Anuradha Koirala found the seeds of service early in her childhood from her family, who believed in helping others. Her grandfather would often tell her: you may eat one meal less, but do not let the needy go hungry. Today, Anuradha Koirala has become a household name in Nepal for her efforts in rescuing and rehabilitating women. Lovingly called Dijju, meaning elder sister in Nepali, Anuradha Koirala was born on April 14, 1949, to Colonel Pratap Singh Gurung and Laxmi Gurung. She received her education at St. Joseph Convent , a hill station in Kalimpong, India. The Mother and Sisters of her school further deepened her devotion towards service and social work. Watching Mother Teresa’s work when she was studying in Calcutta influenced and inspired her greatly. Her father’s dream of making her a lawyer and her dream to become an air hostess took a backseat as the desire to serve flourished.
As a survivor of oppression herself, Ms. Koirala wanted to empower women. ‘Don’t beg, do something. You have the capabilities,’ she used to tell the women around Pashupati who were begging. She was juggling with her circumstances – being a single mother and teaching at a school, all the while she began helping women around her.
In 1993, Maiti Nepal started with two rooms to protect women from abuse and trafficking. After establishing Maiti Nepal, Ms. Koirala plunged into the service of humanity. Her first work was setting up a home so that women and girls who have nowhere else to turn could find themselves a place to call theirs. After almost three decades today, Maiti Nepal has one Prevention Home, sixteen Transit Homes, two Women Rehabilitation Homes, one Child Protection Home, two Hospice Centers, one Information and Surveillance Center at Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and a Formal School (Teresa Academy). More than 1000 children receive direct services from Maiti Nepal every day. All of these were possible because of Ms. Koirala’s firm determination and unprecedented leadership.
Due to her relentless effort in the field of human rights and trafficking prevention, the Government of Nepal now recognizes September 5 as Anti-trafficking Day. To honor her contributions, Ms. Koirala was appointed as a former Assistant State Minister of Women, Children, and Social Welfare. She also became the former Honorable Governor of Province 3, Nepal.
Ms. Anuradha Koirala’s courageous efforts and achievements to further the cause of children’s and women’s rights have been recognized globally. She is the recipient of 38 national and international awards. Some of them are – Prabal Gorkha Dakshin Bahu Medal (Nepal 1999), Best Social Worker (Nepal 1998), Trishakti Patta Award (Nepal 2002), The Peace Abbey, Courage of Conscience (USA 2006), German UNIFEM Prize 2007 (Germany 2007), Queen Sofia Silver Medal Award (Spain 2007), National Ideal Mother Award 2066 (Nepal 2010), Padma Shri (India 2017), Human Rights Icon (2018).
Some of her achievements include liberating girls from brothels and providing ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) to women and children affected by HIV before the government of Nepal could initiate this process.
2010 was a milestone year when Ms. Koirala was declared the CNN Hero. It was the culmination of her struggle and compassion in fighting the social evils of human trafficking. Her victory comes as pride and honor not only to Maiti Nepal but also to the nation itself.
Ms. Koirala loves spending time with children. A self-motivated person who relishes new and dynamic challenges in leadership roles in a team or independently, she continues to be the driving force for awareness and trafficking prevention.