Breaking barriers: Lakhapati’s quest for gender equality
Story from Nawalparasi under Gender Equality
Lakhapati Chaudhari, 40, from Rajabari, in Nawalparasi West questioned the destiny of being born a woman in a society where men seldom support women in leadership roles. However, over the last couple of years her life took a transformative turn. Lakhapati participated in various training events on gender equality, women's leadership, the legal provisions against dowry and more. She found inspiration to actively participate in project activities and take a stand against violence towards women in her community. This was all through Shree Kotihia Maai Women's group, formed by SCDC-S* under the gender equality project, with UMN’s support. Now she has become a gender champion; her advocacy for women facing violence has made her a trusted source of support for those in need.
“Women face great suffering in our community,” Lakhapati shares. “People make disgusting remarks and accusations against women if they step out to work. My husband has gone overseas for work, and people talk ill about my conduct. When I invite women for a meeting or support women facing violence, people criticise me behind my back. But I disregard their talk and don’t really care.”
Despite the challenges she faces, Lakhapati finds strength in her husband's encouragement to be patient in changing deep-rooted customs. With the confidence gained from group meetings, she fearlessly speaks in public, which led her to be elected as the chairperson of Chaudhary Forum, a local community organisation. She has now become acutely aware of gender inequality and ensures equal treatment for her son and daughter, setting an example for her neighbours. They both study in the same school and she and her husband have shifted their focus from saving for their daughter's wedding to investing in her education and have committed to dowry-free marriages for all their children.
Lakhapati also admires and is amazed to see the freedom and societal upbringing of female project staff who come from a distance for meeting facilitation. She explains, “They are living far from their homes. I envy their freedom and the society they were brought up in.” She also aspires to raise her daughter to be like them. Regardless of her society's perceptions of women, she remains resolute in her commitment to restore women's dignity.
Bold, graceful, friendly, and compassionate, Lakhapati's leadership uplifts those around her, making everyone smile before every group meeting. She is breaking barriers and moving ahead in her journey as a gender champion.
* Sunawal Community Development Centre (SCDC-S)