Bidhya Devi Bhandari, a former Nepali politician, held the position of the second president of Nepal from 2015 to 2023, making her the first woman to do so. She was a notable leader in the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and a strong advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. Additionally, she has previously served as the minister of defence and minister of environment and population. Bidhya Devi Bhandari is highly regarded for her simplicity, humility, and integrity.
|Bidya Devi Bhandari
|Date of Birth
|19 June 1961
|Place of Birth
|Mane Bhanjyang, Bhojpur, Nepal
|Former President of Nepal, Former Minister of Defence and Environment and Population
|Bachelor of Arts from Tribhuvan University
|Married to Madan Bhandari (expired), two daughters Usha Kiran and Nisha Kusum
|Awards and Honors
|Suprabal Janasewashree (First Class), Nari Jagaran Award, Basundhara Award, etc.
Early Years and Background
Bidya Devi Bhandari was born into a middle-class farming family to Ram Bahadur Pandey and Mithila Pandey. She grew up in the hills of Bhojpur, Eastern Nepal, completing her school education there. For higher studies, she went to Biratnagar, Morang, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tribhuvan University. Influenced by the leftist democratic movement against the autocratic Panchayat system, she joined the Communist Party of Nepal (ML) in 2036 B.S. During her student days, she became a member of the All Nepal Women Association (ANWA) and the Eastern Regional Committee of the All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU), both affiliated with the CPN (ML).
Success in Career
Bidya Devi Bhandari began her political journey as a student leader and later dedicated herself to her political party’s principles of democracy and freedom. She became a member of the House of Representatives from Kathmandu-1 in 1994 and later from Kathmandu-2 in 1999. Notably, she served as the Minister of Environment and Population in 1997 and as the Minister of Defence from 2009 to 2011, making her the first woman to hold that position. In 2014, she became the vice-chairperson of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and assumed the role of chair of the All Nepal Women’s Association in 2015.
On October 28, 2015, after the introduction of the new constitution, she made history by being elected as the second president of Nepal, the first woman to do so. Her successful first term led to her re-election for a second term on March 13, 2018.
Impact in the field & Legacy
Bidya Devi Bhandari has always been a strong supporter of women’s rights and gender equality in her political career. She led various movements to ensure equal treatment for women and advocated for their inclusion in all aspects of governance. After the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections, she played a crucial role in introducing a parliamentary resolution for 33% reservations for women in all state organs. This commitment was later incorporated into the 2015 Constitution.
She also initiated several programs like the President Women Upliftment Program, President Chure Conservation Program, and President Education Reform Program to empower women. Bidya Devi Bhandari has gained national and international recognition for her efforts in promoting women’s advancement, peace, and democracy. In 2016, Forbes ranked her 52nd in the list of the world’s 100 most powerful women. She has received various awards, including the Suprabal Janasewashree (First Class), Nari Jagaran Award, Basundhara Award, and an honorary doctorate from Soka University, Japan.
Personal and Family Insights
Bidya Devi Bhandari got married to Madan Bhandari, a prominent communist leader, in 1982. They had two daughters, Usha Kiran and Nisha Kusum. Her married life was cut short by the tragic and mysterious death of her husband in a road accident in 1993. She raised her two daughters on her own, while continuing her political responsibilities. She is known for her simplicity, humility, and integrity. She does not have any social media accounts, and prefers to communicate directly with the people. She is fond of reading, gardening, and listening to music. She is also a devout Hindu, and follows the rituals and festivals of her culture. She is respected and loved by the people of Nepal, who call her “Aama” (mother).