top of page

The Indomitable Women of Nepal


A Nepali woman wearing a basket on her back with the string going across her forehead while joining the palms of her hands in front of her chets
Photo by Hadynyah on Getty Images Signature
The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it — Roseanne Barr

I am proud to the rim when I recall the many indomitable women I have met in Nepal over the last 35 years — bold, resilient, and strong souls. 


It’s the kind of pride only women can feel for other women who have not given up, who carry on for a future that mulls in its past while shouldering their own fears and doubts.


Perhaps with grief or even bitterness at times.


But it is never without that indomitable spirit so distinct in Nepalese women.


She belongs to the Dalit, the caste of the so-called untouchables. An unnegotiable position assigned by birth at the bottom of Nepal’s social ladder. Though this discriminatory system has since been abolished, it persists in the minds of many. Reason enough for Reeta to stand up and fight the prejudices directed at women like herself, her people, and everyone else who feels the grunt of an unjust society.


She’s over it and now challenges suffocating traditions in a way most Nepali women won’t yet dare.


She is a disgrace in the eyes of many because she lives alone. Not by choice, but ever since, Karmila's husband has chosen to try his luck elsewhere. He turned his back on her, hoping a new wife would bear him sons and, by no means, just daughters. He left Karmila penniless in an existence she now bearly secures by distilling liquor and hauling 20-l jerry cans across rugged slopes to the next basar.


Despite the societal stigma on divorced women, Karmila carries her burden with unwavering strength.


Susma and her husband operate a simple eatery in the cramped streets of Kathmandu. They used to work alongside each other until his heart condition became his excuse rather than the booze he could not stay away from. Susma toils from early morning until late at night, barely making ends meet. Occasionally, she sits down on one of the weathered plastic sofas usually occupied by hungry locals. She smiles while watching her daughters on TikTok. 


That’s when she realizes there is more to life than just plodding between the once-pink walls of her run-down eatery, including an escape route.


She lives in a small, unremarkable village in the southern flatlands of Nepal, where women’s tattoos tell stories of grief and hope. Like many of her village sisters, her tattoo was forged onto her when she was still a child. It’s a stigma to this day. It brands her and all the other women as illiterate, a curse that cannot be erased. 


But today, Subdi’s heart fills with pride at the arrival of the first foreigners in her humble home and village, marking a new chapter in her life. 


Under the scorching spring sun, wrapped in a faded sari, Urmila squats by the side of the road, helplessly exposed to the noise, fumes, and dust of passing vehicles. She swings a dilapidated hammer, breaking solid-sized rocks into smaller pebbles that will go into upgrading the district road’s surface. It is a brutal and monotonous job, often reserved for less privileged women like Urmila. Yet, it earns a plate of food at the end of a long, dull day for her and her children.


She straightens up and silently asks the world not to look away. But to share her despair over a life she did not choose but has come to accept.

 

There are endless stories like these, yet each one is unique. And they are intertwined by the indomitable resilience exhibited by the women who own them. Women who face the harsher reality of life: discrimination, humiliation, poverty, and exclusion in a way that should never have happened.


Women who are entangled in the constraints of a culture in which they continue to play a subordinate role.


Perhaps these significant challenges have molded Nepal’s women into the determined individuals they are today. Because they won’t back down, they won’t give up, and they won’t complain because someone else always needs to come first. 


And somewhere out there in Nepal, among these remarkably resilient women, I feel a connection like nowhere else. Over the years, their invincible spirit has become part of me and helped me shape and sharpen my view of the world. 

She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts. But because she continued despite of them — Beau Caplin

Much love from New Zealand

Kerstin ❤️

 

Thank you for your precious time and interest in my Roadside Stories and meeting some of Nepal’s inspiring women! During an extended work stay, I learned to speak Nepali and enjoy connecting with locals from all walks of life and listening to their stories.


The insights gained from these encounters have often been profound.


PS: If you share my belief in empowering women through motorcycling, please join us in Tanzania and lend a hand! 


A collage of images depicting African women on motorbikes
There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise—N.E.B. Duboi

45 views

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page