Girls Wanna Run! Training Nepal's Next Politicians

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Art Installation Promotional Poster
Art Installation Promotional Poster

The second part of the 2018 Young Women’s Political Leadership Institute focused on political activism. Through bi-monthly workshops and advocacy projects, YWPLI Fellows learned about Nepal’s power structures and how these can be used to influence change.They also discussed the barriers to a well-functioning democracy and designed projects to address the main hurdles that they identified. Simran and her friends chose to focus on women’s political participation and their art installation, called the Political Women of Nepal was visited by more than 60 young people.

Through our advocacy project, we showcased the journey of successful female leaders to inspire other young women to join politics. In total, our group interviewed ten women and collected photographs to represent their personal and political lives. We then created an art installation to show their life story and the turning points that led them to pursue a career in politics. The idea was to give young women visiting the exhibition someone they could relate to and be inspired by. We hope that our message was clear: politics is not an inaccessible world!

All of the women I interviewed were amazing. They each had a unique and invaluable perspective on politics and I’ve learned so much from the lessons and experiences they have acquired through their lifetime. It was hard to choose just one, but I decided to highlight in this report Binda Pandey, a labor activist and member of the Constituent Assembly because of the impact her work had for women in Nepal.

Binda Pandey was one of the few female politicians involved in the writing of Nepal’s new Constitution. She confessed that adopting laws to promote gender equality wasn’t an easy process. It took a lot of effort, perseverance, and the use of clever tactics to pass progressive laws, like the one that set gender quotas in political representation. Her perseverance paid off though and now Nepal has the most progressive Constitution in South Asia in terms of gender equality! I was lucky to receive her recipe for a successful career in politics: a strong ideology, a sound knowledge of the topic you are advocating for, strong communication and debating skills, the ability to build networks, and most importantly resilience!

I didn’t realize at the beginning of the project how much I would gain from talking with these successful politicians. They shared their life lessons with us and I got a glimpse of the types of challenges that I may face in the future. My biggest takeaway from this project was to seize every opportunity that comes my way and get out of my comfort zone, starting with giving a speech at the YWPLI graduation ceremony!

Simran and YWPLI Fellows at their art installation
Simran and YWPLI Fellows at their art installation
Simran with politician Binda Pandey
Simran with politician Binda Pandey

    Simran, 2018 YWPLI Fellow
    Simran, 2018 YWPLI Fellow

    We thought there wouldn’t be a better way to give you a flavor of what your donation has made possible than by interviewing one of the Young Women’s Political Leadership Institute (YWPLI) participants. Simran, a 19-year-old feminist, recently graduated from high school is proud to share her experience of the program.

    Can you tell us why you applied to the Young Women’s Political Institute (YWPLI)?

    I applied for the YWPLI because I wanted to do something about the many injustices that women endure in Nepal every day. In the countryside, the local courts are treating cases of domestic violence like any ordinary disputes such as stealing a goat from a neighbor. I want to get the skills, knowledge, and resources to influence laws and how they are implemented. I believe that it is through politics that I can have the biggest impact and bring about positive change to improve the situation for women and other marginalized communities. I was also looking for a place where I could meet other people who I could discuss politics with, which rarely occurs in my home.

    Tell us what you have been doing in YWPLI so far?

    I first took part in a week-long training course where I learned about topics such as body language, leadership, voting, campaigning, gender quotas and the Constitution. I also listened to representatives from Nepal’s main parties who presented their political agenda with the aim of convincing us to join them for our campaign placement.

    I knew straight away which party I would volunteer for: Bibeksheel Sajha, a new and ‘alternative’ party that centered its campaign against corruption. As a volunteer, I was involved in calling people on the phone and encouraged them to vote for us. During my campaign placement, I also accompanied political candidates to the Sukumbasi settlement, a slum area in Kathmandu. It was more challenging than I thought as the people we met were very pessimistic and disillusioned with politics. They told us that the other parties had made big promises but that they didn’t keep them after winning the election. I learned much more about elections and politics that day talking with people than I had before in training.

    After the campaign placement, I shared my experience of politics by running a session on civic engagement for secondary school teenagers. I hope that I was able to convince them of the importance of voting and holding leaders accountable to their promises. I told them that they are doing more harm than good by being disinterested in politics and that they had the power and responsibility to influence change by informing themselves and voting responsibly.

    What has been your main takeaway from the program?

    My biggest takeaway has been realizing that a lot of our rights are actually protected by the new Constitution but because of poor implementation, lack of information and corruption many injustices are still taking place. For instance, daughters have as much right to the parental property as their brothers and mothers have the right to transmit citizenship to their children. Unfortunately, many children still don’t have citizenship, a ticket to many other rights such as education, employment, and foreign travel. This is because public servants are patriarchal and corrupt and rarely allow citizenship to be transmitted by mothers who they consider to be second-class citizens. 

    I believe even more than before that women should be involved in the creation of laws and policies as they directly affect their lives. But because they have too few opportunities to learn and be involved in politics and too many household obligations, women are far less represented than men. I have started working with four other YWPLI Fellows on an advocacy project to increase women's political participation and I hope that we will be able to make a positive change towards our goal.

    Simran in YWPLI Training
    Simran in YWPLI Training
    Simran running a session on civic engagement
    Simran running a session on civic engagement

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    Organization Information

    Women LEAD

    Location: Washington, DC - USA
    Website: http:/​/​​
    Facebook: Facebook Page
    Twitter: @womenleadnepal
    Project Leader:
    Camille Warambourg
    Washington, DC United States

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