Right from the beginning of the career as a teacher to becoming a social activist, and today, leading an organization that is home to thousands, the life of Padma Shri Anuradha Koirala aka Dijju (as people fondly call her) speaks wholly about the social responsibility and love for society.
Born on April 14, 1949 to Colonel Pratap Singh Gurung and Laxmi Gurung, Anuradha studied in St. Joseph Convent School, Kalimpong, India, where she developed interest for social work. Mother Teresa has always been her source of inspiration.
Anuradha started her career as an English teacher. After having worked for more than 20 years as a teacher, she felt she has something big to achieve. That’s when she decided to step in for a crusade against trafficking and related activities against women and children.
How it Started?
A social activist in Anuradha came out when she helped eight women, who were the victims of domestic violence and forced to beg, open small shops, with the help of the minimum income she was drawing as a salary.
The network went on to grow and eventually, UNICEF extended its support. Then, a team of 210 members, including lawyers, journalists, students, police men and nurses, joined her for an awareness campaign. Leading this team, she moved on to various villages of the country, which were most vulnerable to trafficking. Thus, her team grew leading path to a mighty organization.
Rise of Maiti Nepal
That was the time when human trafficking (women and girl trafficking) from and within Nepal was on rise, and there was hardly any helping hand. Anuradha decided to extend help to those in danger, need of support and suppressed. Thus, in 1993, she founded an organization called ‘Maiti Nepal’ in a small house with her minimal savings. Maiti Nepal, meaning mother Nepal, really became a mother to thousands of children, girls and women, offering them physical and mental support, shelter and life as a whole.
People who sought shelter in Maiti Nepal include the ones subjected to sex trafficking, forced to prostitution and contracted HIV, psychologically unwell, left away by family, among many others in need of rehabilitation, ranging from children to elderly women.
Maiti Nepal has grown over the years, and currently has three prevention homes, two hospices, eleven transit homes, and a formal school. In total, around 1000 children receive direct services from the organization every day.
Maiti Nepal’s wide range regular activities include awareness campaigns, community sensitization programs, apprehending traffickers, rescue operations, women empowerment programs, providing legal support to the needy and Anti Retro Viral Therapy (ART) to children and women infected by HIV, among others.
Person of Special Identity
Anuradha made her special mark as a social activist by rescuing over 12,000 girls from sex trafficking, and preventing more than 45,000 children from being trafficked across the Indo-Nepal border, with the help of her team. Her organization today patrols the Indo-Nepal border, and stays active in rescue operations, saving trafficked women from brothels in India with the help of Indian authorities and reuniting them with their families.
Anuradha was recognized for her activities and courageous acts of fighting for children and women rights, and was honored by various governments and institutions with 38 national and international awards, so far.
CNN called her ‘Hero of the Year’ in 2010, The Peace Abbey Foundation of Massachusetts honored her with the Courage of Conscience Award in 2006, the Indian Government conferred her with the country’s third highest civilian award – Padma Bhushan, and her home government, Nepal has been respecting and encouraging her all the time with many honorary titles.