Nepal’s widows are one of the least understood and most poorly-treated minorities in the world. Nicola Zolin spent time with one woman who’s doing her best to change all that.

Sunita Thapa’s husband was violent, and beat her repeatedly before leaving her with two sons and two daughters. She has never heard from him again.

Sarmila Adhikazi’s husband hung himself in their family home four years ago. He once hit her on the face with a beer bottle and damaged her right eye. Her relatives blamed her for his death.

Janaki Devi Joshi became a widow at the age of 21 when her daughter was just six months old. Her father in-law sold the house and didn’t give her a penny.

Today, Sunita, Sarmila and Janaka join hundreds of other women in the small city of Mahendranagar, in Nepal’s Kanchanpur district, to meet a woman who’s helping improve their lives in no small way. And when Lily Thapa enters the hall, every pair of eyes in the room lights up.