Print Edition - 2018-02-19  |  SILVER LININGS

Advocate of justice

- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Feb 19, 2018-

On Wednesday morning, February 14, Mohna Ansari was busy preparing notes that will be presented at the Human Rights Council meeting on February 20, where Ansari, on behalf of Nepal, will explicate views on the human rights situation in the country. Only a handful of the representatives get such an opportunity. This, however, is not the first time Ansari is representing Nepal at the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disability. For the last decade she has acted as an emissary to the international forum, as she continues her incessant fight for social justice and human rights.

Born into an impoverished Muslim family in Nepalgunj, Ansari had to struggle to get to where she is today. Growing up, she had to even struggle to obtain an education and at one point had to drop out of college because she could not pay the Rs 275 fee. But through her perseverance, Ansari eventually completed her Intermediate in Law, which paved the way for her to become licensed as a junior advocate. Ever since, she has tirelessly dedicated herself to teaching people the legal provisions that they are directly linked to. 

When she obtained her advocate’s license, she was the first Muslim woman in Nepal to do so. Following this milestone for herself and her community, while working under a senior advocate, she was able to work in donor-supported legal aid services started by the Nepal Bar Council. This marked the beginning of her advocacy for social justice and human rights.

After the success of the People’s Movement in 2006, the issue of inclusion and rights of minority groups came to the fore. The then-CPN Maoist, that came into power in 2008 after a landmark victory, took it upon themselves to champion the agenda of inclusion. The Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government even formed an Inclusion Commission in 2009 where Ansari drafted a policy targeting Muslim women.

A year later, she was appointed as a member of the National Women Commission by the then Madhav Kumar Nepal led government which was the first time a Muslim woman was appointed to the high-profile position. During her four-year tenure, she played an instrumental role in drafting anti-witchcraft laws and laws against dowry and domestic violence, which have been hailed as major achievements against gender-based violence. 

“Her dedication and willingness to do something helped us take some remarkable steps in the Commission,” said Nain Kala Thapa, the then chair of the Commission. Now in her 40s, Ansari wants to continue her advocacy work even in an unofficial capacity. “There is still a tendency in our society not to take women seriously,” Ansari says, “Only women can change this perception. And I want to continue playing my part.”

— By Binod Ghimire 

Published: 19-02-2018 12:20

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