Laxmi is originally from nearby Benighat, a town on the Prithivi Highway not far from Baltar. Laxmi married her husband, Padam, when she was 17. Once married, they lived with her husband’s family for a short while, before moving into a home of their own and starting a family.
Laxmi has lived in Baltar for 40 years and has four adult children – one daughter who lives in Kathmandu and three sons. Her youngest son lives in the USA and her middle and eldest sons live and work in Dhading. She has six grandchildren – four granddaughters and two grandsons.
Laxmi’s house is located in the centre of Baltar. Because of cracks and damage caused by the earthquake, Laxmi and her husband no longer sleep in the house. Instead, they sleep in the shed. This is a common situation in Baltar where many houses have been damaged by the earthquake. Laxmi’s brother-in-law, Khadka, and his wife, Bhagwati, live next door. It is common in rural Nepal for family members to live next door to each other. Her house looks out on to fields of beans and aubergines.
Laxmi is the chairwoman of Baltar’s Women’s Group. The group was established 20 years ago and has 44 members. Laxmi has been chairwoman for the last 18 years.
The Women’s Group raises funds by fundraising (for example, by dancing and singing) and collecting a monthly donation of 50 rupees from each member. The group financially supports those in need in the community, for example nursing mothers. They also use funds for other purposes agreed by the group. For example, they recently constructed a small temple for the village.
The Women’s Group is a strong force within the community, due in part to Laxmi’s leadership. Her tenacity was evident from a young age. When she was a girl, Laxmi used to sneak to school by hiding from her parents. In Nepal it used to be relatively common for girls and young women not to go to school or to leave school at an early age. The education of girls was considered a low priority by some people as daughters were expected to marry at an early age and join their husband’s family as a house wife. Education was therefore not considered to be important for girls. Laxmi herself started school at age nine and reached grade three by the time she left school at age 16.
Laxmi has a vision for the women in her community to become more empowered and confident to speak out on important issues, such as education, health and domestic violence. She sees the success of women in Baltar to be crucial to the success of the village as a whole. Raleigh looks forward to working with Laxmi and the Women’s Group.