being able to speak to reach out to the people is the first success of her life
“I would give justice to those who have been suppressed, exploited and discriminated, would educate people and make easy access of food, clothing, shelter and employment for the people and would build a community where people would equally respect both gender socially and politically” she replied when I questioned in our interview on telephone- “what would be the first 3 priorities if you would be given the power to change the world?”
Srijana Karki, 36, is living in Nepal, and is one of, six children. She is single. However, single is not the word that people use in her community, rather they label her “unmarried,” and show her pity and negativity. However, Karki is proud of her achievements and for the work she has done throughout her life.. Her work has given her recognition in all the 75 districts in Nepal, as the organization she is involved in has branches in 72 districts but they reach out to all the districts. When people rely on her expertise while in Dolakha to work with and for women, it makes her feel respected and honored.
It has been almost 10 years since she began working to stop violence against women and for women’s rights. Currently she is involved with the District Alliance Woman Human Rights Defender in Dolakha. She, through the organization, holds training for women’s awareness, discussion programs with the stake holders and takes the domestic and political violence and women’s issues at the national and international level through her organization so that it can be seriously discussed and solved. She is also a member of Ambassadors for Change and also was recognized by the renowned organization, Oxfam International. Oxfam chose Karki to be one of the representatives from Nepal to Bangladesh in a program that recognized efforts in raising awareness for women’s rights. It was a great chance for her to call attention to women’s issues, and she also learned about the challenges facing women in countries outside of Nepal. She is also involved in politics. She used to work as a social mobilizer under the District Development Committee before, but her voice wasn’t heard when she talked about the real issues of the community. So, she felt one needs power to be heard and problems to be solved. Then she joined politics so that she could take women’s issues to the national level.
She was 18 years old when she joined school and she thanks her brother who was the only literate member in her family then, for letting her to go school at the time when sending girls to school was taboo. She only knew basic Nepali alphabets, but she got admission directly into class 4 because of her age. With her commitment to study, she topped the class in the next year but her journey of study was only up to class 10. Conservative beliefs and low economic status was the reason she had to leave her study.
With a great sigh, she talked to me about her inspiration to work for women’s rights - which was inspired by a terrible incident that she saw while in class 6. The memory is still so fresh in her mind, and her voice started trembling as she began telling me the story-"there was a woman in our village whose husband has gone abroad for work. And at that time woman were prohibited to plough land with the hoe, so she asked her neighbor man for help. But people blamed her of being unfaithful to her husband and being involved in bad relation with that man even though she was innocent. And one day all the villagers gathered and completely stripped the woman off her clothes and beat her." Karki, was full of tears and helpless at that time. Right at that moment she decided to one day fight against discrimination and for the justice of all women.
She believes that being able to speak to reach out to the people is the first success of her life. She has helped many though it’s hard to tell the number of people she helped but she tells with pride-“few months ago a woman from neighboring village came to me and thanked me for opening her eyes with the knowledge of woman rights and building confidence to speak against violence and injustice and at that moment I felt great happiness inside me”, I could feel happiness in her voice when she was telling me the story and she again tells me-“This is what keeps on making me inspired to work more and more for women”
Except some, people appreciate, support and encourage her for her work. Her work has built confidence in her and it has made her more thoughtful and honest towards her work. But sometimes she feels discouraged because some people judge her by her gender and her marital status and tell her that one who is unmarried has no rights to speak on other’s family issues. “I have the same womanhood & love as others though I am single” is her answer to them. She even faced threats to her own personal safety by some people who labeled her a feminist who was destroying the traditional family. However, she never allowed this harassment to stop her work. She did overcome these obstacles and is proud for speaking in support of sufferers.
Though there are barriers, she aims to start a revolution against women’s violence but at the same time she wants to use non-violent techniques. She believes violence cannot stop violence.
While she was telling me that reading books is her hobby, I reopened my past memories of her- a strong and confident lady delivering powerful speeches among the masses with determination to create change. And as she smiled charismatically, I could see her as a strong change maker.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.