PARINA SUBBA LIMBU: RISE OF THE PHOENIX: LIFE KNOCKS YOU DOWN, BUT YOU HAVE TO GET BACK UP
As a kid, Parina Subba Limbu was above an average student, feisty and dominant by nature. But soon life took a different turn which led her onto a path that no one predicted. Things don’t always go as planned and so was the case in Parina’s life. At a tender age, when she was too young to make the right decisions, things started going downhill; she even fell in love with the wrong person and within a short time everything changed. The relationship took a toll on her and she had to suffer a great amount of physical and emotional trauma throughout. Add to it a concoction of social stigma on account of her caste, bad friends and more bad decisions and things started taking the wrong turn, pushing her to a life as a victim of various forms of violence to drug use.
Things kept deteriorating until 2006 when she attended a workshop on drug related addictions held at Radisson Hotel, by Lee Fitzgerald, who was working to spread the message of life without drugs and alcohol. During the workshop, Parina acted as a mediator between Lee and the other attendees who could not speak English. A question Lee asked would then change Parina’s life; “What do you want to do with your life?” Having been put on the spot, Parina’s first reaction was to convey her hopes of starting a day care center. The confident demeanor showcased by her must have made Lee think. They met a few days later to discuss further on Parina’s “plans”. Equipped with only a pen and paper to jot down and explain her ideas, Parina was taken aback when a wad of Rs.50000 was put in front of her by Lee and her friend Jake. The money was hers, to do whatever she wanted to do with it. She could use it to get back into drugs, or she could use it to somehow make things right. This time around, she made the right decision.
Through her experiences and close observations, Parina was no stranger to the alarming trend of female drug use that had been going unnoticed by the government and local communities. Righteously utilizing the monetary support provided by Lee- (Now the International Advisory member/Founder of Dristi Nepal) & Jake, Parina initiated the first “drop in center” (DIC) for women in substance abuse in Kathmandu named Dristi nepal. She recalls there were 14 women coming to Dristi & Now things have changed as they serve more than 300 women every year in Kathmandu & Dharan.
PARINA STANDS OUT AS AN INSPIRATIONAL FIGURE TO MANY FEMALE DRUG USERS IN NEPAL WHO HAVE NOWHERE ELSE TO GO.
Dristi Nepal, a non-governmental, non-profit organization, initiated by recovering women, helps female drug users to get back to sobriety. Its mission is to create a stigma and discrimination free society for female drug users in Nepal, and prevent them from contracting HIV/AIDS. The persisting practice of gender inequality in Nepal is a problematic concern. A similar context can be applied in the case of substance abuse. Female drug users are still discriminated, in fact, before Dristi Nepal, there was no particular attention given to the issue at all. They had to face social discrimination, lack of support from family and friends and most of all, ignorance to their problems. Dristi Nepal aims to serve a caring environment for female drug users and their children by providing skill-based programs, advocating for the treatment rights of female ex-drug users and reintegrating them into the community while raising awareness about drugs and HIV & AIDS.
Her next endeavor is to start the ‘Happy Home Project’, which is something she has had planned for a long time. Happy Home will be a day care center with health care services and skill development trainings for women who are living with HIV, using drugs, spouses of male drug users, single mothers and other unprivileged women. The project will integrate training programs that will help them in enrolling into jobs and uplift their self esteem and independence so they can finally live as normal a life as possible. Happy Home will also be a production hub whose products will be sold in the domestic and international market, the profits of which will be shared equally between the makers of the product and Happy Home Project.
Today, Parina stands out as an inspirational figure to many female drug users in Nepal who have nowhere else to go. Parina and Dristi Nepal serve as a safe haven and a place close to heart to those who want to change their life, or are in need of the support that the society and their families do not give them. What started off from a single room in New Road, has now grown to a reputed organization working for a cause that had been left neglected. The continued support from Lee Fitzgerald and funds from UNODC has helped Dristi Nepal to expand the efforts to other cities of Nepal like Dharan. Apparently few individuals/ friends from abroad as well those who accepted & believed in her and the issues she was vying for also helped Dristi Nepal to sustain in different ways.
Being trapped in a position where many might have refrained to embark on such a journey, Parina boldly recalls her past which only seems to motivate her to make sure anyone who is in a similar position gets the support that they need. For having risen from the lowest of lows and using her experience to help prevent other women from suffering like she did, TNM salutes Parina Subba Limbu.
“Discrimination against women drug users is a serious issue, I know because I have gone through it myself. People need to understand that we (female drug users) have a problem and we need love, support and respect to get through it. Everyone has a story, and everyone’s story deserves a happy ending.”
PHOTOS: MANISH RATNA SHAKYA