International Women’s Day luncheon speaker describes humble upbringing in Nepal

Dr. Bishnu Maya Pariyar discusses her organization Empower Dalit Women of Nepal
Crowded shopping street in Thamel district of Kathmandu, Nepal in 2018.
Crowded shopping street in Thamel district of Kathmandu, Nepal in 2018.

NEWS/FEATURES, Grades 10–12, 2nd Place

For the third year, the Queensbury Hotel hosted a luncheon to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year they invited Dr. Bishnu Maya Pariyar to speak about her childhood in Nepal and the successes that her organization, Empower Dalit Women of Nepal [EDWON], has experienced.

Groups such as Zonta, AAUW, and Soroptimist attended, all to hear one empowering woman speak, as well as give some insight into what their organizations do for our community.

The EDWON organization was founded by Dr. Pariyar. Throughout her childhood in Nepal she felt the clear caste differences from the other children she went to school with. When she was growing up, it was uncommon for woman, let alone Dalit women in Nepal, to attend school and receive an education, but she always has had a dream that she would make a difference for the other women and girls like herself.

One of her more vivid memories from her childhood was how, when she and her higher-caste friends, were walking the several hours to school, they would behave like normal friends with little thought to the rigid social structure that would late divide them. They never brought water with them and would have to stop along the way to get water. The three high caste girls that she walked with were able to drink out of the jug but she could not, as she was from the Dalit class. Instead, someone would have to pour water into her hands so that she could drink.

As she got older, she began studying for her entrance exams into college. Every day she went to the jungle to study and eventually became the first girl to pass the test within three years.

Since there wasn’t a university in the rural area in which she lived, she had to stay with her cousins in the city. With the help of one of her teachers, she was able to pay for university. After graduating in Nepal, she moved to the United States. She received her doctorate in the United States before moving back to Nepal to start her organization.

The goal of her organization, with 59 separate branches, is to help impoverished Dalit women. She helps to educate them so that they can start up small businesses and gain an even ground in their households. Many if their husbands would go out drinking or gambling but, with the women now able to support themselves, many men have found a new respect for their wives.

She invites women from all castes to join the organization and has helped over 50,000 women and works to send more than 13,000 children to school.

In 2013 there was a documentary about her life and her accomplishments called “Untouchable.” Since 1996 she has sought to correct the unjust system and to end the caste system in Nepal. In many places, she has been successful and she continues to fight for basic human rights for everyone.

See all the winning entries from the 2019 Student Gazette here.

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