Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!

by Women LEAD
Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!
Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!
Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!
Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!
Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!
Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!
Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!
Help Young Women Break the Glass Ceiling in Nepal!
Praju, 2013 LEADer
Praju, 2013 LEADer

I started my journey at Women LEAD in 2013 as a LEADer, participant of the 2013 LEAD Course, with a very faint idea of my stance as a young female leader. With my engagement in the organization, I became more aware of my socio-cultural environment and how actions are needed to promote growth and awareness not just within an individual but within the society itself at large. Women LEAD helped me to grow as an empowered young woman who was able to speak not just for herself but also the others. Over the years, I have had several roles in the organization; as an intern in 2014 and 2018, as a board member in 2015, and mentor since 2015

One of my proudest achievements was coordinating the Sujata Baskota Changemaker’s Project on “Consent”. It was an opportunity, not just for the students to learn about consent, but for me to explore my bounds as a facilitator and a trainer. Women LEAD’s Sujata Baskota Changemaker Award program provides grants to its alumni to implement their own community projects in Nepal.

Another rewarding engagement in Women LEAD has been the mentorship program, with which I have had the honor to mentor 5 young girls over the years; mentees are LEAD course participants. The atmosphere at Women LEAD and its members has always been the most encouraging. 

With my educational background in law, I wanted to pursue my interest to facilitate better policy practices especially in consideration of women and underrepresented communities. So, I found it reasonable to approach the issue not just as a young voice in activism but as a drafter of law. Currently, I have been appointed as a Legal Officer at the Ministry of Social Development, Bagmati Province. I am excited and looking forward to this new journey of working for the Government of Nepal. 

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Dilasha, LEADer 2018
Dilasha, LEADer 2018

It was a privilege to have been given the opportunity from Women LEAD to attend the virtual 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (16th-26th March). The 65th CSW's theme was “Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life and the empowerment of women and girls”. 

The CSW65 session provided an opportunity for all the attendees to come up with strong action-oriented policy recommendations and ensured that we build back better towards a future that is more equal, resilient, and sustainable. Most of the events that I attended covered discussions around the critical role of civil society and women’s rights organizations on the front line. Government representatives and participants also discussed and celebrated the leadership from women’s rights organizations.

Of all the sessions I attended, I’d like to share about two of them. One of the sessions I attended was “Championing Women Leadership in Tech” which focused specifically on tech because women are increasingly rising through the ranks in public and political life and yet in the technology sector women leaders are not as visible and progress is much slower. The discussion was inspiring, and I learned that increasing women’s participation in the tech industry can bridge the gender gap and unleash female leadership across the board. 

Another event panel “Women Delivering Justice: Achieving Gender Parity In The Justice Sector” focused on the importance of investing in the equal and full representation of women in justice delivery. I learned that women belong in all places where decisions are being made, it shouldn’t be that women are the exception and that any society where women are excluded from public life and decision making cannot call itself truly democratic.

In conclusion, my learnings from the CSW65 sessions that I attended focused on, given the compelling case for gender equality in the justice, civil, and public sector itself, dismantling these barriers must be our collective priority and the COVID crisis has made this clearer than ever as it has impacted women disproportionately – from loss of jobs to rise in violence against women and unpaid care work.

As I move ahead in my professional career as well as my personal path, my realizations and highlights from the CSW65 session are that in order to achieve gender equality, we need to have an intersectional approach to solving the barriers holding us back. Gender equality is for everyone and we need to work with young people who have a more inclusive vision of societies including women who are afro-descendent, indigenous, from rural communities and LGBTIQA+ community, trans feminists, and among other marginalized communities, should be a top priority.

Along with myself, everyone gathered look forward to a meaningful outcome that would make a tangible difference for the world’s women and girls at this critical moment and time.

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2017 LEADer Isha
2017 LEADer Isha

In the year 2017, I got selected for Women LEAD Nepal's LEAD Course. It was a great privilege to be a part of the year-long LEAD Course and being trained alongside 29 other passionate young women. LEAD course's core components like the School Leadership Program (SLP) and Advocacy Projects played a significant role in enhancing my leadership skills.

Even after graduating from the year-long course, I was able to avail opportunities like Sujata Baskota Changemaker Award (SBCMA) at Women LEAD Nepal. Being a recipient of SBCMA 2019, I got to implement my own project-"Naritwa" at the community schools of Surkhet with my teammates; whereby I got to learn several skills like project management, networking, public speaking among many others. Our project "Naritwa", also known as Womanhood was aimed at providing awareness, especially to women, and to hold discussions with both genders so as to create a common understanding about reproductive health. Also, the project was designed to help women realize the importance of vaginal hygiene through various health camps and sessions. 

Similarly, as Women LEAD's alumni, I got a chance to mentor two young 2018 and 2019 LEADers. Having said that, I also had the great opportunity to be one of the mentors at WOW Madhesh's Speed Mentoring sessions. At Wow Madesh, I mentored young girls and provided guidance regarding their academic, personal, and professional concerns. 

Currently, I am working as a Program Assistant at a youth-led NGO that's working in the field of education. The skills I learned from Women LEAD Nepal during my LEAD Course, my internship at Women LEAD Nepal, and its other programs are very applicable to date and have greatly helped me excel in my current role. As Women LEAD Nepal provides a wide range of networks, it has given me the right exposure to connect with like-minded individuals and organizations. In addition to this, the experience of being a mentor at Women LEAD has proven to be an asset in my current role as it requires me to mentor young scholars at my current organization.

Undoubtedly, Women LEAD Nepal has fostered my personal and professional growth and has played a significant role in enhancing my leadership, followership, mentorship, facilitation, and public speaking skills. I am forever grateful and thankful to Women LEAD Nepal.

 

2017 LEADer Isha (right) performing during OWN IT
2017 LEADer Isha (right) performing during OWN IT
2017 LEADer Isha (left) during her graduation.
2017 LEADer Isha (left) during her graduation.

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2018 LEADer Nikki
2018 LEADer Nikki

I was never an outspoken person, at least not with many. I barely looked at people in the eye when I spoke to them and mostly, I kept away from everyone. Back in 2018 when I was shortlisted for Women LEAD’s LEAD course, I was so happy but pleasantly surprised; why would anyone select me? During the intense year-long course, I realized the answer to the question, a little late but surely; they recognized the spark in me that I hadn’t myself. Even after graduating from the LEAD Course, Women LEAD has continued to foster my passions in a positive and comforting way while also encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone to do much more. Also, the trust and support that they have in me is one of the motivation factors that drives me to pursue new paths and explore boundaries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely given us an opportunity to reflect and re-think many aspects of our life. To date, Nepal has gone undergone 2 nation-wide complete lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While lockdown was boring for me as I couldn’t go out or eat out or meet my friends; all while not having to worry about basic supplies like food rations and hygiene products, I realized it wasn’t the same for many Nepali citizens.  With complete nation-wide lockdown, thousands of Nepali men, women, and even children were struggling to survive just another day with little to no food and no source of income. Something I learned as a LEADer through the LEAD course’s advocacy projects and change maker challenges was to recognize the existing issues and strive to solve it; which is exactly what I did through Feed the Hungry Nepal.

Amidst the pandemic and the first nation-wide lockdown, I along with four other youths started a COVID-19 response initiative, “Feed the Hungry Nepal”, to help ones that were left hungry during the lockdown; especially the daily wage workers. Food is a basic necessity- something thousands of Nepali people don’t have the benefit of and access to. With low income straining them, the added loss of jobs makes them the most vulnerable during this global pandemic. What could have been the next move? Wait for the government or someone else to do something about it or take the bold steps to bring the required change? That decision is something we all might have to come across at least once in our lives. Once we decided upon how we wanted help, we approached our close ones, explaining the situation, and asking for their assistance. In just 2 days, our team of 5 became a team of 10 and then kept on increasing. Currently, three months after it was started, there are 500+ youths working with Feed the Hungry Nepal. 

This small initiative that started with 5 youths is now a registered non-profit and has raised over $10,000 in about 3 months and has distributed over 2376 rations across 50+locations. We reached a new milestone this week- we were able to provide 500 ration distributions in a day. Over the months, hundreds of people have joined our cause by providing monetary support, by working with us at the field, and by helping spread the word. One thing that I want to tell everyone is that no idea is too stupid or impossible. I strongly believe that one should pursue their interests and try generating ideas on how to move forward. This is just the start and we have a long way to go - many hurdles to overcome and milestones to celebrate.

Last but not the least, I am very thankful to Women LEAD for helping me find myself and making able enough to take up key leadership roles. I’d also like to request our dear readers to never stop exploring your limits and diving into new territories. All the love and all the best to you!

Nikki along with her Feed the Hungry Nepal team
Nikki along with her Feed the Hungry Nepal team
Distribution of the food rations
Distribution of the food rations

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Aishwarya Speaking at a Women LEAD Event
Aishwarya Speaking at a Women LEAD Event

As I take a walk down memory lane and reflect upon the journey I have had since I first became involved with Women LEAD in 2011, I can firmly state that Women LEAD has had one of the biggest influences over my life. The experiences that I have gained by being involved in Women LEAD as a trainee, a trainer, a mentor and as the Board President, have helped me to shape my identity and mould my personality into something which I feel proud of today.

Women LEAD has contributed to making me a professional by offering me leadership and professional skills. These skills have proven to be my biggest strength while taking important steps career-wise and also making decisions in personal life. Being a part of Women LEAD has also helped me feel confident about myself, made me believe in my potential, and also made me realize that I hold this immense ability to bring the change that I desire to see in my community.

Over the years, I have definitely taken on the role of a leader. I have initiated projects and implemented ideas, been vocal about issues that need to be addressed, taken a stand for myself and for others, fought for justice or supporting those who are doing so, and most importantly, followed my dreams without conforming to what society expects of me.

Women LEAD is not just a platform where I have learned essential practical skills, but it is also a family to me. I have had many achievements, which I feel really proud of- from being awarded two national gold medals for my performance during my Bachelor's studies; launching my own project from college, and currently taking on significant responsibilities as a founding Board Member and the Managing Director of a social enterprise called Putali Nepal. Every individual that I have come across through Women LEAD has played a paramount role in helping me achieve these goals and become who I am today. Their constant support, appreciation, motivation and encouragement has helped me discover my strengths and work on my weaknesses.

Words can’t describe how much I value being part of the Women LEAD family. It has played a huge role in making me realize my ability as an individual to make a difference. It is with this belief that I always remain motivated and encouraged to make the best use of what I have learned over the years and help others.

As Oskar Schindler says, ''whoever saves one life, saves the world entirely.'' I am so happy to be clear about my direction in life and to be working on topics I am truly passionate about. I can’t thank Women LEAD enough for giving me the strength and guiding me towards realizing my goal in life.

Aishwarya Receiving a National Medal
Aishwarya Receiving a National Medal
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Women LEAD

Location: Washington, DC - USA
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Twitter: @womenleadnepal
Project Leader:
Dipasa Bista
Washington, DC United States
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