Looking back at 2006 winner Bishnu Maya Pariyar

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Named Woman of the Year in 2006, Bishnu Maya Pariyar was honored for her efforts as a community activist. She is the founder of Empower Dalit Women of Nepal, a prolific social entrepreneur and an admired personality in Nepal’s Dalits. Her time since being honored as Woman of the Year has been spent continue to work for causes that spark her passion, namely the empowerment of Dalits, a so called low-caste or untouchable people who are traditionally marginalized in the society.

“[Empower Dalit Women of Nepal] has become very large now,” said Pariyar. “Every year we are doing more and more.”

According to her, since starting the organization in 1998 over 12,000 women have benefit from its efforts. The organization now also runs seven preschool programs in Nepal.

Pariyar said that being named Woman of the Year gave her a great boost of strength and energy to keep her organization moving forward. She also said it provided some great exposure.

“I did more after I got that award from India New England, people heard about what I do,” she said. “That is how people started knowing me. Otherwise not everyone knew what I was doing.”

She said she still hears about the article that was written about her in INDIA New England because it can still be accessed online. “That is how we got so many volunteers because so many people read about us and read about me,” said Pariyar.

Pariyar lives in Everett, Mass., but she goes to Nepal every year because all of Empower Dalit Women of Nepal’s programs and efforts are in Nepal.

Still, she says her presence in the United States is important because the group has many volunteers here. “For me, being here is also important because all the money we spend in Nepal we raise here,” she added.

After many years of effort, Pariyar says she can really see the fruits of the labor. “The main important thing is changing the society because of the class discrimination • now people solve the problem together, before it was not like this,” she said. “Every year we get more funding and do more work.”

Pariyar has bachelor’s degrees in social work and social and political systems from Tribhuvan University in Nepal and Pine Manor College in Newton, Mass. She also has a master’s degree in international development and social change from Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

In addition to her efforts with Empower Dalit Women of Nepal, Pariyar works a family advocate and counselor on domestic violence.

Pariyar has received a number of accolades, including The Bridge Builder Award from Harvard University, Perdita Hudson Human Rights Award by United Nations Association of USA, Dr. Ambedkar Award by Association of International Dalit Organizations, Margaret McNamara Memorial Award by World Bank Family Network, Pauline Tompkins Award, Women’s Leadership Award, the President Cup Award from Pine Manor College, Nepal Samman (Jewel of Nation) award from Nepal and the Solute to the Heroes Award 2010 by Association of Nepali in America.

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