Worldwide, March is recognized as Women’s History Month. At Women LEAD, we’re celebrating seven women who have overcome incredible obstacles to make history in Nepal.
1. Puspa Basnet
Puspa Basnet is the Founder and President of the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) and the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year. Unlike in other Western countries, many children in Nepal are often forced to live with their parents if they are incarcerated. Basnet’s organization works directly with these children, providing a daycare program for children under 6 and a children’s home where dozens of kids have a chance to live a more normal life. Today, her organization has assisted more than a hundred children of incarcerated parents.
2. Pasang Lhamu Sherpa
Pasang Lhamu Sherpa was the first Nepali woman—and only the second in the world—to scale Mt. Everest. During her lifetime, Sherpa accomplished many feats, including climbing Mount Pisang and Yala Peak in Nepal and Mt. Blank in France. Her biggest dream, however, was to scale the highest peak in the work in her home country. She attempted to scale Mt. Everest three times before she finally reached the top on her fourth attempt. Unfortunately, due to harsh weather conditions, Sherpa lost her life during the descent. Today, Sherpa is regarded as a national hero and her legacy lives on through the Pasang Lhamu Mountaineering Foundation, a nonprofit that works to protect the rights of women and children living Nepal’s high mountain and hilly areas.
3. Mira Rai
Mira Rai is an internationally-renowned runner. Rai grew up in a rural village where there was no electricity or water. At the age of ten, she began working as a porter, carrying heavy sacks of rice up hills for a few rupees. At the height of Nepal’s Civil war—and at the tender age of 14—Rai joined the Maoist rebels. She was captivated by the Guerilla’s promise to treat both women and men equally and looked up to the female combatants. Rai was too young to fight at the time, but she did train with the rebels. That training, she says, has helped her as she has gone on to become a star athlete. In her first year as a professional athlete, she has won 10 races, including the internationally competitive Asia Skyrunning 50K Championship in Hong Kong and the international ultra-marathon in France. Today, Rai plans on using her fame to inspire more women and girls to follow their dreams.
4. Bidya Devi Bhandari
Bidya Devi Bhandari was elected the second president of Nepal in late 2015. She is also the first woman to hold the office. Bhandari has more than 30 years of experience as a politician, serving as a member of parliament throughout her life and as the defense minister 2009 to 2011. As president, Bhandari has promised to champion the rights of women and girls. She has led the All Nepal Women Association for the last two decades and is also responsible for organizing the upcoming Girl Summit, which aims to end child marriage in Nepal by 2030.
5. Phupu Lhamu Khatri
Also known as Judoka Khatri, 21-year-old Phupu Lhamu Khatri received Nepal’s second Gold Medal in female judo in the 2016 South Asian Games, defeating challengers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. It is Nepal’s first Gold Medal in judo since 1995. After the South Asian Games, Khatri went on to win another Gold Medal in the Open Junior Judo Championship held in Budapest, Hungary. She is currently preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
6. Sushila Karki
The Honorable Sushila Karki is currently the first and only female Chief Justice in the Supreme Court of Nepal. Karki is most known for her “zero-tolerance policy” against corruption, and helped convict sitting Minister for Information and Communications JP Gupta on the issue. She has been heavily involved with a number of social justice organizations, including the Human Rights Organisation, Amnesty International Nepal, and Nepal Red Cross Society. She is also the Vice President of Young Buddhist Association. Karki is also the author of the 2011 paper, “Gender Equality and Justice in Nepal: A Bird’s Eye View”, for which she won an award.
7. Jhamak Ghimire
Jhamak Ghimire is a Nepali writer and a columnist for the Nepali newspaper, Kantipur. Ghimire was born with cerebral palsy and as a young child could neither speak, use her hands, or even sit comfortably. She later overcame this challenge, teaching herself to write with her left foot. To date, Ghimere has won nine awards for her work. Her autobiography, “Jeevan Kaada ki Phool” (“Is Life a Thorn or a Flower?”) won her the Madan Puraskar in 2010, the most prestigious literary award in Nepal.