ARYAL Indira - Palpa, Nepal

Working through life’s toughest challenges to becoming an important agent of social change

This outstanding and incredibly courageous woman (40), nominated by Apsara Chapagain, former WWSF prize winner from Nepal 2017) has been essentially active in the field of women’s rights, in recent years asradio programmer and more recently as station manager of a rural radio station, Radio Lumbini. In a country, which still has very few and poor road communications, the radio is one of the main instruments of change in rural areas. She has actively promoted rural women’s empowerment programs on the radio.

Thanks to these programs many rural women became empowered, took action against the men persecuting them, started small businesses and took on leadership positions. Her contributions to the improvement of rural woman can rightly be called quite spectacular.

Her mother, Gomati Aryalwas,  was married at the age of nine, and the husband died when the mother was she was ten! Her family and neighbours accused the poor young mother of having caused her husband’s death and she was forced to return to her parents home. Her elder sister “suggested” she married a widower with three children, with whom she had two girls, Indira, and five years later Bindu. Life started becoming extremely tough. The young mother and her two girls could only eat leftovers. As there was no high school in the village, Indira had to walk one whole day to reach the nearest school. When their mother Gomati died of cancer Indira was 12 and her sister 7. Now life became sheer hell and Indira and her sister became the servants of the family. But she persisted in her studies and the struggles to survive and help her little sister developed in her immense strength. She started getting involved in numerous social activities through the student unions, all while working to pay her way for her studies. In 11th and 12th grade, she established a youth club in her village, then later a children’s club. The youth club became extremely active, both on the material level by making latrines compulsory instead of open defecation, and on the level of girl’s right to study. Little by little the tide turned, and Indira started being appreciated by villagers who until then had been unrelentingly hostile. She organized the women to take part in folksong competitions where they won many prizes, and she started activities to decrease the endemic violence in many couples. Somehow she continued managing both her studies (and completing a Masters Degree), while also earning a living for her and her sister. Finally she started working for the rural radio Lumbini where her program “Talking with sisters” became a great success. All this despite many health problems and four operations as well as raising her own family!

It is women of such amazing courage who are the first agents of social change in our world, and WWSF is proud, with this prize, to be able to honour all the Indiras of the planet.

Her work contributes to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals-Agenda 2030 -Target #4, #5 and #10.