INTRODUCTION OF 2008 THORAYA AHMED OBAID INTERNATIONAL AWARDS FOR THE HEALTH AND DIGNITY OF WOMEN

Aasmani Chaudhary
Founder Rural Women Development Center

Aasmani Chaudhary is a leader among Tharu women of Nepal who have endured poverty, illiteracy, domestic violence and insufficient health services due to gender and caste. She founded the Rural Women Development Center to advance women's health, social status and financial prosperity through income generating activities.

In Chaudhary’s family, it was typical for only boys to be educated. One day her cousin registered her name along with his own for school, simply by paying an additional 25 cents. While she reveled in this unexpected privilege, Chaudhary remained incensed by gender restrictions such as this, which ensure women’s dependence.

At age 18, Chaudhary devised a microfinancing strategy that offers Tharu women a chance to gain power by investing in one another’s success as farmers, merchants and landowners. She has since created a health program, funded by UNFPA, to organize the demand for quality health services in remote areas, share information about HIV/AIDS and bring health care to rural women. Her program has benefited more than 24,000 women.

In communities where many women had become convinced of their low status, Chaudhary has changed women’s prospects and raised standards. She invites women to join her in demanding that national policies on health and rights be translated into action. Women have answered her call by the thousands and united to claim their right to health care and independence.