70-year-old Anuradha Koirala sets her life's goal to helping vulnerable women and children.
At 70 years of age, Anuradha Koirala’s life has seen her go from a victim of conjugal violence to a woman in the streets of Kathmandu single-handedly rescuing vulnerable young woman. Her inspiration? Mother Teresa.
Koirala started her career in education, teaching young children. However, in the 90s this changed after she began regularly engaging with women who were begging on the streets of Kathamandu, in front of Pashupatinath Temple. Having been a victim of domestic violence herself, Koirala could appreciate the plight and vulnerability of many of these young ladies.
“Every day, there was battering. And then I had three miscarriages that I think [were] from the beating. It was very difficult because I didn’t know in those days where to go and report [it], who to … talk to” she’d explained in a CNN interview in 2010, as reported in Global Citizen.
This horrific experience led her to reach out and try and educate these women that she came across begging on the streets. Her aim was to try and encourage them to be able to support themselves.
Starting out with a group of eight women, Koirala gave them each 1,000 rupees out of her own hard earned money. With this money they would be able to set up street shops and make a living. Koirala would then collect two rupees each day from her new entrepreneurs, which she would then put towards helping other women.
In 1993 the kind-hearted Koirala founded Maiti Nepal, a non-profit organization that helps women and children who’ve been exploited. The name “Maiti” roughly translates as “home of the girl’s birth parents.” This is particularly poignant, as once women are married in Nepal they are thereafter attached to their husband’s family, and for many of these victims, they may have been abused by their husbands or rejected from their own families. Maiti can become their true home, their refuge.
The organization gives women the opportunity to learn new skills, runs awareness campaigns and empowerment programs. And by 2012, with the help of local law enforcement, the organization has saved 18,000 girls and there’s no sign of Koirala slowing down: “When I see their pain — their mental pain as well as physical pain — it is so troubling that I cannot turn myself away. This gives me strength to fight and root this crime out,” she explained to the Borgen Project.
In her years of social activism the septuagenarian has gained foreign funding, including $500,000 from the US government, amassed several awards, spoken at TEDx Talk, and even joined the Nepali Congress party in 2017 just before she turned 70. Yet perhaps her most important accolade is being referred to as Nepal’s own Mother Teresa.