Nepal: Rita Thapa

Through Nagarik Awaz, Rita Thapa provides support to thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside down by the fallout of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal.

— Rita Thapa

For the past 24 years, Rita Thapa (born 1952) has devoted her personal and professional life to founding and supporting institutions working for women's empowerment and for the development of philanthropy and peace-building in Nepal. Through Tewa, established in 1996, she has worked for grassroots women throughout Nepal. Nagarik Awaz (Citizen's Voice), set up in 2001, provides support to thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside down by the Maoist insurgency and the government's overkill retaliation.

As the Maoist insurgency in Nepal gained ground, Rita Thapa knew she could not sit on the sidelines and just watch her fellow countrymen and -women kill each other. So in 2001, she founded Nagarik Awaz to help those affected by the conflict, without taking sides. A cadre of committed peace workers has been created. Transit homes and temporary shelters have been set up for the internally displaced, the injured, and those traumatized by the Maoist and government forces. Thapa's work is often focused on women, widows, and children. She and her team have helped form local communities where conflict-related and everyday issues are openly discussed and strategies evolved to tackle them. Thapa works with little support from family and friends, but that does not stop her. Born into a conservative family and married according to custom at 18, she completed her education after marriage. Widowed in 1988 and with three children to raise, Thapa became a social activist in a society where widows often have to settle for humble anonymity. She built up her career by working for Oxfam and Unifem in the early to mid-1990s. In 1996, she came up with Tewa, an organization that promotes localized philanthropy for self-reliant development in Nepal, particularly with respect to grassroots women, which has now become a model the world over. It has managed to raise millions of rupees locally to support the efforts of grassroots women through strategies such as walkathons, events, and piggy banks. Thapa has helped grassroots women build up their self-confidence, encouraging them to network and providing them with training in cooperation, teamwork, fund-raising, and creating peaceful communities. She has traveled to communities and villages in remote areas, on foot when no other transport was available.

Tewa Nagarik Awaz