As women’s week is being celebrated all around the world, I started to gather my thoughts. I have come across so many incredible women in my life who transcend the distinctions created by gender. I feel it is important to tell their stories to the world so that everyone, not just women, can be an audience to the level of dedication, perseverance and vision that can bring the unfathomable to light.
Dr. Jane Goodall
Dr. Jane Goodall is the world-renowned primatologist who changed the way human beings were described. She discovered that chimpanzees make tools and use the same for various purposes as fishing for termites. Before her revelation, only human beings were considered to be ultimate tool-makers.
Her tireless work for the chimpanzees and conservation of our natural world has inspired me ever since I was a teenager. As messenger of peace (United Nations) she travels around the world spreading the importance of conservation and animals along with the linkage of humans with their surrounding.
I got a chance to meet her for the first time couple of years back when she came to Nepal to attend a programme organised by the Jane Goodall Institute in Kathmandu.
When she started her journey, she was in her twenties with no background in conservation or science. But since then, her strong-headed nature, positive outlook and never-tiring vision has changed the world for chimpanzees and the field of conservation forever.
Personally she is funny, insightful and hopeful. Her inspirational speeches and messages to the world still keeps the hope alive.
Dr. Vandana Shiva
A number of years back, USAID brought forward the concept of food security through a company called Monsanto.
Monsanto’s work is not new to many people but for those who are unaware of the same, Monsanto is notoriously famous for its (Genetically Modified Organisms) GMO-based Agro products ranging from seeds to fertilizer.
While we are still learning about the effects of genetically modified crops, there is a growing concern over its lingering outcome. Monsanto is one of several such companies holding huge shares in companies that research on the issue, and the results have been contradictory results.
Activists in Nepal didn’t let Monsanto take over the market. However, in our neighboring country India, a series of suicides by farmers turned the general concern into a growing fear.
In such times, Dr. Vandana Shiva emerged as the initiator of a movement that strives to safeguard the rights of farmers and conservation of indigenous seeds. Her center for studies of local agriculture practices and seed banking called Navdanya. It brings such issues to attention and provides an environment to conduct projects and gather as much information as available.
During her last visit to Kathmandu to attend a programme conducted by Social Science Baha, she gave an impressive talk on the dire need of awareness and understanding of the importance of indigenous seeds and safeguarding of the rights of farmers. Her flawless delivery and intelligent arguments took everybody in that room with awe. She is indeed an epitome of elegance and strength.
Sapana Pradhan Malla
I have worked as freelance reporter at FWLD (Forum for Women, Law and Development), a non profit working for the preservation and facilitation of rights of women and advocate to eradicate and challenge any form of discrimination against them.
At FWLD, I got the opportunity to work under the supervision of Sapana Pradhan Malla. I am still taken aback by her strong personality and think of her utmost appreciation and respect. She has brought forward the issues related to women and taken them to the next level through legislation after being appointed Member of Parliament.
The issues of domestic violence, protection of rights of third gender community and citizenship through mother’s lineage are some of the burning issues highlighted by FWLD under her supervision. It is women like her who open portals for others to be the agents of change through the system itself. I have always made sure that whenever I greet her, I do it with deep respect and thorough acknowledgement for the person she is.
Ama, my great grandmother, was the matriarch of our household although not by choice. After losing her husband, one of her sons (my grandfather) and a daughter, she could have easily turned into a depressed soul. However, my first memories and my last ones of her does not encompass anything weak or fragile.
She was a powerhouse: belting out swear words and strong-will with equal determination. She demanded full respect from everyone who met her and took charge of her home, her fields and her fish ponds with such authority that as long as she lived not a single person challenged her judgement.
Imagine a widow in a strictly feudal set up along the plains of Terai taking over her husband without any education or experience! She became so strong and successful that even today long after her death, her name is taken with respect and love by everyone who knew her.
In my heart,I remember the sound of her rubber soles, her big heavy powered glasses that made her eyes seem huge, her bottle of chawanprash that we secretly stole from, her voice that sent shivers down the spine of people who had wronged anyone else and her flow of swear words that tutored me to learn the first of such words.
Her white saree, her wrinkly smile, her grey head and her notorious laughter makes her one woman I always strive to be like. Even today whenever any one of us, from her side of the family, becomes angry or impulsive or speak our mind fearlessly, we look at each other and say “Lalkumari ko ta ragat.”