Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

I present an award to a local woman in Nepal, May 2008, as my friend Suchitra and other women look on

Kathmandu, Nepal, — Literacy means the ability to read and write and is a key to the development of women in Nepal. For the many illiterate women in Nepal, the mere ability to read and write is a big step towards doing well in life and society. Thus, my interest to contribute towards increasing literacy in women. I was eager to write about my friend, Suchitra, a genuine social worker who has been working and living in the village, fighting for social change. Suchitra is working for the development of poor women, neglected by Nepal's long civil war and bad leadership. She was the president of the Nepali Women Society and currently working with widows, marginalized by Nepali communities.

Since the time I have known her, three years ago in Kathmandu, I have found her to be very serious in her work. One day she was angry for a reason and said to me, "You just go on writing poems all your life. Just continue with your poems and nothing else. As for me, enough of it." But was kind and friendly too, "You just don't be unhappy for this moment. I will work for women's education and will bring books for you, when I get back home," they used to assure me.

"How is your friend Suchitra?" my toothless uncle, would ask. My uncle was known as the "radio" in our village for he would have every bit of information about everyone else. "I don't know," I used to bluff.

"Kamu, you really graced the house with such beautiful flowers. You really have been born as Kamala, a good women activist," Suchitra used to say caressing the beautifully blooming Sayapatris and Jais around the house. "Why you should thank her? Your friend has done nothing good except plant these unnecessary flowers on the small piece of field where vegetables should have been grown." My 80-year-old granny always used to tell her. "Don't keep her on the top of your head," my toothless uncle would say in support of granny.

Suchitra would bring sweets for us whenever she came. She was such a lovely soul who always had a meal sitting with me facing her. Sometimes, we would cry just looking at each other. "Let us pray for all the women who are poor," I would then say and she would take my hand she say, "Now, our friendship shall not be separated."

Last year, Suchitra joined a small woman's literacy NGO to provide emergency work for thousands of women in Nepal, affected by the civil war. Although, that meant being away from home, she was happy to do what she had set out to accomplish. I however, was sad to see her go.

"We must keep our friendship to survive our work, for our wisdom, for all the women." She wrote back a couple of days later. After reading her letter, so full of faith and confidence, I am determined to keep our friendship alive and hope that my efforts in their own ways will help her cause.

My reply to her letter was brief. "Women are brave and powerful, beautiful and wonderful. Only social work and humanitarian work will provide them happiness. Education is a vital force in empowering women. We are friends for women's literacy development."

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