Interview with Mandira Sharma,
Yuli Ismartono [time 29:19]
10th July, 2007
Yuli Ismartono: Mandira, thank you for being with us today.
Mandira Sharma: My pleasure.
YI: Let me begin by asking you when were you first interested in law and human rights issues?
Mandira Sharma: I think it was when I was a student. I come from the western part of the country, and grew up in a village. When I was a child, I wanted to become a nurse. It was my Mom who encouraged me to go for a law degree at that time because I was a girl-child in the family and they would not send a girl-child to go outside the village to study. In our village there was no university where one could study medicine or nursing. So, that was why my mother encouraged me to study law and I took law. And when I was in the university, I graduated in 1990. And that was when I saw a lot victims of human rights violations, seeing my teachers being involved in helping them. That was the point when I decided that this is the field I wanted to work in.
YI: So, law was actually a second choice because you really wanted to be a nurse, you wanted to be involved in medicine. But interestingly, your family told you to go to school when others in Nepal did not send their daughters to school.
Mandira Sharma: In that sense, I was very lucky. It was my mother who really fought for sending us to school. She herself was honest with it. I think, maybe she might have had some experiences in her life that taught her it was really important that girls should be educated. It was my Mom who also insisted within the family to send my sisters and myself to school. She was, in fact, encouraging us to go to this school. In a way, we were very lucky to be able to go to this school.
YI: But is this traditional in Nepal? Do many women from the villages go to school beyond elementary and high school?
Mandira Sharma: It is unusual. At that time, there were very few girls who used to go to schools and I was the first one to pass SLC - School Leaving Certificate - in the fifth year. And I was the first girl to get a degree in law, the first from a village. Still, there were very few girls to have gone to school. But I was lucky, as I said, all the credit goes to my Mom. She was the one who really fought to send us to school.
YI: You don't have brothers?
Mandira Sharma: I do have brothers, but sending them to school was not a problem. They would automatically go to school. The family encouraged them to go. I remember my brother went to Kathmandu for further studies, but I did not. I wanted to, but I was not allowed to come.
YI: That was discrimination.
Mandira Sharma: That was discrimination. I saw very clear discrimination in the family despite the fact that my mother was very pro-active. In fact, I think if she had the opportunity, she would have been a good leader.
YI: What about the situation today, are women still discriminated?
Mandira Sharma: They are, but things have changed a bit. I can see the difference within my own family. I saw my niece going to school now. She didn't have any problem. She left the village, she left the family to study on her own. I see these changes, but still there is discrimination. You really have to fight a lot. You have to put extra energy to go for further studies or any other job.