Interview

Why did you start Help Society Nepal?

During the 39 days I spent in hospital after the accident I thought a lot about my situation. I also saw a lot of other women who had been burnt and the problems they were facing, particularly poor women. After that I decided I wanted to do something to help them. I had the idea to work with NGOs, as I had been doing before my accident, but this time with burns issues. I thought we could work together. But unfortunately all they were interested in was money and as I didn’t have money they couldn’t offer me the support. It was then I decided to start my own organization.

What was the hospital treatment like that you received?

Immediately after the accident I was calling my brother on the phone and shouting to the neighbors for help. When they came they called a taxi and took me to the government hospital. It is quicker to go by taxi as ambulances are really slow. At the government hospital my mother and I had really horrible treatment. We had to wait 3 days and 2 nights. They saw to my mother first as she was in a critical state but all they did was put on bandages. There were no beds and no doctors so I had to wait the first two hours sitting in a wheelchair being harassed the police who were making accusations. The pain was excruciating but they didn’t give us any painkillers. After 3 days we were finally transferred to a private German hospital outside Kathmandu where the treatment I had was really good. But by this time it was too late for my mother. She passed away.

If the treatment was so good in the private hospital wasn’t it expensive? How could you afford to pay for it?

I am very lucky because I have many friends in Europe and all the money for the hospital fees came from them. This hospital does take into account the financial situation of patients with less money though. If a patient cannot afford it the hospital pays all or part of the costs.

Other Nepalese are not so lucky though. People who live in other areas do not get this type of treatment or financial help as this is the only hospital of its kind in Nepal.

How has the accident changed your life?

It has totally changed. I was not physically able to work after the accident as my hands were seriously damaged. I was treated like an animal and couldn’t walk down the street or take public transport for fear of all the staring and comments that people made. The physical pain was agonizing but at the same I feel that this pain makes me stronger and more determined to help others.

Can you describe a typical day of your life?

I wake up at 5am, I pray then I start work at 730. I am the manager of a hotel where I work 7 to 8 hours every day. After work I sometimes go to visit burns women in hospital, usually arriving home about 730pm. When I get home I spend time with the girls living in the hostel (joined to the house). I teach them skills that will be useful to them in the future. I also spend time working on the NGO: writing emails, looking for sponsors etc. Then I usually go to bed at about 11pm.

What kind of relationship do you have with your family and friends? Has it changed since the accident?

Yes it has changed. I would say now my relationship with friends and family is better than before. After the accident I was really close to dying but I was so determined to survive. I never cried once in hospital. The pain never made me cry and even the doctor told me I was very special. I have worked so hard since then and my family and friends can see everything I have fought to achieve and have a lot of respect for me for this. So, yes, I generally have a good relationship with my family. I don’t have much time to socialize with friends though as I am always so busy.

Other women aren’t so lucky though. They are often rejected by their friends and family after an accident. They are not strong enough to fight for their rights and they stay at home and isolate themselves; losing everyone. Crying over little things doesn’t change anything. I went back to work 3 days after leaving hospital as I was so determined to rebuild my life. Sometimes I can’t believe how I managed to do all this.

How do you feel about your scars?

At first they made me sad but now I am proud of my scars. Sometimes people ask me why I don’t cover them up and I tell them why should I? I like them and I am happy with who I am. Many girls with burns scars hide themselves away. I want to teach them through my example to love their bodies and not to be ashamed of who they are.

As an activist fighting for social change, what do you hope to see in the future of Nepali society?

A society that accepts burns survivors. Burns survivors should have the same rights as everyone with support and medical treatment provided by the government. But not only burns survivors. Society needs to do more for all women and children who suffer from any type of discrimination, violence or poverty.

I was very lucky to have so much support from friends in Europe but others are not so lucky. I want to ask whoever that can to please support us in creating a more just and equal society for all Nepali people and to bring about social change.

  •