Rukmini Foundation’s Didi programs continues to be successful in developing leadership capacity amongst our scholars. Exposing young girls to powerful women leaders has enabled them to envision a different future for themselves. On May 27th, the scholars were embarking on a special journey as they took a field trip to Prisoner’s Assistance (PA) Nepal, located at Sankhu. PA Nepal is a grassroots organisation that seeks to provide basic needs and human rights to prisoners and their children; one of the most vulnerable groups in Nepal. In particular, they work within poor rural communities where their support creates new opportunities for women who have been released from prison.

Didi Program Field Trip: Scholars, with Sabina Didi (middle) getting ready to head to Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal

The purpose of this visit was to meet Ms. Indira Rana Magar, the founder of PA, who has been inspirational in her efforts to help children whose parents are in Prison. Indira Didi was one of the finalist for the World Children’s Prize 2014, others included John Wood of Room to Read and Malala Yousafzai, and she is an exemplary Didi for our scholars. Indira Didi has won many national and international awards for her work and is also known for being an avid mountain biker.

At Prisoner’s Assistance, vast majority of the children have one or more parent in prison and have extended families and communities that they belong to. Indira Didi strives to provide complete care for these children while their families are unable to do so due to incarceration or poverty, and to ultimately reintegrate them with their families in their home communities wherever possible. It is a challenging job, as majority of the times she has to fight with the government officials in order to get custody of those children. Currently, there are 100 children residing in her home where they are provided residential facilities, along with day care.

Indira Didi with our Staff Usha Adhikari

When our Rukmini team reached PA Nepal, all the children were busy enjoying some time off but came to greet the team with a friendly Namaste. Our RF scholars were excited to meet Indira Didi and hear her story and learn more about her journey. When Indira Didi came to greet the scholars, they were surprised to see how down to earth she was, despite the fame she had acquired for her work. “For me, the ground where I’m stepping is reality. I do not want to be very smart by clothes, by language or by my attitude,” Indira Didi said. “I am a simple women and I want to live simple. I know, to understand a village women, I have to be like her. Otherwise, I can never realize their real life problem.” It was evident the deep love the children had for her, as they all addressed her as ‘Ama’, meaning Mother in Nepali. Indira didi talked about the importance of her work and her mission to help marginalized women and children. “We must try to live like them, and then only we can feel the reality of the typical women,” Ms. Magar said, “ My mission is to guarantee the education and healthy lives of the children who somehow entered the bars of the jail and also advocate for the imprisoned people who are innocent and are not aware of the law and accused of the crime.”

“Every child must have a right to live a dignified and a healthy life.” Indira Didi shares her story with our Scholars

During the program, Indira Didi shared with us her struggles in getting education during her childhood. Being a woman, she was deprived of the opportunity to attend school and was made to attend to the household chores. Being determined to not let this shape her future, she asked her brothers to teach her how to read and write and managed to get admitted to the village school. She continued her thirst for knowledge and education and eventually came to Kathmandu to do social work. Her story of resilience inspired both our scholars and our staff members. Sajina Dudraj said, “I am very happy to meet Indira Didi, I have never met such a powerful woman in person.”

The whole group take a picture outside Prisoner’s Assistance Nepal with Indira Didi.

“Every child must have a right to live a dignified and a healthy life.” This is Indira Didi’s motto. When we inquired about her organization’s sustainability, she told us that they had initially rented but now have moved to their own house, as renting created quite a lot of problem for them. In 2006, they were able to purchase land and with support of friends and supporters, she managed to construct home for her children. After observing the home of children, one of the scholars Ms. Smriti Shrestha said, “I liked the sustainable ways of life at the children’s home of Sankhu. They have a garden, their own kitchen, own school, play field and all the essential infrastructures. I also liked the scenic beauty of the place where the home is located.”

Rukmini Scholar turned Didi, Puja, shares her experience with Indira Didi.

While returning back from Sankhu, Principal of Arunodaya Secondary School, Mr. Naniram Basnet said, “I am happy to be part of today’s event. I rarely miss this kind of opportunity given by Foundation. I feel lucky that I can meet such a great personality like Ms. Indira. I am also thankful to Foundation for choosing such an inspiring social worker for didi program.”

This field trip was a tremendous success. Every scholar, teacher, and staff who attended this program saw herself/himself in Indira didi. Her story of strength, courage and resilience resonated with every single person who was in the room – inspiring them to see the power of determination when one truly believes in themselves and their capacity to achieve great things. We hope exchanging dialogue and ideas with great minds like Indira did will encourage our scholars to open up their horizons and do great work in the community.

Niroj Shrestha
Sr. Progam Officer, Rukmini Foundation

About Niroj Shrestha

Niroj has been managing many of the activities of A School for Community (ASC) in Nepal that has been established to not only promote formal education, but also to leverage the experiences and skills of community leaders and members to promote local development. Niroj will bring his local expertise as well as his experience in managing programs at the grassroots level. He seeks to help the foundation to continually improve the delivery of programs while also building the capacity of our Didis and local volunteers.
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