What inspired you to start Antardristi?
Because the issue of rape and incest are hidden and also a taboo to talk about, many children and young women are tangled in this incident and offenders are living their lives freely. Nobody in our society and community and even in the family would like to disclose the issue, but some do file the case in the police station. Well, they go there, but again everybody is only talking about compensation from the offenders' families and sending the offenders to jail.
These consequences are needed but no one was looking at the mental justice of the children. So being a student of psychology, I find it really hard to see what will happen to that child, for example, when she grows up and remembers or is told that she was abused by her father. Then and there I decided I would dedicate my life working for these victims by providing them psychological counseling to heal the trauma they will face and make them regain their self-confidence and have them lead a beautiful life. I thought, if not NOW …When? and if not ME…WHO?
I came to this decision when I had a chance to observe one of the women and children departments of Nepal Police Department and saw firsthand what kind of cases came there for registration.
You established the non-profit thirteen years ago -- has the issue of sexual abuse in Nepal improved since then? If so, how?
It has improved in a sense that more cases are coming out, are being reported, and people are gaining awareness and getting psychological help. In reality, the amount of abuse has decreased, but more people are coming forward. Still, more cases are hidden because we are still not able to completely destigmatize the issue.
Now, it is much easier for us to get access to schools and communities so that we can host activities that raise awareness. It was not as easy several years ago. These days most of the schools welcome us to deliver these classes. This proves that people are getting sensitized.
Antardristi does a lot of community outreach. How has educating the community changed the stigmas associated with sexual abuse?
In 13 years time, Antardristi has reached almost 23 districts of Nepal to deliver awareness classes. Because of the taboo, people are still reluctant to disclose reports of sexual abuse. Gradually, more people are coming out and talking more openly about the issue. For that reason, we are getting more cases in our safe house.
What has been the most powerful moment since starting Antardristi?
Since 2003, Antardristi Nepal has worked tirelessly to combat sexual abuse. It is incredibly powerful that we now have one big safe house and two transit centers for such survivors. To date, we have provided awareness to approximately 1,000,000 people and trauma counseling to more than 193 clients since 2007, when we started our safe house. Since sexual abuse is a still a taboo and a stigma to talk about, we faced difficult times when we used to go to schools and communities 10 years back, but today most of the schools and communities welcome us to deliver such classes in their areas.
We are very proud that Antardristi's very first client is getting her bachelors degree in civil engineering.
The most powerful moment is still to come when I do not have to think of funding any more. I still feel that I am not yet able to give my 100% to the issue because I have to search for funding time and again.
However, considering our limited resources, I do feel a great sense of achievement that we are able to raise awareness to many people in the community and more cases are continuing to be referred to us.
What has been the best piece of advice given to you?
Well, I am not exactly getting any advice anymore, but more like words of praise and encouragement. The praise and encouragement make me more responsible for the work I am doing and make me realize and feel that we still have a long way to go.
What advice do you give to other women to make them feel empowered?
We don’t grow when things are easy…
We grow when we face challenges…
WOMEN, you are precious. Work hard and leave a legacy behind. I know we have different roles to accomplish in our lifetime, so don’t worry, play these roles as if you are playing sports. I bet you will enjoy it. Don’t take it as a burden; feel proud that you can do everything so nicely and precisely. You are not "jack of all trades, master of none," instead, you are a “jack of none and master of all.” First love yourself and have faith in yourself. Never hurry in doing anything, keep on working in the right direction and if you stay on track, everything will fall in the right place.
So be positive, ladies. You have power…just ignite it.
How do you best maintain a compassionate lifestyle?
I think I have a lot of strength in me and I am very optimistic. I always stay in the moment – if I am working, I concentrate on my work, if I am with family I will be with them, and likewise, if I am with my friends, I am truly with them. This strength makes me keep running and maintain my compassionate lifestyle. I do not mess. And the last is to see big SMILES on the children faces in the safe house is the ray of hope that gives me courage to maintain my lifestyle.