Rita Thapa is paving a path for a new generation of NGO feminist leaders, peace activists, gender justice advocates, and social philanthropists. Rita’s huge heart and benevolence for all humanity maps her road as she inspires people worldwide to donate time, money and energy. Projects are approached with great love, inspired ideas, innate grace and erudite wisdom.
As an international development consultant, thousands of people cross my path annually. No one has impacted my life or the lives of others like Rita Thapa. Like a beacon of light, she stands above the crowd, all the while working directly at the grassroots level for the betterment of the community in very a challenging environment.
Two critical issues persist in Nepal today. The first issue is the aftermath of the April 25, 2015 earthquake, and second is the ongoing fragility of peace processes complicated by the unstable, corrupt Maoist government.
To say that Rita Thapa is courageous is a major understatement. In a deeply-embedded patriarchal society, she was a widow expected to stay home with three young children when she launched Tewa (www.tewa.org.np/) some 20 years ago on the heels of the 1995 4th U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing. Yes, we were both there. Twenty years later, Tewa has grown into a global model for feminist institutions, appropriate infrastructure/safe space for women and girls, women’s rights philanthropy, and gender justice.
To firmly accelerate the Tewa Center, eleven years ago, she assumed an implausible gamble. Rita worried as the Nepal central bank interest dropped phenomenally due to the armed conflict in Nepal. With enormous financial and institutional risk, and yet with an eye on sustainability, she led the Tewa Executive Board to invest the existing 17.02 million rupees endowment fund in a TL&BDP (Tewa Land & Building Development Project). The TL&BDP grew by adding various infrastructures, raising money, and conducting time bound campaigns. In these ways it managed to build Upahaar – an arcade of shops on its eastern boundary, Tewa- the Tewa office building, Santoshi– the cafeteria, Rangamanch – the open-air theatre, Jamghat – the covered hall, and Aadhar – the office block. The intention is that the Tewa Center will not only generate revenue, but will also create cash flow for Tewa’s future. And is Rita done yet? Not with a breath in her body. A few months ago, she announced a new infrastructure plan for another girl’s dormitory, Aanandi 3.
Features of Rita’s work threaded throughout Tewa, Nagarik Aawaz and her other NGOs are the attributes of feminist leadership and her strong self-designed archetypes of sustainable development, not commonly practiced in Nepal or elsewhere in the world for that matter. Rita founded her NGOs according to democratic and feminist principles, thereby creating forums where diverse individuals can come together in solidarity under non-hierarchical, non- bureaucratic structures and in environments where transparency, accountability, respect and trust are of utmost importance and are rigorously upheld.
Rita’s personal and professional qualities include her ability to easily, effortlessly cross, and collaborate with, all sectors of life from grassroots organization in villages to top political levels. Rita ceaselessly demonstrates how strong women can be when they support and inspire one another. Rita’s success would not be possible without her wonderful personal features: her respect of all cultures, her high spirit and centeredness, her optimism and positive attitude, as well as her patience, creativity, natural charisma, and relentless courage to change the status quo.