Pabitra Bishwokarma is the President of the Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) in the Makhanpur District of Nepal.
“I was forced to get married when I was only 14. My husband was 11 years older than me and we had never met. I wanted to continue at school, but my parents insisted that I marry. So I tried to poison myself. But I still had to get married.
“I heard FEDO interviewed on the radio and was interested in what they said about Dalit women’s rights. After I became District President I realised that I needed to be more educated so that I could motivate and help other women.
“My ambition is to be a political leader and a role model for the Dalit community. In the past Dalit women have been used by political parties, but, thanks to FEDO, we now have bargaining power.
“There are some challenges, particularly when I work on domestic violence cases and I have been threatened. In a recent case, we helped a woman leave her abusive husband and he threatened to kill me. My family worry for my safety. But I am available 24 hours a day and the police also call on me for help with cases of gender-based violence so I know I am doing useful work.
“I was a housewife before I joined FEDO and now I am a social activist. I am pleased that FEDO has partnered with Womankind Worldwide. I hope that their support will continue as there are so many others who want to be like me and we want to have FEDO networks in more districts.We need the issue of Dalit women to be raised at international level and for increased female solidarity.”
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