50 trailblazing women shaping Nepal’s future

We have delved deep into different spears of Nepali society and brought you 50 remarkable women who have been influential in their respective fields.

Women in Politics - strong woman
Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Women play a vital role in shaping our society. However, throughout history, they have faced discrimination. Unfortunately, this discrimination persists to some extent even today in countries like Nepal, where women are denied access to education, excluded from household decision-making, and offered limited leadership opportunities in organizations.

One hundred and fifteen years ago, the movement of women textile workers in the United States demanding equal wages and other benefits expanded to focus on achieving women’s political rights. Today, this movement has evolved beyond various stages of struggle and interaction, now encompassing issues related to intersexuality and diverse sexualities. It is not merely a concern of the privileged; it is about the rights, struggles, and existence of women from marginalised classes and communities.

In this context, the sense of womanhood extends beyond just the pursuit of equality; it is now a constitutionally guaranteed right, as seen in Nepal. Gender rights are ensured through coexistence and the mandatory inclusion and ideological cooperation of women in all sectors of society.

Keeping that in mind, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Onlinekhabar wants to celebrate those who challenged the patriarchy and broke the shackles to do influential things in life. Today, we want to bring attention to the significant presence of women in Nepali politics, society, culture, sports, academics, and beyond.

To compile a comprehensive list, our newsroom colleagues, various stakeholders, and sources have collaborated, gathering suggestions from individuals across different levels of government, including the province, district, municipality, and diaspora communities.

The preliminary list, comprising over a hundred names, was then submitted to the selection committee for their evaluation. Their deliberations and recommendations have led to the publication of the final list of 50 influential women.

It is important to clarify that ‘influential’ in this context does not solely denote women who wield power. Rather, the final selection reflects individuals who demonstrate the capacity to overcome obstacles, showcase talent, and continually strive for new accomplishments through their dedication and perseverance.

This initiative is not aimed at any particular group or class; rather, it seeks to represent every unit of Nepali society. We are proud to announce the 50 names selected among our esteemed readers, reflecting our first attempt at this endeavour.

While we tried to include important contributors, we acknowledge that some individuals may have been left out due to various factors such as unavailability. We recognise the many women whose contributions could not be included in this list, despite their significant efforts and struggles. Their importance is undeniable, and we appreciate the role played by every woman striving for change.

Moving forward, we remain committed to representing diverse voices and experiences in our news content, ideological articles, interviews, and other platforms. We welcome constructive suggestions, feedback, and criticism as we continue to refine and expand our efforts to celebrate and uplift the contributions of women in Nepali society.

This is only the start, as we aim to do this every year honouring the women who play an important role in our society by proving to be influential figures for the forthcoming generation.

Let us embark together on the journey towards equality and coexistence, ensuring that every day can be like March 8—a day of celebration and recognition of the contributions of women in our society. Together, we can strive for a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

This list is not ranked.

Meera Sah – Activist

Meera Sah

For over 14 years, Meera Sah’s life has revolved around children. Operating an orphanage in Janakpur, Sah relentlessly looks after abandoned children as if they were her own. There are days she barely gets enough sleep but that does not deter her as she selflessly looks after the children. Her day starts with them and ends with the 13 children that she is looking after at the orphanage. 

Sah’s transformation from Meera to mother Meera came in July 2005 when an English professor Satyanarayan Mahato ‘Alok’ asked her to take care of a child he had found on the roadside. Mahato had gone through a lot to save the child and asked Meera, who came to his ashram regularly, to look after her. The mother in Meera could not say no and the rest is history. 

Since then, every time a baby is abandoned, they are taken to the ashram where Mother Meera welcomes them with open arms. The ashram has transformed into a shelter for children who survived attempted abortions, those who were abandoned due to social and economic circumstances, and those who were discarded for any other reason.

Now, as she nears her twilight years, all Sah wants is to see these 13 children thrive in life. Although she could not pursue education beyond grade 9 herself, she dreams of her children achieving everything they aspire to, and more.

Santoshi Bankariya – Entrepreneur and social activist

Santoshi Bankariya

The Bankariya community is one of the most endangered ethnic groups in Nepal. For much of their history, the community lived a nomadic lifestyle. But things are changing and in the forefront of the change is one Santoshi Bankariya. Under her leadership, the community has started to run a homestay and even set up a soap factory. 

The only second person to pass SEE, she understood the importance education had on her life. This is why, along with the homestay and soap factory, she also stressed providing tuition service to the young boys of girls of the community. She also extended the tuition classes to adults. Since these classes, six others have passed SEE.

Even though she completed her high school as a junior technical assistant (Pre-Diploma in Agriculture), she decided to stay with the community. She started training them to grow produce that would no longer force them to go into the forest for food. Now the challenge is to get land from the government and vows to fight for that right until her last breath.

Pragati Rai – Writer

Pragati Rai

What does a writer need to write? A pen, notebook, or a laptop? Well, for Pragati Rai, her determination was enough to kickstart her writing career. It was her sheer will that compelled finish what she started working as a school teacher in Kathmandu. Her dream of becoming a writer hit a speedbreaker when a manuscript she was working on was deleted from the shared computer at school. Life took her to South Korea and life got busy and writing came to a halt.

A little push then forcer her to get back into writing. She remembered why she wanted to write as a young girl and got back into it. Her first novel, Lekhak ki Swasni (A Writer’s Wife) tells her story and how her life was interconnected with her husband Rajan Mukarung. It was penned out of frustration having had to endure a flawed relationship with her husband. The writer’s wife officially transformed into a writer.

Despite her success, some people questioned whether Rai herself had written the book, with some even suggesting that it was her husband who had penned it instead. However, such doubts have not deterred her, and she has emerged as one of the best storytellers in Nepal. Her works like Birsieko Mrityu and Thangra have also been well-received.

Rai believes that although Nepali literature continues to evolve from various perspectives, women still struggle to share their stories. Many women across different castes, cultures, and regions share common experiences of suffering, yet their unique struggles often go untold. These stories cannot be adequately expressed solely through the narratives of others. Hence, the stories of women from marginalised areas and communities in Nepal remain largely unwritten. Rai says there is a need for women to start telling their own stories, empowering them to voice their experiences and perspectives.

Ranju Yadav – Artist

Ranju Yadav

For Mithila artist Ranju Yadav, art is more than a means to express herself, it is a medium through which can tell stories of the evils in society. A national award winner, Yadav has been involved in Mithila art for over a decade and since the start has used it as a platform to call for change. Her art revolves around issues like child marriage, female feticide, dowry, untouchability and gender-based violence.

She feels content with her work in the folk art style, not just because it allows her to express her voice against harmful social practices, but also because her art has been instrumental in creating positive change in society. Yadav has observed that her artwork effectively raises awareness among people.

Sumana Shrestha – Politician

Sumana Shrestha
Sumana Shrestha

Sumana Shrestha had no particular interest in politics until she became a lawmaker. Now that she is here, she is making a major mark through her call for new policing and voicing opinions against the status quo. 

Shrestha often says she entered politics out of frustration. She is not like the politicians from the 90s; she is a breath of fresh air. Many even say that Shrestha is unfamiliar with Nepali politics. However, ever since she was nominated to be a member of the House of Representatives through proportional representation, there is an argument she has done more than many lawmakers who were directly elected.

Highly opinionated, she speaks with facts in hand and has shown the important role the parliamentary committees play. She is part of the education committee and says she is interested in working in areas related to IT education and job creation. Shrestha can also be seen focused on fulfilling her duties as a member of Parliament, which operates on taxpayers’ money. She believes that lawmakers’ inability to effectively carry out their responsibilities amounts to nothing less than corruption.

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa – Mountaineer

Dawa Yangzum Sherpa

When Dawa Yangzum Sherpa told her family that she wanted to become a mountaineer, everyone took it as a joke. Even though a lot of men in her village went on expeditions to Everest, for a woman to even think about doing that was far-fetched.

Fast-forward 20 years, Sherpa has become one of Nepal’s leading female mountain guides and a sponsored athlete by North Face and Rolex. But that is not all; she has also successfully climbed 13 out of the 14 8,000-meter mountains, with just one mountain remaining to achieve the remarkable feat of being the first Nepali to climb all 14 8,000-meter peaks.

She is also the first woman in Asia to become an International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) guide. Over the past few years, Sherpa has been helping young girls who also dream of climbing mountains like her. Every year, she takes time out to take them climbing or trekking around Khumbu or Rolwaling.

Sunmaya Budha – Trail runner/ultra runner

Sunmaya Budha

Sunmaya Budha was on the verge of getting married off by her parents when she was in her early teens. Things were almost certain but she ran away and established herself as one of the top trail runners in Nepal.

With a never-say-die attitude and an ego to prove her doubters wrong, Buddha has created history by becoming the first Nepali woman to win various races across the globe including The North Face 100 Hong Kong, Translantau by UTMB and Golden 100 Hong Kong. 

In 2022, she even finished second in one of the toughest trail races in the world, the UTMB Mont Blanc – CCC, etching her name in the history books. Trained by Olympian Hari Bahadur Rokaya, Buddha has come a long way as she now is part of the North Face Adventure Team which looks after her training. 

Sabitra Bhandari – Footballer

Sabitra Bhandari

Sabitra Bhandari, popularly known as Samba is one of the most successful sportspersons in Nepal. She is a marvel in Nepali football who, since her debut in 2014, has taken Nepali football by storm.

Coming from a humble background, Bhandari developed a keen interest in football from a young age. But little did she know that her fondness would one day take her to the peak of Nepali football.

Recently, Bhandari scored her 50th international goal for Nepal. She is the first footballer in the country to do so. She also ticked off another first as she became the first Nepali to score in a major European league as she scored for En Avant Guingamp against Lille on March 2. On June 13 last year,  Bhandari signed to play for an Israeli club Hapoel Raanana Women’s FC in the Israeli Women’s League ‘Ligat Nashim’. 

Shilshila Acharya – Entrepreneur and climate activist

Shilshila Acharya

Almost every student who does well academically in their school and high school opts to become either a doctor or an engineer. But Shilshilia Acharya, who despite getting a government scholarship to study MBBS, decided to study environmental science. Many questioned her decision to leave behind a career in medical science to pursue one in environmental science. However, Acharya remained in her choice, believing that high-achieving students should not feel compelled to follow conventional paths and instead should explore subjects that resonate with their passions and values.

Her pursuit of excellence took her to Norway where she completed her master’s degree. The Scandinavian country offered insights into the functionality of socialism and women empowerment, highlighting its differences with its application in Nepal. Thus, she returned with the hope of creating change in Nepal. After her return, you could often see her in the street demanding action against issues of climate change and women’s rights.

The founder and director of Avni Ventures, Acharya has made a career in mitigating the causes of climate change. Through various projects, she and Avni focus on making people aware of the impact caused by climate change and training the youth along with women on its mitigation.

Recognising plastic as a primary contributor to pollution, she initiated a campaign aimed at curtailing its usage, which has gained significant momentum. Kathmandu has now fully prohibited the use of single-use plastic below 40 microns. Moreover, after encountering young women coerced into the sex trade, Acharya launched an initiative to empower and rehabilitate them.

Now she hopes what she has done in Kathmandu with waste management can be replicated in other local levels in Nepal. She believes climate change is a major problem and a pressing issue for human survival. 

Krishni Tharu – Politician

Krishni Tharu

Krishni Tharu is a woman who has, for most of her life, shown utmost resilience. A former Kamlari, an indentured girl child labourer, from the Tharu community, she has risen to become a voice of change in Nepal. 

After 18 years as a Kamlari and Brukeni, she actively advocated against Kamaiya/Kamlari practices and led protests realising the need to break free from slavery. That journey led her to become the national chairperson of Kamaiya Mahila Jagaran Samaj and work for the rights and welfare of the freed Kamaiyas.

Despite facing hardships and societal stigma, she persisted, advocating for education, employment, and empowerment of women and marginalised communities. She never received a formal education. However, it did not discourage her from learning to read and write in Nepali and English by enrolling herself in an adult literacy class. Now she effectively convenes assembly meetings and is known for her zeal to encourage the participation of women in politics and judicial and legal services. 

Her determination and willingness to create change caught the eyes of the UML who then nominated her to become a member of the Lumbini Provincial Assembly and even made her the deputy speaker.

Mohanmaya Dhakal – Politician

Mohanmaya Dhakal

Mohanmaya Dhakal is out to prove to the entire country how capable women can be when given the chance at leadership positions. Dhakal is the mayor of Birendranagar Municipality in Karnali. After proving herself as a deputy mayor, Dhakal was asked to run for mayor by the people of Birendranagar.

Her career in politics started as early as when she was 14 years old. Since then, there has been no stopping her as she has often been the voice of change in party meetings within the province and at the central level.

Now a central committee member of the UML, she aims to make Birendranagar safe for women and children as she believes that a city like that will be safe for everyone. Several programmes aimed at women’s health, maternal safety, daughters’ birth savings accounts, women’s self-employment, and support for women farmers, among others, are currently operational under the mayor’s leadership, encompassing more than a dozen initiatives dedicated to empowering women.

In addition to these initiatives, free sanitary pads distribution for women, a free ambulance service for pregnant women, and a free video x-ray programme have been implemented, all of which are touted to be highly effective. Notably, some of these programs were initiated during her tenure as deputy mayor.

With the aim of setting up Birendranagar as an education hub, Dhakal and her municipality have also initiated a 10-year plan that focuses on curriculum development, teacher management, and community empowerment. That is not all, in her leadership, the municipality has also aimed to solve the drinking water issue by lifting water from the Bheri river and has earned recognition as the country’s best municipality for environmental efforts.

Sangita Chepang – Activist and politician

Sangita Chepang

Sangita Chepang, a female ward member in Gajuri Rural Municipality Ward 6 of Dhading, has been re-elected for her second term. Hailing from Gajuri-6, Syangmaidanda, Chepang has dedicated her life to uplifting the marginalised Chepang community in Nepal. This is why she is known beyond the small borders of her ward.

Growing up, she always felt the Chepang community were discriminated against and wanted to do something that would end that. She started calling for the community to have their own forest and water supply system. Slowly, her voice grew larger and that paved the way for her to get into politics.

Even before she got into politics, she led the way as a leader as she was a major person who called on the community to save their forest. Everyone, including her own people, ridiculed her. They asked how one woman save a forest could. But gradually, things changed. Women in her community stopped instigating wildfires and initiated an afforestation campaign.

She also played a major role in the village getting access to water. There was a time when women had to queue up for hours for water but now every household in her village has a tap and that is all thanks to a determined Chepang who did not take no for an answer.

Dr Banira Karki – Doctor

Dr Banira Karki

Dr Banira Karki never liked people doubting her. Established as one of the finest breast onco-surgeons in the country, Karki had to smash patriarchy to get to where she is today. Spending years away from Nepal, she was always inclined to get back to Nepal and give back.

Ever since she joined med school, she always wanted to become a surgeon. As years passed by she saw how women were suffering from breast cancer after which she became a specialist in breast surgery.

Recently, many new techniques have been introduced to treat breast cancer. With the help of new technology, Karki has brought laughter and smiles to the faces of many women who do not have to remove their breasts altogether.

This is the message she is trying to portray recently. She says women no longer need to feel anxious as Nepal now has the skills and technology to treat breast cancer effectively. She also has been pushing women to restart their lives after cancer. She can often be heard motivating women who may have lost hope in life to rise and embrace it once again.

Miruna Magar – Actor

Miruna Magar

As a majority of youth leave Nepal for the riches and grandeur of abroad, some come back to Nepal aiming to leave a mark in the country. One such person is Miruna Magar. Born in Hong Kong and brought up in the United Kingdom, Magar has, over the past few years, left a major mark in the Nepali film industry. This can be seen from her back-to-back super hits in Jaari and Kabaddi 4.

The indigenous community along with many Nepali women seems to have embraced Magar. Most women see themselves in the characters she plays. It is safe to say, she has touched the lives of many in her short film career. Her professionalism and hard work have also set her apart, say directors who have worked with her.

A researcher, Magar, has seen Nepal and now wants to make films based on women. As she plays the role of different women, she hopes one day she will be able to understand them and make a film based on her understanding. 

Surakshya Panta – Actor

Surakshya Pant

Even though she started her career nearly a decade ago, Surakshya Panta has not starred in many Nepali films. Yet she has the ability to carry a film. Whether portraying Aarti Aama, Heera Bulaaki, or a rebellious character in Bahaab, Panta has shouldered the weight of these films with finesse.

Her peers call her a method actor; someone who can easily adapt to the role given to her. She’s disciplined and extremely hardworking. How? If she has to play a certain role, she spends as much time with these women as possible. For Bulaki, she spent months in Sudurpaschim to give justice to the role she was playing. During Julebi, she was seen spending time with sex workers in Kathmandu getting to know them and their trade.

Panta has filled the void present for female actresses in mainstream Nepali cinema. As an artist, she thrives on playing different characters, constantly seeking to experience different lives through her craft. Notably, she made history as the first Nepali actress to grace the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival. Her participation was in the representation of her role in the Italian movie The Eight Mountains, marking a significant milestone in her career.

Rubina Chhetry Belbase – Cricketer

Rubina Chhetry Belbase

For a little over a decade, Rubina Chhetry Belbase has demonstrated exceptional leadership in Nepali cricket. Since 2009, she has showcased outstanding performances representing Nepal on the cricket field.

As a successful all-rounder and captain of the Nepali women’s cricket team, she holds a rare world record of taking all five wickets in five balls and achieving the first century by a Nepali female cricketer. Her contributions have been crucial for the success of the Nepali cricket team.

Now part of the leadership group of the team, she aims to take Nepali cricket to the next step and in doing so inspire a new age of female cricketers who will represent the country in the future.

Upasana Poudel – CEO, Himalayan Re-Insurance

Upasana Poudel

Upasana Poudel always wanted to do something new when she was young. She wanted to be successful and leave behind a legacy. In Nepal, instances of women leading public organisations, especially at a young age, are scarce. Poudel defies this trend as the CEO of Himalayan Re-Insurance. In her role, she spearheads the management and leadership of reinsurance, navigating the international market to promote Nepal and drive business growth. Despite coming from an educated background, Poudel stands out as one of the few women to achieve remarkable success at a young age.

With over a decade of professional experience in the insurance and telecom industries across the Indian and Nepali markets, Poudel has proven her capabilities in both countries. She notably served as the CEO of United Insurance, a non-life insurance company in Nepal, where she showcased exceptional leadership. Before this, she held various leadership positions in marketing, strategy, product development, underwriting, and technology departments at renowned Indian market giants such as Vodafone, ICICI Lombard, and Bharti AXA General Insurance.

Namrata Baral (Nami) – Entrepreneur/Innovator

Namrata Baral (Nami)

Having received a full scholarship to study medicine from Havard University Namrata Baral had a sudden change of heart and started studying economics and mathematics at the university. Her career in finance started there and she has not looked back since.

Working as an investment banker, Baral soon invested in a start-up company and created MoPub, a mobile ad platform allowing app developers to monetise their applications. The app was an instant success and earned around USD 100 million in six months. As X (formerly Twitter) acquired the company, she worked there for six years as the head of Twitter’s Revenue and Partnership Department. She made over USD 1 billion for Twitter.

Baral over the past decade has established three successful startups in the US. Her latest is Niural which is an all-in-one payroll, team management and compliance platform that helps companies streamline their hiring process, manage global payroll, and keep tabs on compliance. She is continuously working with a vision to create a multibillion-dollar company with a Nepali workforce.

Karvika Thapa – Founder, Kimbu Tech

Karvika Thapa

After 15 years in the US, Karvika Thapa wanted to make a difference in Nepal and returned in 2017. As she got here, she realised the potential Nepal had in IT and how the country’s workforce could cater to American clients. With that in mind, Thapa founded Kimbu Tech which not only brought foreign currency to Nepal but also worked in bridging the gender gap as it prioritised female employment. 

There were challenges, but she persisted in her vision and has been calling for educational reforms believing that IT skills should be nurtured from a young age. She has also been promoting a change in working culture highlighting the importance of a work-life balance. She has also been spreading the message that Nepali talent is abundant, and with the right support and innovation, the future is bright. Thapa dreams of harnessing AI advancements to drive national development, creating opportunities for young people, particularly women, along the way.

Bhakta Kumari Tamang – Principal, Chandrawati Basic School

Bhakta Kumari Tamang

Bhakta Kumari Tamang has an extraordinary tale of dedication and transformation. She is a beacon of hope in Nepal’s education system whose journey is nothing short of remarkable. Tamang is the principal of the government-run Chandrawati Basic School. She started her career in 1995 as a primary teacher in the school and has been there for nearly three decades. She’s been an instigator for the school to extend its classes from 5 to eight and has been calling for more change which will help the young children in Bhojpur.

She has faced various challenges from the Maoist conflict to the recent Covid pandemic but she remained resilient as her work has been recognised by various people over the past few years.

Even facing a decline in student numbers due to migration, she is on a mission to make her school the top choice for local families and 100 per cent passed results in district-level examinations in recent years is the evidence. One thing is crystal clear: Tamang is not just shaping minds, she is shaping futures.

Alisha Sijapati – Heritage recovery campaigner

Alisha Sijapati

Working as a journalist in Kathmandu, Alisha Sijapati got really close to the valley’s tangible and intangible heritage. That is what led her to become a part of the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign, which, for the past few years has been actively working to bring back stolen heritage from Nepal.

Sijapati is at the forefront of the campaign and does most of the documentation work. She, with her team of researchers, finds out which heritage was stolen and where it currently is. Sijapati and her team at the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign also coordinated with the Department of Archaeology to bring back the stolen artefacts by preparing all the necessary documents. That is not all, the campaign also focuses on how to return the artefact to the community.

She knows this work is not easy, but she is not in it for the ease. With a deep passion for heritage conservation, she has been putting in extra hours to ensure Nepal reclaims its gods and goddesses.

Ruby Raut – Entrepreneur/Innovator

Ruby Raut

Ruby Raut is a Nepali who is known globally for her innovative ideas. She is especially known for her work in aiding women who encounter challenges with traditional menstrual hygiene products like pads and tampons, as well as those who experience premenstrual discomfort. Wanting to change that, Raut came up with period panties which aim to give women peace of mind during menstruation.

The period panties produced by her company WUKA are for women of all ages and are environment friendly. That has helped take the back global as these panties are now available in 48 countries including the UK, France, the US and Canada.

Thanks to her product, Raut has garnered increasing recognition and respect. She has been honoured with more than 19 awards for her role as a woman entrepreneur and her creation of environmentally friendly products. Notable among these accolades are the ‘Best New Business Award’, the ‘Innovation Award’, and the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development, bestowed upon her business in the UK in April 2022.

Devi Khadka – Human rights activist

Devi Khadka

Devi Khadka, born 44 years ago in a remote village in Dolakha, has emerged as a fearless advocate for the rights of rape survivors in Nepal. Devi has devoted her life to seeking justice for over 3,000 women who fell victim to sexual violence by both the government and rebel forces.

Khadka’s journey began with personal struggles, including the loss of her brother, and experienced the horrors of gang rape and torture in police custody herself. After the peace process, she transitioned into political life, becoming a member of the Constituent Assembly and serving as a federal government minister. 

In March 2022, Khadka founded the National Organisation of Wartime Rape Victims, rallying nearly 3,000 women to demand justice. Despite societal prejudices and governmental indifference, she tirelessly worked to shed light on the plight of survivor, challenging the patriarchal mindset and advocating for survivor/victim-friendly laws.

Many wartime rape cases have been kept in the shadows until now. But through her organisation’s initiative, a bill to amend the Act on Commission on Investigation of. Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation, 2014, became more victim-friendly. Her contribution to crafting laws for justice has been recognised, offering hope for recognition, justice, compensation and relief for women survivors of conflict.

Devi Khadka’s unwavering commitment and courage have brought the sufferings to the forefront and paved the way for a dignified and just future. A life where women did not have to suffer for not having citizenship, marriage registration, or birth registration of children, amid economic deprivation and social humiliation.

Sabita Upreti – Social welfare activist (autism)

Sabita Upreti

Sabita Upreti, known as the “mother of autistic children,” started helping autistic kids 13 years ago. She was moved when she saw a tied-up, dirty boy, covered in faeces, in a squatter area. Deeply bothered by the scene, she began contemplating the necessity of caring for such children.

Born in Baiteshwor rural municipality of Dolakha, Upreti’s family believed that their daughter should be educated and empowered. So she got the opportunity to study. Moved by the need to care for special children, however, she left her job, learned about autism and opened the Special School for Disabled and Rehabilitation Center (SSDRC) in Kathmandu in 2010.

Her school not only teaches but also gives therapy to autistic children. She believes in breaking myths about autism and helping kids with daily tasks like dressing or washing hands.

Even though people doubted her, and Upreti faced many challenges, she kept going and her school today is helping 60 kids and has grown to three branches in Narephant, Gothatar, and Bhaktapur. In total, she has helped over 500 autistic children.

Upreti’s work got her awards like the International Courageous Women Award-2023, Janasewa Shree Padak and National Youth Talent Award. She sees these kids as her own and wants the government to help more because there are more kids with autism now. Sabita Upreti is making a big difference in the lives of autistic children and their families.

Menuka Poudel – Singer

Menuka Poudel

This year, Menuka Poudel emerged as the standout sensation from the musical reality show Indian Idol. Her journey garnered significant attention in Nepal for several reasons. Firstly, being Nepali, she represented her homeland proudly on an international platform. Secondly, Poudel cannot see. Thirdly, rather than seeking sympathy, she captivated audiences with her mesmerising voice, commanding attention and admiration through the sheer beauty of her melodies.

She does not like it when people feel sorry for her. She believes she is capable of doing most things and does not give up. That is why she jumped from one singing reality show to another as she was adamant about making a mark in the music scene. Now, having touched the hearts of Nepalis and Indians, Poudel is aiming to touch the hearts of people throughout the world.

Shanti Lama – Civil service officer

Shanti Lama

Shanti Lama is the Chief Administrative Officer in a village called Sarkegad. She is groomed her image to be of a hardworking government officer, who chose to work in a remote area of Humla in Nepal, unlike others. Even though the village office has a clock that says it’s open from 10 to 5, Lama works around the clock to help the people there.

Lama had a tough childhood as she grew up when the civil war in Nepal at brewing. Her dad got arrested, and her family faced many problems–from threats to her mother and grandmother to depriving them of basic needs. But after the war stopped, her dad came home, and that’s when she started dreaming big.

Lama first wanted to be a teacher, then got interested in journalism, and finally became a government worker. Her job is not easy given she chose to work in a place with no proper roads or electricity. 

Initially, she had to put extra effort into working in a conducive environment, but now she loves every bit of her work. In her job, she focuses mostly on health issues, holds conducive talks with the local leaders, and tries to improve the lives of farmers. 

Goma Kunwar – Entrepreneur

Goma Kunwar

There was a time when many ridiculed Goma Kunwar for opening a vehicle workshop. Eleven years later, people tip their hats to Kunwar for persevering in an industry dominated by men. Yam Motor Parts, her workshop in Burtibang in Baglung, has been with her in both her good and bad times. It has given her strength during her dark days and shown her how great life can be during her good days. 

The workshop was set up in memory of her husband who died in Afghanistan and is one of few women who work in the trade. Some continue to ridicule her and ask her why she is in the business. But Goma does not care. All she cares about is carrying on this business which has given her a stable income. 

While some ridicule her, others applaud her bravery and resilience. Through the workshop, she has also been providing employment opportunities to four mechanics and pays them well. In the trade for nearly a decade, Kunwar is now hailed as an expert. The number of cars and buses that line up outside her workshop is a testament to that.

Niranti Tumbapo – Indigenous rights activist

Niranti Tumbapo

For much of the past few years, Niranti Tumbapo has been frequenting Biratnagar, a city that she did not like growing up. That is slowly changing as the city has grown on her thanks to the many protests she’s been part of in the city. 

Tumbapo is the general secretary of the Kirat Yakthum Chumlung. Ever since the government cut down public holidays dedicated to the indigenous people and after Province 1 was named Koshi, Tumbapo and others like her have been calling for changes as it undermined the struggles of their ancestors who have been native to the land for centuries. 

Tumbapo was seen at the forefront of this identity movement that went on in the province for a year. She has proved herself to be a rebel and is a great orator. Currently, she is deeply committed to ensuring the success of the identity movement that has gained momentum in rural areas. However, this is far from straightforward. While the movement commands a strong presence on the streets, its voice within the legislative chambers remains subdued. 

Nevertheless, there is optimism that even if the current parliament fails to adequately address the concerns of the movement, future parliamentary sessions may offer opportunities for progress. Despite the challenges, there remains hope that the movement’s aspirations will eventually be acknowledged and addressed, potentially paving the way for meaningful change.

Anuradha – Author


Everybody loves to listen to stories as they have the ability to transform people’s lives. Anuradha, through her stories, has been able to do just that. A children’s book writer, Anuradha, through her writings, has made Nepal proud. 

This is all thanks to her picture book, The Story of Babur: Prince, Emperor, Sage published by international publishing house Scala Arts and Heritage, which has been printed in English, French, Uzbek, Russian, German, Chinese and other languages. The book was so successful, that a braille edition has also been published.

She has written around 40 books so far dedicated to children. She never thought she would be a published writer as she mostly wrote for herself and not for anyone else. But with push and encouragement, Anuradha published her first book and has not looked back.

Sonika Manandhar – Social Entrepreneur 

Sonika Manandhar

When Sonika Manandhar said she was going back to Nepal after working in the Silicon Valley, many called it her stupidest decision. But she has proved everyone wrong as the same people applaud her decision calling it the best she’s ever made.

Manandhar is a computer engineer who transitioned into an impact entrepreneur. Using her learnings working for various companies in the US, Manandhar has designed tools to bridge the financing gap for microentrepreneurs, particularly women in Nepal.

Manandhar is the founder of Aloi, a fintech company which has won many awards from organizations such as the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and Welthungerhilfe. 

She was also named a Young Champions of the Earth 2019 by the United Nations Environment Programme and an Emerging Explorer by the National Geographic Society.

Goma Karki – Innovator

Goma Karki

The Ministry of Home Affairs’ BIPAD portal is undertaking significant efforts to collect information about disasters and risk reduction at the grassroots level throughout the nation. There has been substantial involvement of youth in the management of this information. At the forefront of this initiative is Goma Karki, whose dedication and leadership have been instrumental in driving this important work forward.

Through the collaborative efforts of individuals like Karki and the active participation of youth, the BIPAD portal is playing an important role in enhancing disaster preparedness and response capabilities across the country.

Karki has worked with over 65 municipalities in Madhesh, Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces for disaster risk reduction. This has not only earned her plaudits in Nepal but has been nominated for an international award as well.

Karki currently serves as the head of the ‘Nepali Youth in Climate Action Green Growth Project,’ which is affiliated with the Youth in Innovation Lab. Through this initiative, she has played a major role in offering technical support for collecting data aimed at disaster risk reduction. Her leadership and expertise have been instrumental in driving forward this vital project, which holds significant promise for enhancing disaster preparedness and resilience in these regions.

Pushpa Chaudhary – Journalist

Pushpa Chaudhary

Journalist Pushpa Chaudhary runs Nepal’s first community radio operating in the Tharu language, Gurubaba FM in Bardiya. Working as a journalist for over two decades, Chaudhary has played a unique role in the economic, social, and cultural transformation of the Tharu community. She actively advocates for the welfare of freed Kamlari and is engaged in the campaigns to empower women. She has also played an important role in the male-dominated community to bring change and empower women.

In the Tharu community, the Badghar tradition holds a position of paramount importance, akin to the law itself. Each year, during the festival of Maghi, a new Badghar is selected. The Badghar plays a crucial role in upholding social, cultural, and economic cohesion within the community. Traditionally, this role has been fulfilled by men, but a notable shift has occurred, with women now also assuming the mantle of Badghar.

Chaudhary has been the major catalyst for this change advocating for and encouraging women to take the role of Badghar. Her efforts have been key in reshaping the community and preserving its rich cultural heritage. Her contributions have not only empowered women but have also strengthened the fabric of Tharu society, fostering greater inclusivity and diversity in its governance structures.

Not only that, she is also involved in a campaign to document the language, culture and traditions of the Tharu community. She aims to operate a museum on the language, culture and traditions of the Tharu community for future generations.

Pradasani Kumari- Civil servant  

Pradasani Kumari

Pradasani Kumari, an under-secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, is the first female Chief District Officer from Madhesh Province. Growing up, Kumari wanted to become a doctor. However financial constraints meant she had to give up on the dream. Her father, however, pushed her to get into civil service. 

The push was enough for her to start preparing as she was selected as a section officer, the first from her community. Her first posting was in the Ministry of Home Affairs. At the Home Ministry, she worked for the Border and Immigration Administration Section. After working there for a year, her next posting was in the Drug Control Section. 

Currently, Pradasani is leading the Citizenship and NID Management Section. Pradasani, who is waiting for the result of the joint secretary, believes that joining the civil service enhanced her understanding of society. She wants to continue pushing herself as she wants to prove that women, if given the chance, can excel at the administrative level.

Khairun Nisa Syed – Muslim rights activist

Khairun Nisa Syed

Khairun Nisa Syed has proved to be a formidable force against societal injustices, particularly those faced by women, in her community. Khairun’s impact extends beyond breaking taboos; she is now recognised as a Muslim rights activist.

Born and active in Surkhet, Syed had faced challenging entrenched religious superstitions and gender discrimination, Khairun embarked on a transformative journey that began with self-initiated social awakening.

Her fearless campaign for reform within the Muslim community, bound by strict adherence to Sharia law, faced staunch opposition. In 2008, Khairun received an award for her commendable societal contributions, leading to backlash for publicly discussing family planning within the Muslim community. Undeterred, she faced a challenging confrontation in a mosque, Nepali Sunni Masjid Gulsane Madine, Education Center, refusing to apologise and demanding to be shot instead.
She has not only spoken out against injustices but has actively contributed to education by leading adult literacy initiatives. Khairun’s efforts empower individuals to voice their opinions and stand up for their rights.

Kunjani Pariyar (Pyasi) – Lawyer/Activist

Kunjani Pariyar

Kunjani Pariyar became a lawyer out of frustration after being denied citizenship through her mother’s name. She understood how important it was to fight for the rights of women like her and those underprivileged.

There have been several incidents that have deeply influenced her. The mistreatment of a Dalit ward member in Pokhara was one that filled her with anger. Another incident that frustrated her with society was the lynching of Narawaj BK and others.

She was raised by a mother who was a singer, and from an early age, Pariyar understood the importance of hard work. Despite her initial aspiration to become a nurse, fate had other plans for her. She fought for herself first and got citizenship solely through her mother’s name. Now, she fights for injustice and discrimination against others like her.

Sushila Chaudhary- Lawyer/Activist  

Advocate and activist Sushila Chaudhary, who lost her brother and a sister during the Maoist insurgency, knows what war is and how it can tear families apart. This is why she has been actively involved in calling the government for changes in laws related to victims of the decade-long people’s war. 

For the past 15 years, she has been an advocate for the victims of insurgency. Following Nepal’s transition to democracy in 2006, while the country embraced democratic reforms, justice eluded the family members of war victims. Demanding change, Chaudhary and others have been organising protests, demanding accountability and justice from those in power. Many individuals who were involved in the insurgency remain missing, prompting ongoing calls for thorough investigations by their families.

Srijana Sizzu – Traveller

Even though Srijana Sizzu loves travelling through Nepal and the world, her heart is well set around the hills and valleys of Karnali Provice. A solo traveller and a content creator, Sizzu, through her videos, has vigorously promoted destinations in Karnali.

The places she visits are raw and untouched. These places are not found on a website or YouTube. Only a few know about it and Sizzu through her videos is out to show it to Nepal and the world. She says she has been to over 150 places but it is safe to say, her heart lies in Karnali.

As a woman solo traveller, she has encountered challenges and faced scrutiny regarding her life choices and decision to travel alone. Despite these obstacles, she persists with a smile on her face, resolute in her belief that travelling, learning, and exploring are integral to understanding life. She remains undeterred, embracing each journey as an opportunity for personal growth and discovery, defying societal norms and stereotypes along the way.

Dr Shobha Poudel – Researcher

As a child, all Shobha Poudel wanted to do was study. And she was able to pursue that dream thanks to her mother’s support. Fast forward to the present, Shobha Poudel has become a prominent figure in the fields of climate change and food security, establishing herself as an agricultural scientist. Her professional responsibilities include carefully recording the facts and figures necessary for comprehensive studies and data analysis. Additionally, she dedicates her focus to studying and researching topics related to agricultural economy, contributing valuable insights to the field.

She is also the recipient of the Marie Curie (Madame Curie) Fellowship awarded to her by the European Union (EU). Now living in Milan, Italy, Poudel is researching how farmers in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka have benefited from climate-friendly farming techniques. She has been awarded this fellowship to research the social and economic relevance of climate-friendly farming techniques in South Asia.

She believes her research will help researchers like her in the future and is calling on governments in developing countries like Nepal to opt for technology which is gender friendly.

Awani Mainali Bhattarai – Lawyer and judge

Abani Mainali Bhattarai is an experienced judge in Nepal who has made a big impact. In one year, she decided on 660 cases in two district courts–Chitwan and Kaski, which is a lot compared to other judges. She’s been a judge for eight years, has experience working in five districts, and is currently active in Makwanpur.

Before becoming a judge, Bhattarai faced many challenges in her personal life, struggling to get back to the workplace after marriage and pregnancy. But she decided to study law later on with younger classmates. Meanwhile, she passed her public service exams, worked in government organisations and became a deputy secretary before becoming a judge.

Bhattarai believes in being fair and neutral in her job. Her work shows her dedication to justice and making a positive change in Nepal’s legal system. She’s known for handling cases of gender violence well, where survivors feel comfortable talking to her in the courtroom. 

In the legal world where women are still not well-represented, many question if females are even judges. Bhattarai is one of the few female district judges. In fact, in 2015, she was the only female district judge in the country. Currently, out of 263 district judges, there are only 18 female judges.

Jhuma Limbu – Musician 

Jhuma Limbu is a remarkable figure in Nepali music. She didn’t just sing, she created her musical instrument called Dhela from a (khamer) tree during a lockdown, and other animal skins too. But Limbu didn’t stick to the usual way of singing about women in songs. She wanted to change that and encouraged women to sing for themselves, expressing their thoughts and feelings.

Using the instruments, she created her own music and showed that music can be powerful and express a range of emotions, not just soft tunes. With her work, she is also contributing to preserving culture–including different touches of communities like Sunuwar, Tharu, Deuda, and Karnali–and innovating new tastes in music. She also explored her cultural roots, delving into Limbu tribal music and reviving the Samsogha Mundhum genre, which is sung continuously for several days.

And beyond the local boundaries, she didn’t only focus on Nepali music. Limbu also collaborated with musicians from around the world, connecting Nepali music with global influences, refining the craft and its presentation.

Radhika Khatiwada – Lawyer

Radhika Khatiwada has been practising law for the last ten years.  During her college days, she got into student politics. In 2006 she was elected as a member of the Free Student Union of Mahendra Ratna Campus, Kathmandu.  

As a student leader, she used to speak out against the misconduct that occurred in college. As a result, many of her demands were also addressed. This experience inspired her to study law and later become an advocate. In the legal system, she encountered numerous injustices, particularly the plight of financially disadvantaged service seekers who could not afford legal representatives.

Witnessing the challenges individuals face in accessing justice without the means to hire a lawyer, she decided to offer assistance to those in need. In her efforts, she developed her own policy: Khatiwada charges fees only to those who can afford to pay. For those who cannot, her services are provided voluntarily.

Tulsi Shahi – Staff nurse / Medical personnel

Tulsi Shahi is a 29-year-old nurse who dedicated her life to the people in the remote village of Pulu in Mugu. She started working there in 2019 in a local health post, which was in a bad state at that time. 

The road reaching Pulu was tough due to risky roads and bad weather. When she first got there, the villagers were not very aware of the importance of basic hygiene, and health checkups and, hence, did not visit the health centre. They would rather visit the local shamans in times of need.

So, Shahi faced the challenge starting from there–and others being organising gatherings, giving advice or counselling, and even providing meals as a lure to get their attention. Now, Shahi is not just a health worker; the villagers call her an incarnation of God because of the love, service and care she has imparted.

Shahi, while working, does not just stop at her regular responsibilities. She also helped people understand things like contraception and women’s health. Her efforts have reduced childbirth-related problems, home births and risks related to it, and encouraged people to stay healthy.

She faced many problems in her own life–having a difficult childhood and also tackling the challenges of being a single mom to her son. The work and her story are as inspirational.

Sarita Sah – Actor

Sarita Sah’s life revolves around acting. Growing up in Madhesh Provice, she remembers having to pay a certain fee to go watch films at her neighbour’s house on a Saturday. But her love for acting grew deep when she became involved in radio skits.

This paved the way for her to venture into theatre, where she found herself standing in front of over 100 people at Shilpee Theatre. Acting in a play that shed light on gender-based violence, Sah realised the significant role such productions could play in society. This understanding motivated her to participate in productions that address issues of women’s rights, discrimination, and citizenship.

With over a decade of experience in the film and acting industry, Sah is a multifaceted talent, involved in acting, writing, and directing. She has worked on feature films, short films, and advertisements, showcasing her versatility and skill.

Currently, through her foundation, Sah is raising awareness about socioeconomic, political, and gender issues using storytelling tools, techniques, and media platforms. Her commitment to addressing these pressing issues through her creative work demonstrates her passion for social change and advocacy.

Dr Sushila Maharjan – Researcher/Biochemist

A decade ago, Sushila Maharjan went to South Korea to pursue a PhD in biochemistry. While studying and conducting research there, she realised that similar research opportunities could also be pursued in Nepal.

After completing her PhD, she returned to Nepal and set up a research centre together with her husband. The Research Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology which was opened by Maharjan and eight other friends, has been researching bacteria ever since.

She believes chemistry is the core of all life and her career and has dedicated her life to researching it. Through the institute, she has researched around 200 bacteria found in Nepal’s mountains, hills, and plains. Research which focused on identifying antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs also earned her and her team an international award. It was remarkable how the institute which started in a small room in Kathmandu managed to win an award in a few years.

Now, Mahajan aims to do research according to Nepal’s sociobiological and demographic needs. However, currently, Maharjan is involved in researching the study of artificial cells capable of functioning as human organs. This research aims to revive human organs that are unable to function properly. The method, known as tissue engineering, involves techniques similar to the maintenance of human organs. By advancing this technology, it may become possible to restore the function of non-working organs and improve the overall health and well-being of individuals in need.

Sharmila Kumari Ram – Local representative 

In the Madhesh province, there is a feeling of resentment among the citizens towards the people’s representatives. But there is an exception and that is Sharmila Kumari Ram (34) because of her good work, trying to make life better for everyone. Working in Barahathawa municipality-10, in Sarlahi, she is the only Dalit ward chair there.

Even though she has the conventional obligation at home as a daughter-in-law, she has also worked hard outside as a leader, always ready to help when they need it.

Among the local representatives, she has been perceived as the one who uses the money wisely for the ward, prioritising education, and health, and making the ward better with better physical infrastructures. During the epidemic, she also conducted a relief campaign for the poor families who were in the grip of starvation. She has given more and has even used her salary to teach underprivileged kids who can’t afford it, distributing bags and stationeries to 800 children. Next, she plans to start teaching in English medium.

Sharmila Kumari Ram takes her father, who was politically active too, as the inspiration to do good for others. And even though he’s not around anymore, she’s carrying on his dream. 

However, she believes that people in the community still face challenges in the social construct and the narrow mindset towards women, especially the Dalit community. She believes there is a lot to work on and is planning to run again as the ward president in the next election.

Sunita Chaudhary – Ecosystem services specialist

Sunita Chaudhary is the first female from the Tharu community to complete a PhD. After completing her PhD from Macquarie University, Australia, Chaudhary has been actively working in the field of water conservation and the ecological system in the Himalayas.

Chaudhary is a member of the National Council for Environmental Protection and Climate Change Management. Currently, she decides the agenda to be presented on behalf of Nepal in international forums. Similarly, she is also an ecosystem services specialist, at ICIMOD.  She is a researcher, studying issues affecting indigenous communities and climate change in the Himalayan region of Nepal.

Oceans and islands are always on the agenda at climate and environmental conferences like COP. But the issues of the Himalayan region are not well. Chaudhary has been constantly raising her voice about it. She believes that Nepal has not been able to hold discussions about the climate issue in the country where the world’s top officials participate. 

Laxmi Ghimire- Province Assembly Member

Laxmi Ghimire was just 16 years old when she had an unfortunate incident in Ramechhap. She was gathering fodders when she fell from a hill and injured her spinal cord. After that life has never been the same for her. She is paralysed from the waist down and needs a wheelchair. However, she never lost hope and with the support from her parents, she educated herself and made her life meaningful.

The place she has reached now has given her life satisfaction because she has been able to raise the voices of people. Now, 30-year-old Ghimire is an Assembly member of the Bagmati Province.

Ghimire, who became a proportional member of parliament from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) in the election of November 4, 2022, has been participating meaningfully in the state assembly. She raised her voice in parliament to make the state assembly building disabled-friendly. As a result, a wheelchair-rolling structure was built for the disabled.

Ghimire, who first began her journey to the state assembly by creating a structure, expressed interest in the services and rights of the disabled on the bill to amend the Public Health Services Act, of 2018. Before that, she used to be a sportsperson who played sports like basketball, cricket and powerlifting. She even participated in the Powerlifting World Cup in 2018. 

Ghimire, who went through a difficult journey after becoming disabled, is still worried about the change in society’s view of people with disabilities. She believes that politics is the last option for this concern and is willing to work in this field. 

Srijana Karki – Human rights activist

Srijana Karki is a 49-year-old woman from Charikot, the headquarters of Dolakha, Nepal. She is considered a mother of over 1,500 people that she has taken responsibility for, in over a decade of her service. 

Born in Tamakosi rural municipality-2 Jhule in an ordinary farming family, she grew up in a society that restricted women from getting an education and work. Despite limited formal education, she became a dedicated helper for those in need and was rejected by society. In 2012, she started a group called ‘Awaz Nepal’ to formally assist people of all ages, including women, kids, and elderly people, making sure they get justice and any legal help they might need as well. She also cares for girls who have survived rape (attempts) and shelters about 30 women, kids and homeless people currently.

Despite facing criticism, Srijana is in no mindset to stop helping those who need it. Her love and care have been recognised and she has various awards, including the Gauradevi Oli Memorial National Ideal Mother Award (2016) and N-Peace Awards (2017).

Witnessing many incidents of human rights violations, violence against women and violence against children in Dolakha, she continues to be a strong voice for the helpless.

 Nirkala Sharma- Social worker 


Nirakala Sharma, 91, who is supposed to be living a retired life is still active and serving elderly people in her old age home Aashaya Briddha Kalyan Samaj, Chitwan. Sharma, a wheelchair user,  has been taking care of 13 people in the old age home and is known as the Mother Teresa of Chitwan. 

In 2005, in addition to her pension and salary, she collected funds from donors. With this money, she purchased a piece of land spanning 21,870 square feet. The ashram contains a temple within its premises. Currently, there are two helpers and one employee working at the site. Sharma has been residing in the ashram for the past 12 years.

Presently, the ashram is sustained through the support of donors. In addition to offering food and shelter, it also provides medical treatment to its residents.

Sharma is the first secondary teacher of Chitwan. In 1969 she was appointed as the English teacher at Nepal Secondary School.  At that time Chitwan had only a few schools and all the teachers were male. 

Sharmila BC – Counsellor

When Sharmila BC was in her mid-teens, she was already advocating against child marriage, violence against women, and child trafficking. Little did she know later she would become a psychotherapist and a counsellor. From a young age, she actively participated in children’s clubs in Surkhet, where she engaged in street plays addressing various social issues such as women’s violence, domestic violence, trafficking, and child marriage. Despite initially not knowing about the profession of psychotherapy, she became involved in providing support and information to survivors of domestic violence and children in need through her work with the Awaz Theatre group and Awaz Sanstha in Birendranagar.

To date, BC has travelled extensively around the Karnali region. Her efforts have been instrumental in providing psychosocial counselling, suicide prevention, stress management, and promoting positive thinking to people of all ages, particularly children.

Additionally, she has played a crucial role in rescuing cases related to gender-based violence (GBV) and identifying and supporting child survivors within the district. BC’s commendable work has garnered recognition from the municipalities in the district.

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