Stories of Diversity and Resilience of Nepali Women Amid the Pandemic
International Women’s Day this year was dedicated to the efforts of women and girls in shaping an equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
We caught up with 23 women from different walks of life—frontline health worker, teacher, pilot, sanitation worker, artists, and many more— to capture the incredible diversity and resiliency of the Nepali women, their stories of everyday struggle and overcoming adversity set in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected them.
Their individual journeys collectively reflect the challenges faced by Nepali women and the leadership that these women take in their own lives. They are role models for their tenacity and strength in working towards a gender equal world and working towards a better future.
Here are their stories of inspiration.
Rising Above Adversity: Sima Kumari Chettri, mayor of Putalibazar Municipality, Syangja, is leading local level efforts to protect lives and build an inclusive and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.
Hope on a Plate: Sunu Chaudhary faced a serious setback when she had to shutter her restaurant during the lockdown. Not willing to give up, she persevered and business is now picking up and she is hopeful about the future.
The Olympics in her sight: Taking on fitness challenges was one of the ways Pancha Maya Tamang, a sports climber, took on the pandemic. She now has the 2024 Olympics in her sight.
In the Driving Seat: Deepa Budathoki is in the driving seat as a ‘safa tempo’ driver in Kathmandu taking on the lion’s share of her family's responsibilities. The COVID-19 lockdown brought a pause but now she is pushing forward to rebuild from the pandemic.
Making a Stand: As daily wage earners, Uma Bista and her husband were left without work after the lockdown. Hardship also gave her the opportunity to make a fresh start by selling vegetables in the gullies of Patan.
The Muse in Music: For Adishree Dhungana, music has been a key driving force. A low point was when she and her mum were infected by COVID-19 but therein she found a new inspiration to pursue making her own music.
Finding Her Calling: Rejina Tamang found her calling with the 2018 Solo Woman Travel Challenge and is now a professional trekking guide. While COVID-19 deeply impacted tourism, it has not dampened her spirits to continue exploring.
Strength, In & Out of the Ring: Hema Rai has been a boxer for two years now and the sport has taught her, amongst many things, the art of focus - on her craft and away from the online trolling she was subjected to. Kudos to Hema for her wins.
Eye in the Sky: Captain Priya Adhikari is the only woman in a male-dominated profession of rescue helicopter pilots in Nepal. While that also comes with mixed reactions from her passengers ranging from awe to hesitation, Captain Adhikari is focused on the responsibility on her shoulders.
Leading by Example: Reena Nepali is the elected representative for ward no. 21 in Kathmandu Metropolitan City. From the early stages of the lockdown, she led relief efforts to ensure residents of her ward received adequate masks, sanitizers & food packages.
In the Frontline: Ganga Humagain, Associate Nursing Controller at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital considers the pandemic as one of her biggest challenges. The staff quarters was her home for 10 months during the lockdown, away from family.
Teaching as a future: Uzma Khan is a teacher at the Madrasa Islamiya School in Kathmandu. When the COVID19 lockdown was enforced, her students faced a big learning gap without access to remote learning. With the school now open, she is happy to have them back.
The Everest Summiteer: Everest summiteer, Nisha Bhote grew up listening to travel stories in her family. She had wondered why women did not feature in many of these. Today, she is trying to rewrite the future.
Holding on to Hope: Tahira Banu has been selling beaded necklaces and bangles around Patan Durbar Square for the past 20 years. The COVID-19 lockdown badly hit sales. Though business is still low, & the future seems uncertain, she is holding on to hope.
Power of Perseverance: Dr. Tulmaya Gurung, a general surgeon, ensured people receive required medical services during the lockdown. She understands the constraints in her profession but that has not stopped her from reaching her goal.
Against the Odds: Jima Chaudhary was blind at birth. Through her work as a trained massage therapist she is building her financial independence and strength. Having undergone one of the harshest times during the lockdown, Jima is getting back on her feet.
Between the Plateau and Plains: Dikki Doka is from Nyenol, a remote village in upper Mustang. A farmer during summer and trader during winter, Dikki is hoping for better times from the pandemic and lockdown that put her to the test.
Upholding a Legacy: At 60, Chet Kumari Chitrakar is continuing a tradition passed on from generations in religious art. Though COVID-19 and technology have posed their own challenges, she hopes the younger generation will give continuity to this artform.
The Director’s Cut: Kusum Kalikote wears several hats when it comes to creative arts. The lockdown deeply impacted her work but it also helped her nurture her passion in writing and film-making.
Dedication to Service: Kanchi Deula, a sanitation worker in Lalitpur Municipality, learnt important safety measures to protect herself and her family from COVID-19 during the lockdown. As she continues to keep Kathmandu’s streets clean, her experience is helping her stay safe.
Passion and a Purpose: Shobha Maya BK is a woman with a purpose. Faced with physical challenges and discrimination in the past, she is driven by the will to succeed, both in her education and career, which she is channeling to work for a disability-inclusive society.
Breaking Barriers: For Samaira Shrestha, her family has been her pillar of strength, open to knowing and understanding her as a transwoman. Today, she actively lends her voice and action to promote the rights of LGBTQI people.
Inspiring Students in STEM: As a woman in STEM, Dr Dovan Rai is helping children learn and appreciate IT from an early age. During the lockdown, she continued her engagements online and is pursuing more research to inform new learning activities for students.