Nirmala Devi Tharu Chaudhary - Nepal

Power to the Indigenous Women Wage Laborers

Nirmala Devi Tharu Chaudhary (39) has done an exceptional job in empowering women in her community. Always eager to expand her education, Nirmala became a literacy facilitator, which offered her the opportunity to learn how to organize and manage women’s groups. She worked through Women Acting Together for Change (WATCH), an organization that focused on awareness, empowerment, organizing, self-reliance, and self respect, all values that Nirmala wanted to expand upon.

She became a Social Mobilizer and was a model for women in how to live healthily, how to garden, and how to generate personal income. She was able to achieve these things despite being a daughter of a bonded laborer and a housemaid. Having grown up in poverty, she was not able to continue her schooling after 7th grade, and had to become a housemaid herself at the age of 10 years to support her family, following her mother’s paralysis. After being married off at the young age of 14 years, she had to take up the job of a wage laborer for a landlord, where she faced stigma, exploitation and discrimination. Nirmala escaped these conditions with the help of an organization. Nirmala further demonstrated great courage when she engaged in rescuing 46 bonded laborer families from their landlord. Nirmala met in secret with the bonded workers and encouraged the women laborers to take part in literary classes to become organized. The women were then able to ask for proper wages and limited working hours, and eventually they became free and were able to resettle.

Nirmala is proud to empower and organize rural women and teach them how to utilize their constitutional, legal, and human rights. With the help from WATCH, Nirmala has made contributions ranging from starting the Talau Cooperative, which produces and rears piglets for distribution, to lobbying the government to make changes in the draft Constitution of Nepal. She organized 11 women’s groups to come together, comment and make changes to the proposed Draft Constitution of Nepal, which had been published for feedback. These feedbacks were made to further the cause of women. She also used this opportunity to fight for the rights of the indigenous community of Tharu, which the government had been ignoring.