They never imagined that they would one day don combat fatigues, carry guns and parade in a predominantly male battalion, but circumstances made possible what to these women was unimaginable just a year ago. These are widows of Royal Nepali Army (RNA) personnel who have died in encounters with the Maoists. After almost a year of mourning, Nirmala from Jhapa, Goma Shrestha from Dolakha and Chandri Prasai from Chitwan decided that they had cried enough for husbands killed in action. It was time for action. Today, they do what their late husbands did. They joined the RNA and are full-fledged soldiers. "This had to happen," says Nirmala. "After all, how long can we keep on sobbing in memory of our husbands? There had to be a new beginning." Goma believes she now has a new mission in life. "After becoming a widow, life had ceased to have any meaning to me," she recalls. "But now I have the willpower to serve the country and the people." Chandri remembers when she almost committed suicide after her husband was killed. "At the time, the association of the army personnel's wives injected hope in me to live my own life independently."
The association gave them vocational training in tailoring but after the widows saw female soldiers training, they began to think they could do the same. The RNA could not recruit married females but made an exception for these women with an amendment to the rule. It allowed able widows of soldiers to join the security force, making Nirmala, Goma and Chandri the first three to do so.
After completing their training, they will be deployed in the same kind of risky work as their male counterparts. The three say that they have to fulfil the dream of their late husbands. "To establish peace. We don't want anyone else to suffer the same fate we did," says Goma.