Nepal: Indira Shreshtha

I believe that all development begins with the individual and has, in its widest sense, a spiritual dimension."

— Indira Shreshtha

Indira Shreshtha has spent 25 years working on all aspects of gender, sustainable development, and peace issues in Nepal. Founder and head of Strii Shakti (women's power), which works in Nepal's conflict-affected districts, and participant in a national network on gender and peace, Indira is a consultant, trainer, planner, and analyst who has challenged patriarchal and upper-class biases in official development programs supported by multinational and bilateral donors. Her landmark study on women in jails put the spotlight on how women suffer as a result of illiberality in the legal system.

The face-off between the government and the Maoist insurgents has been both a challenge and an opportunity for Indira Shreshtha and her band of dedicated workers. Her NGO, Shtrii Shakti, founded in 1991, is focused on people in rural Nepal who are struggling to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter in the midst of coping with the conflict's fallout. Indira's organization has identified and trained social "mobilizers" from 12 village development committees in three maximally insurgency-affected areas. Indira has also spearheaded initiatives to spread the message of peace, collecting signatures in May 2002 from women of diverse backgrounds as a symbol of women's pacifist solidarity. Strii Shakti also plants trees and conducts annual peace walks around Swayambhunath to mark International Peace Day every 6 August. Furthermore, Indira has taken up issues such as violence against girls and women, and was part of a four-woman team that researched the status of women in Nepal in the 1980s, bringing out ten volumes on the subject. Along with a coworker, she undertook an analysis of official development programs supported by multinational and bilateral donors. Analyzing them from a feminist perspective, they challenged the patriarchal and upper-class biases inherent in the programs. The well-educated daughter of a middle-class family, Indira was drawn toward development work as soon as she completed her education. She joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) after finishing her studies in Kathmandu and the University of Wales. As one of the first women in Nepal to head an NGO, her work has led to the mainstreaming of gender concerns.

Strii Shakti