Sapana Roka Magar was born into a farming family in a small village of Nepal’s Myagdi district. She is said to have been a brilliant student during her childhood and pre-teen years. At age 14, she moved to Beni to study — and that is when her life took a sharp turn for the worse.
She married a teenage boy against her parents’ will. The relationship broke down just after a few months, and Sapana found herself shunned by her home village. She distanced herself from her family and became homeless.
While living in the streets, she became acquainted with the Homeless Management and Rehabilitation Center, and began to work with them. Roka Magar now calls the president of the organisation, Dinesh Jung Basnet her godfather.
Gender role remain strict in Nepal, with women generally expected to manage the household and take care of the family. The pandemic has worsened gender inequality in the country when it comes to education, employment, and income.
Women are traditionally not allowed in cremation grounds, and in some villages, only male members of the family are permitted to participate in funeral rites. But by providing final rites for people whose bodies were abandoned, Roka Magar does a job that most men wouldn’t accept.
Nepali social media users were elated by seeing Sapana Roka Magar included on the BBC 100 Women of 2020 list and shared congratulatory messages.
Freelance writer Dil Nisani Magar tweeted: