many challenging stages of life,” she shares.

Anuradha’s entry in social work innocuously began by providing a small financial support to some female beggars of Pashupati. She supported them to start a small ‘nanglo’ shop although she did not have enough money in her pocket. “The only thing I had was guts.”

Her social work started spreading wings. Today, she is taking care of 260 trafficked women who were sold in Indian brothels and orphan children at her rehabilitation centre Maiti Nepal. This organisation has also been awarded The World’s Children’s Prize for the rights of the child in 2002. As she puts it, dedication and sincerity are the two things that guide one to success.

“When I had just started this work I used to think why people are investing a big amount of money in workshops and seminars in five-star hotels of Kathmandu although the main problem lies in the villages,” Anuradha asks.

Today, the annual expense of Maiti Nepal is about ten million rupees. These expenses are sustained by the Maiti Nepal group residing across the country and donor agencies like Asia Foundation, Save the Children Norway and Save the Children US.

“I don’t want to go according to UN’s rule because they advise me to reduce the number of children in the orphanage which I simply cannot do.” Apart from sending orphan children to school she is also providing educational support to some rag pickers.

She says that many awareness campaigning has been conducted to stop the cross-country trafficking and the number has decreased substantially.

However, she says that in the last two months the incidence of cross-country trafficking has again picked up in villages. The reason is the on-going conflict.

Anuradha was also designated as Assistant Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare by the King after the Royal intervention on October 4, 2002.

She recalls her experience at the Ministry and says that there is so much money in the Ministry for women and children but there is an acute lack of guideline and expertise.

“When I first entered my office I found it pathetic. Cobwebs were dangling all over the ceiling and bathroom was stinking. It took me some time to settle things. During my tenure, I never found a single person coming to the Ministry to discuss the problems of women and children. People who came always had their own grievances — transfer, promotion, etc.”

Although she faced many adversities in her life, she has nothing to complain about it. Patience, dedication and hard work have made her a popular lady today. She has become a mother to many orphans and women who have been trafficked and banished to Indian brothels.

Anuradha has dedicated her whole life in the service of vulnerable women and children. In a sense, she says that she never had a personal life. She has not even been able to give more time to her only son. But she does not regret because, as she reckons, “if you want to do something you have to loose something and there is nothing in the world that is impossible”.