Breaking tradition among Nepal's Maithil women

Like many women in the Maithil community in Nepal, Manjula Thakur found her life severely restricted and controlled by the male members of her family, in a community that follows deeply entrenched patriarchal traditions. "I used to stay at home all the time, with my head covered, doing the cooking and other household chores," says the 56-year-old.

The historical region of Mithila, which encompasses some 13 districts in southeastern Nepal, as well as most of North Bihar province in India, is home to approximately three million people in Nepal alone. The plight of Maithil women, however, has largely stayed under the radar.

Yet over the past several decades, Maithil women, such as Manjula, have been making strides to gain independence, helped by projects aimed at providing them with income-earning opportunities outside the home. And despite having suffered from severe discrimination and long-standing traditions that have largely kept them home-bound, these women are making significant strides in gaining rights and independence. “With the money I’ve earned, I’ve been able to send my children to school, build a toilet and even support my husband to buy a small plot of land,” Manjula says with pride in her voice.

Photography © Omar Havana. All Rights are Reserved

Part of the story was done while on assignment for The International Labour Organisation