WOW collaborated with Hyatt Regency Kathmandu to co-create a platform that recognises women leaders from different walks of life in 2017. It is an annual event that aspires to engage with women leaders, change agents, enablers and opinion makers to reshape the way we look at women’s leadership and to make it wider and more inclusive while transcending the common barriers that stand in their way. The Awards shine the spotlight on women of courage, perseverance and innovation in five categories: Arts, Leadership, Social Change/Activism, Entrepreneurship and Inspiring Woman of the Year. This year, the Lifetime Achievement Award category was introduced.
The editorial team of Media 9 made the nominations based on their research that sought to find women making impact along with that spark of inspiration their story carries to forge greater change. Some of them are recognized names and some you may not have heard of before; most of them are young, and all of them are SHEROES. A distinguished panel of purposeful judges – again women who are not just achievers but agents of greater change – made the decision on the winners. This year’s jury were Dr Madhu Dixit Devkota, Srijana Jyoti, Rita Shrestha, Rohini Rana, Shaguni Singh Sakya, Pranu Singh and Neeru Rayamajhi Khatri. They were felicitated for their contribution by Director of Media 9, Sanket Lamichhane.
The Hyatt Regency Kathmandu came alive to an audience of over 200 distinguished personalities and champions of gender equality and change at this year’s awards. Her Excellency, Ambassador of EU to Nepal, Nona Deprez was the guest of honour. She not only presented the awards but made a strong and impactful speech on why it was important to have an equal world with insights into her professional career, Bhawana Raut, a 23-year-old political activist, gave the keynote speech talking about all the reasons that make her an activist. A powerful delivery that filled the ballroom with questions and a young person’s vision for her country and her quest to find her place in society as a woman.
Charu Chadha, Editor of Media 9 drew attention to lack of gender parity across the spectrum including media, “We again failed to deliver on gender parity when the position of the Vice President went to a man. Women and LGBTQIA+ people almost never make it to news headlines. In the most recent report published by the Global Media Monitoring Project, the largest and longest running research on gender in the world’s news media, women were found to make up just 24% of news subjects and sources reported. According to this report, this number has not changed since 2010. Women-centered headlines use words that are explicitly gendered. This makes the work we do even more meaningful for us at WOW”.
In line with the IWD 2023 theme: Digitall; Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality, a panel discussion titled “WHAT’S YOUR HASTAG” was held to discuss hashtag activism in the country, their effectiveness and their legal standing. The session was moderated by Amuda Mishra, Executive Director of Ujyalo Foundation and Researcher, DEI Coach and Facilitator. Panelists were Pukar Bam, Politician and Academician representing the Enough Is Enough movement; Mamta Siwakoti, licensed advocate and Founder of the Digital Law and Policy Centre; Prakriti Dhakal, youth leader representing Hamro Bahini; and Shailee Chaudhary, activist representing Dalit Lives Matter.
The Honorees for the Awards were Bhawana Raut for Social Activism, Mamta Siwakoti for Leadership, Surakshya Panta for the Arts, Sonika Manandhar for Entrepreneurship and Hon. Deputy Speaker Indira Ranamagar as the Inspiring Woman of the Year 2023. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Nepal’s first female ambassador Bhinda Swari Shah. Her son, renowned banker and leadership coach, Anil Shah received the award on her behalf paying a heartfelt tribute to his mother for her role as a professional, a wife, mother and grandmother but above all for trailblazing the path for many as a role model.
The vote of thanks was presented by the Director of Operations of Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, Walter Pereira, and the event was emceed by Assistant Editor of WOW, Ankita Jain.
HONOREE FOR 2023: BHAWANA RAUT Category: Social Activism
Political and social activist, a voice that challenges socio-political injustices, an individual who strives to make the government accountable for their actions; These are just a few aspects of the incredible individual that is Bhawana Raut.
Be it society’s way of objectifying women, challenges surrounding access to law, education, finance and healthcare, the disproportionate representation of women in politics, a broad lack of women representation in leadership roles or the struggles to achieve gender equality and equity, Bhawana is a 23-year-old who does not fear away from the challenges that come with raising her voice in public on important issues.
She played a key role in the ‘Ajai Kati Sahane’ movement, which sought to raise awareness of the unchecked epidemic of rising rape cases and sexual violence in the country. The movement presented a 7-point agreement to the government demanding changes to the country’s rape laws.
She wants to build an ecosystem of solutions, especially in the political space. She dares to question the status quo despite threats from her detractors who have lashed out at her outspoken and fearless questioning of patriarchal systems and beliefs.
HONOREE FOR 2023: MAMTA SIWAKOTI Category: Leadership
A licensed lawyer whose popularity grew during the pandemic through a series of videos she posted on social media in which she answered her audience’s questions pertaining to legal matters in Nepal. Fueled by the growing popularity of her content, she started a digital literacy campaign known as ‘The Digital lawyer’ with the aim of improving the general public’s awareness of the country’s laws and their civic rights. She covers a wide range of legal issues such as cryptocurrency, voting, divorce, violence against women, animal rights, sexual harassment, taxation, etc. Her videos are widely watched and she has over one hundred nineteen thousand and three hundred followers and over two point eight million likes on TikTok alone. The Digital Lawyer, Mamta Siwakoti is a licensed advocate and the founder of The Digital Law & Policy Centre.
HONOREE FOR 2023: SURAKSHYA PANTA Category: The Arts
Incredibly talented with over eight feature films, multiple music videos and numerous magazine covers including the WOW, Surakshya Panta is a celebrated actor who has won the hearts of critics and audiences alike. She was invited to the Cannes Film Festival last year to walk the red carpet, making her the first actor of Nepali origin to attend the prestigious event.
A consummate professional who is constantly working towards polishing her craft and taking on challenging roles, she is a credit to the Nepali film industry.
HONOREE FOR 2023: SONIKA MANANDHAR Category: Entrepreneurship
Engineer turned impact entrepreneur, Sonika Manandhar is the Co-founder and CTO of Aloi, a fintech company that aids micro entrepreneurs in rural and semi urban Nepal. Inspired by her father’s life journey from tempo driver to business owner, she understood that people could change their lives and become financially independent but that it required tools of awareness; she is bridging that gap with the help of inclusive technology. Sonika has been recognised with several awards in recent times for her work but what gives her the greatest satisfaction is the ability to make a genuine difference in the lives of people she designs her work around.
HONOREE FOR 2023: INDIRA RANAMAGAR Category: Inspiring Woman of the Year
The Founder and Director of Prisoner Assistance Nepal, Indira Ranamagar has dedicated her life and work to help children and destitute and homeless people. She brings hope where there is none. During the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic, she cooked food herself and donning a PPE suit was on the streets to help fight the hunger of numerous people who were left without a livelihood. She is called AMA by her beneficiaries, kids of prison inmates, the homeless and the children on the streets.
Today Indira Ranamagar has embraced politics for greater change and is the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament.
HONOREE FOR 2023: BHINDA SWARI SHAH Category: Lifetime Achievement Award
In the 1950s, for a girl from Nepal to go to school was a rarity. It was absolutely unheard-of for a girl to go study abroad, halfway across the world to America. She became the first woman from Nepal to pursue higher education in the United States going on to complete her Master’s degree in International Politics from the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University in 1958. On returning home, she gave the Public Services Commission examination and was selected for the Foreign Ministry. A trail blazer for gender equality her entire life, Bhinda Swari Shah went on to become the first female Ambassador of the country and has served during critical periods in Bangladesh and India.
She is considered an institution as her expertise on scientific filing, country profiling, diplomatic agenda preparation, drafting of agreements and protocols have set a norm in Nepal. Someone rightly said, her life could be an epic movie in which she is the HERO.
Prof Dr Madhu Dixit Devkota is the Executive Chairperson of the Upendra Devkota Memorial National Institute of Neurological and Allied Science. She was formerly Professor of Public Health and Assistant Dean of the Institute of Medicine, Tribhuvan University.
Neeru Rayamajhi is the President of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Associations of Nepal (FWEAN). She is an interior designer by profession and a social entrepreneur by passion.
Srijana Jyoti is the Managing Director of Honda Cars, Syakar Trading of the Jyoti Group. She is a marketing enthusiast and strong proponent of women and girl empowerment.
Rita Shrestha represents the owning company of the Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, Taragaon Regency Hotels, and is a humanitarian supporting social causes.
Pranu Singh is the Head of the Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing team at the Standard Chartered Bank Nepal. She has extensive experience in business planning, administration, strategic management and customer relationship.
Rohini Rana is the author of ‘The RANA COOKBOOK: Recipes from The Palaces of Nepal’. She is dedicated to preserving centuries-old culinary traditions of Rana palaces. She is also a homemaker, social worker, entrepreneur and restaurateur.
Shaguni Singh Sakya is the Executive Director of the KGH Group of Hotels. Shaguni is an arts and heritage enthusiast, writer, home maker and social worker.
#What’s Your Hashtag
Amuda Mishra, Founder and Executive Director of Ujyalo Foundation.
Pukar Bam: #enoughisenough
Shailee Chaudhary: #daitlivesmatter
Mamta Siwakoti: Thedigitallawyer
Prakriti Dhakal: #hamrobaini