The only literate one among her other seven siblings, Thapa was believed to be cursed after her father died while she was in the womb. Coming from an economically challenged family, her only source of stationery was winning the extracurricular activities in school. After grade 10, she made it to Kathmandu for further studies and to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. But it was not easy.
After her relatives abandoned her, Thapa, now 29, sought help from different women’s organizations. However, she said she was denied assistance because she did not fulfill their criteria. Most of them required women to have been victims of sexual violence, trafficking or an orphan.
“But there needs to be an organization that should help women before they reach those stages,” she said, elaborating that it was one of the reasons for establishing Raksha Nepal.
More than that, she wanted to address the issues of women’s exploitation—physical, emotional, financial—at work. She realized the situation of other women, especially at cabin restaurants and massage parlors while she was working as a dohori singer at a restaurant in Gaushala to pay her tuition and make a living.
She cites there are about 200,000 women working in the profession, 90% of them due to financial obligations, and she wanted to help them, more importantly, provide them education. So what started as a five-member class in her room later expanded to the grounds of Padma Kanya Campus where she used to take classes. And that platform was a pedestal to start up Raksha Nepal. Since its establishment in 2004, the non-profit organization has helped some 1,500 women, assisted them in vocational and income-generating programs.
“If I were a boy, I wouldn’t have had to face the struggle in the family,” said Thapa who holds a Bachelor’s in music and Master’s degree in sociology. “But I’m proud that I’m a woman because through my struggle I found a path to help other women.”