This profile was prepared when Renuka Sharma was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Renu Sharma has developed an intervention system for abused women that provides them with support mechanisms within rural villages as well as a crisis center that provides crucial services to women who have migrated to Kathmandu from rural villages and subsequently suffered abuse. Renu is now using her extensive village network and her Kathmandu women's shelter to tackle the problem in Nepal of abuse directed particularly at widows. Widow abuse in Nepal takes several forms, the most severe being that of the common practice of labeling a widow a bokshi (witch). Widows very often are outcast from society and are the victims of physical abuse by the authorities in their communities. Because of deeply ingrained cultural beliefs, little work has been done to eliminate the abuse of these women. Renu is using her village support groups, which she has developed throughout Nepal, to provide critical supports for widows, including income generating projects that will allow the women to become self sufficient. She will also create a public education campaign in the media in order to combat the attitudes that Nepali citizens have formed about widowhood. Renu will also be working within the political system to change laws that allow the abuse of widows to continue and within the legal system to bring to justice the authorities that are often guilty of permitting the abuse of widows.