Americans for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund had selected RWDC chairperson Aasmani Chaudhary as a ” 2008 International Honoree for the Health and Dignity of Women ” for her exemplary community based efforts to improve the health and well being of some of Nepal’s poorest women in the mid western rural area for income generating, advocacy, literacy, reproductive health and women empowerment of Dang, Banke, Bardia, Salyan and Pyuthan.
She prepared to receive this international award in New York on an evening of 2008 which was managed by Americans for UNFPA.
She had flown to US for the first time in her life. Dressed in her traditional Tharu costume, Aasmani approached the stage of award ceremony to receive her award when a mammoth gathering of Americans for UNFPA made a loud applause that echoed across the whole room of stadium of New York in the USA.
Despite the presence of huge audience there, fearless and confident Aasmani reached the podium and delivered her speech after receiving her award.
She said, “Many Tharu women have come to believe that it is not their destiny to live in despair, and what we’ve gained is self-respect and the means to insist that we are worthy of more. Education and health care are key. A society will not progress as long as rural women remain financially dependent, weak or broken spirit. And I will feel my mission is complete only when all the women of Nepal have access to their basic rights to reproductive health, education and income generation.”
On this occasion, a letter from U.S Senator Chuck Schumer was handed to her for her hard work. Aasmani also met with the former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during the award reception party. Back in Nepal in 2012 American ambassador to Nepal, Scott Delesi had invited Aasmani Chaudhary to attend a dinner party with his Excellency Delesi in Kathmandu.
This was the highest achievement for Aasmani Chaudhary, who was born in a Tharu community which is considered to be backward and marginalized in Nepal. When she was born, her community and society was steeped deep in traditional patriarchal thinking that marginalized the women. In those days the girls were not allowed to go to school. However Aasmani got chance to attend the school.
She has been honored with several other national awards in recognition of her consistent contribution to rural women, society and the nation. As of this day she has attended several international seminars in USA, India, Japan, Egypt, Oman, Dubai, Doha, Bangladesh, Philippines, Germany, Netherland, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam to share her knowledge and skill about rural women empowerment through, advocacy, literacy, capacity development and income generations.
She has been able to form and mobilize more than 14000 groups of rural women who make savings in their groups and take petty loans based on group collateral. She has mobilized more than 40,000 rural women in advocacy, literacy, income generation, livelihood and climate change.
After schooling when Aasmani was conscious of her surroundings, she came to know that existing traditional patriarchal discriminatory practices and beliefs against rural women were main hurdles for their development and progress. She also felt that women did not enjoy the economic rights and did the rights to excess to income generation and literacy.
So, she vowed to change this existing society where women were treated with scorns and were forced to live with no educational, economic and health rights.
So, she established Gramin Mahila Uthan Kendra (Rural Women Development Center) in 1993 which could act as the main medium to transform the miserable lives of the rural women into economically viable, independent, fearless and capable to lead the family and the society through women empowerment projects and by income generation through microfinance programs launched in the targeted areas.
But when she started RWDC it was started from the zero level as she did not have any resources at her hand at that time. She did not have any chairs, tables and furniture to start the office for RWDC. But she did not budge from her determination. She rented a mud house room and started this NGO at first followed by Microfinance after one decade by sitting on the floor until projects and Microfinance activities started progressing.
She has relentlessly contributed to the health, education, income generation, and gender equity of more than 3, 00,000 rural women in the last 26 years (silver jubilee year) and she will continue to serve the needs of innumerable rural women in the future too.