Mar 18, 2016
Rendezvous With Goldunga's Diju by - Snehadeep Kayet
(Goldunga is a small village located in the suburbs of Kathmandu. Accommodating around three thousand households, its population is estimated to be sixteen thousand. From Brahmins, Chhetris, Newars, Tamangs to the Dalits, it is home to many Nepalese indigenous tribes. Youth For Peace India team along with Didibahini conducted an awareness drive on human trafficking and menstrual taboo among the women forum of this village. Objective of the program was to induce awareness about two vital issues existing in Nepalese society. Our peace fellow Snehadeep interviewed Mrs. Kanti Bajracharya, founder of Goldunga’s women forum)
I saw her for the very first time at Didibahini’s office. She was introduced to our team as coordinator and founder of some village’s women forum. Little did I have an idea about getting to interview one of the most tenacious feminists, I had the pleasure to know all this while. Having witnessed her spellbinding influence on Goldunga’s streets and people, I can reckon on to the fact that she is every bit of an inspiration.
Mrs Kanti Bajracharya came to Goldunga fifteen years ago with her husband and son. The couple had migrated from KTM, after which they bought some land and settled in their new locality. Back in those days as she recounts, social evils, suicides and callous treatment of Dalit women were daily affairs of the village. “I was bugged by this injustice. Women were illiterate and were barbarically treated like a savage. I remember one lady was under house-arrest by her in-laws for 10 long years. Can you imagine the situation now?” And hundreds of incidents like these had driven her to change Goldunga’s chauvinistic society.
She started the village forum along with seven other women. “I had a vision in my mind, but no funds to achieve it. With those seven ladies, we started a monthly deposit scheme of 100 rupees, where each lady was asked to save this amount and deposit it in the forum. By the sixth month, we had 4200 rupees, and from that I started giving out loans with a minimal interest”, she says to me with a gleaming smile. Being a diehard economist, I could not resist myself from adoring this simple yet effective economic model which Kanti Didi had made. It is amazing to see how experience makes people do the most startling things in their life, which often education fails to. Kanti Didi and her team had no prior education in economics or business development, yet today the annual budget of Goldunga’s women forum rose from 4200 rupees to 1 crore 75 lakhs. The current figure was obviously jaw dropping for me. On being asked what her team does with this money, she says, “I always ensure that this money is used for the needy. We give out loans (sometimes with zero interest) to people for their farms, livestock, children’s’ education, marriage, houses and what not. Including my own son, three other children of this village are pursuing their higher education in Germany. I see a very different Goldunga from the one my family settled in”. The village forum today has 900 women members and 9 wards (one ward in each locality). Kanti Didi has been felicitated by many government bodies and other NGOs including the District Health Committee which recognised her work in family planning and women empowerment. The forum organises several vocational training, seminars, workshops and talks for its members. Like I wrote before, Kanti Didi is a very popular figure in Goldunga. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she contests for elections someday.
“How do you think we can eradicate existing social evils and discrimination against women which still exist in South Asian societies?” To this question of mine, her answer amused me. With that ubiquitous smile on her face, she says, “You know it is very important to realise the fact that women need to be given equal stature. Gone are the days when they were shackled and subjugated behind chains. Education shall not suffice. Our society has to stop blaming women for its hollow myths and beliefs. Even today in Nepal, when women bleed they are thrown out of their houses and forced to stay with cattle in sheds. One of my women forum members had Lou Gehrig’s disease (Nassa Ko Rog) and due to it her husband believed she was a witch. I remember saving her from a Tantrik (self-proclaimed black magic healer) who was about to feed her human excreta and do something extremely horrible. Women empowerment is a joint effort. I am a feminist, but yes very much believe in the fact that without good people (both men and women), we cannot bring change. None of this would have been possible without support from my husband. He has been my shield through all the good and bad times”.
Our remaining part of the day in Goldunga went on very smoothly. Our team had the opportunity to conduct a program on human trafficking in the village’s school and another one on menstrual taboo in Kanti Didi’s women forum. I have always heard my father saying this one phrase all his lifetime that, “every drop in an ocean counts”. Today in every house, every hamlet, every city and every capital in the world we need a woman like her- harbinger of change.