This profile was prepared when Rita Thapa was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Through her organization, Tewa (meaning "support" in Nepali), Rita Thapa is pioneering the idea of local, social philanthropy in Nepal. In a country where the presence of foreign and multilateral donors has created a culture of dependency amongst many development organizations, this concept is path-breaking. Rita sees Tewa as a model for development work and philanthropy in the country. Fundraising is carried out by approaching local sources, rather than foreign, which is the first way that the organization promotes a sense of ownership amongst Nepalis for the development initiatives that are being funded. Tewa itself then awards grants, as opposed to loans, emphasizing primarily the commonly overlooked sector of women in rural areas of the country, as the next step in building stronger communities and empowering local people. Eventually, these same grant recipients become Tewa donors, thus bringing the process full-circle.