Nepalese Mark Women’s Day in Queens

Kanchi Maya Shrestha at the International Women's Day celebration sponsored by Adhikaar in Queens on March 6 (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices of NY)

Kanchi Maya Shrestha at the International Women’s Day celebration sponsored by Adhikaar in Queens on March 6 (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices of NY)

“I have no idea what women’s day is,” said Kanchi Maya Shrestha, with a smile on her face. “This is my first women’s day celebration in my life,” added Shrestha, who attended an International Women’s Day event on March 6 at Public School 12 at Woodside, Queens.

Shrestha, 50, was among about 300 participants at the event that was organized by Adhikaar, a nonprofit organization working with New York’s Nepalese community. She has lived in Queens for more than two years with her husband and daughter, and while International Women’s Day was new to her, she did conclude that “I know women’s day is good.”

By contrast, another Nepalese woman, Laxmi Shrestha, 40, was very knowledgable and very excited about the event.

“I come to this event every year,” said Laxmi (no relation to Kanchi Maya), a banker at Chase Manhattan Bank for 11 years. Coincidentally, like Kanchi Maya, she is also a resident of Elmhurst. She was very supportive of the event’s promotion of women’s independence. “If you want to achieve something in life, then you have to be independent,” said Shrestha. “If you want to do something, you can definitely do it. If everyone can do it, then why not women?”

A panel at the event discussed a number of topics, including the subject of domestic violence and how women who are undocumented should deal with the problem. Some women inquired if they can raise their voice even when they are undocumented.

Participants at Adhikaar's International Women's Day Celebration in Woodside, Queens on March 6. Laxmi Shrestha is at center in the red blouse and black jacket (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices of NY)

Participants at Adhikaar’s International Women’s Day celebration in Woodside, Queens, on March 6. Laxmi Shrestha is at center in the red blouse and black jacket (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices of NY)

“It doesn’t matter whether you are documented or not, your life comes first,” said Renu Sharma Sapkota, vice president and director of counseling and community outreach at Women for Cause, a New Jersey-based nonprofit. The organization offers workshops, counseling, literacy and language classes and other services to help women and their families who have been victims of domestic abuse.

Sapkota, 40, added, “Life matters here. Whether you are documented or undocumented, we are here to help you out. You can call us anytime.”

Another panelist, Alison Julien said, “It’s always important to get involved with a local community organization to stay protected.” Julien, who is a Dorothy Bolden fellow at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, added, “I would definitely encourage the Nepalese community to find out more about Adhikaar and get involved with it.”

An estimated 20,000 Nepalese reside in Queens, home to diverse communities from all over the world.

Adhikaar has been celebrating women’s day since 2008. The organization advocates on behalf of immigrants to ensure that their employment and social rights are respected.

The five-hour long women’s day celebration ended with some musical foot-tapping numbers.

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  1. Pingback: #InternationalWomensDay | renelabibliotecaria

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