Through my work as an executive director of the Luxembourg NGO Aide à l’Enfance de l’Inde et du Népal (AEIN), I am fortunate to meet women from different backgrounds in India and Nepal, who have inspired me in many ways.
Renu Adhikari, founder of Women’s Rehabilitation Center (Worec), Nepal’s leading women’s rights organisation, is one of those women. Renu started her professional career as a medical doctor and served in different remote hospitals of Nepal for more than a decade. She got drawn into the field of women’s rights, particularly the fight against trafficking of women and children, after meeting with a trafficked woman in the ‘90s.
Renu is a strong advocate for women’s rights and has managed to play a catalyst role to organise women survivors of conflict and other forms of violence in groups by empowering them to claim and defend their rights for political and economic participation and to seek access to justice.
I still remember the day when both of us were walking through the villages in Sindhupalchowk district which were completely devastated by the earthquakes in 2015. The needs of the people we met were huge and we were wondering how to select the neediest people for which our limited help would make a difference. We then decided to rebuild one whole village of a fishermen community composed of 56 houses. At that time, we could never have imagined that it would take us three years to finish this project by having to overcome many administrative hurdles and other challenges.
Nevertheless, AEIN and WOREC teams never gave up following Renu’s motto “We are making the difference and we will make the difference”.
One other project visit which has shaped me as a person and which touched my heart is when I visited for the first time with Renu the very remote villages in Rukum district, which was the stronghold of the ten years’ armed conflict in Nepal during which thousands of women and girls of all ages were subject to widespread and systematic violence. Hearing the life stories of those women who had to endure brutal human rights abuses will forever be engraved in my mind.
Since 2016, AEIN and WOREC are working together to create an enabling environment for those women to live with dignity with a healthy body and mind. What I have learnt from her is that the mental and reproductive health well-being is key to the overall well-being of women and girls. Through Renu’s initiative, health and wellness camps with recreational sessions for women have been included in our project to help bring out the suppressed stories and heal the trauma of the survivors.
Renu also regularly reminds me that in order to do the work both of us are doing, self-care is most important. Without taking care of oneself first, how can we have the energy to take care of others?
I was very happy when I heard that HRH The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg will organise this March the international forum ‘Stand Speak Rise Up’ here in Luxembourg to connect stakeholders and survivors of sexual violence to build new partnerships, scale existing efforts, and identify innovative and lasting solutions. At last, the worldwide problem of rape as a weapon of war will get the international attention it deserves and hopefully bring lasting solutions.
In that context, one of my favourite inspirational quotes is “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead
In two weeks, I will again visit the remote villages in Sindhupalchowk and Rukum to assure myself of the impact of our work and meet again all these inspiring hard-working women who give me much more in return.
I hope that more and more people worldwide will stand up with survivors, speak up for justice and rise up to end rape as a weapon. Will you join us too?
Do you have a woman in your life who has inspired you? In celebration of International Women’s Day this month, we want to hear from you. Send us a mail to [email protected] with your story and photo, or share your story on social media with the tag #myfemalerolemodel