Born in the family of army personnel and married to Late Major Dr. Amin Thapa, Lily’s life turned around after losing her husband at a young age of 29. He was killed in the Gulf War in 1994 while on duty on a UN mission. Overnight, Lily went from being an educated and accomplished woman running a primary school, to having almost no status or sense of personal identity, as dictated by Nepalese society. It was during this period that Lily first came into contact with the grim reality of widowhood in Nepalese Hindu society, as well as the reprehensible treatment and practices forced upon women, making them virtually disappear. That was when Lily resolved to become what she is today, a selfless and dedicated woman who inspires those around her with her extraordinary strength and confidence that she carries.
Lily Thapa is the founding chairperson of Women for Human Rights (WHR), Single Women (widows) Group in Nepal that has been working for the social, political, economic and legal rights of single women in Nepal and South Asia for past 20 years. She is also a founding member of Sankalpa, which is a women’s alliance for peace, justice and democracy and is currently serving as vice-chairperson. Lily established the South Asian Network for Women Empowerment and Development (SANWED) in 2003 and serves as the General Secretary. Under this transformational leadership, WHR and this grassroots movement of widows has grown from one small room to a global level. By profession, Ms Thapa is Lecturer of Sociology and Gender in the University of Nepal and Conflict, Development and Peace Studies in Purwanchal University of Nepal.
Her efforts have been recognised by multiple national and international awards, including the Ashoka Fellow Award in 2007, Public Service Award from the President of Nepal in 2013 and Dayawati Modi Stri Shakti Award by the Government of India in 2017. Today Lily, at the helm of WHR, has given a new horizon of hope to over 500,000 women and three incredibly successful sons and proud daughter-in-laws, constantly working to uplift and empower them to create a world where there will be no discrimination of the basis of marital status.