Breaking stereotypes, crossing boundaries, finding their voice and discovering their strengths, some women are not just satisfied with what they can do for themselves, they are part of the bigger picture driving change in the society and the nation. They live life a little larger, feel a lot more, and give selflessly. We have put together a list of few of the women who have inspired us in recent days with what they have set out to achieve.
RECYCLING SOAPS, RECYCLING LIVES
Project Director of Eco Soap Bank
The half-used soap that guests leave behind at Kathmandu’s luxury hotels is now lathering up a hygiene movement in the city. For nearly four years, Nicky Lama and her team of six women have been collecting these soap pieces, putting them through a cleaning and disinfection process before recycling them into fresh bars of soap which are then given out to children.
The brain behind the soap revolution in Kathmandu, Nicky Lama, 31, got hugely inspired by the eco soap bank project run by Samir Lakhani during her work visit to Cambodia. She then returned home driven by a purpose. She completed her Masters degree in International Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and then worked towards gaining hands-on experience in the social sector. “Having worked in Zambia on a primary education project and later in Cambodia in the sector of child public health, I decided to return to Nepal and use the skills and experience I gathered for the development of Nepali society,” Nicky says.
“I have fueled my project with hope and relentless attempts. As an entrepreneur, I have failed numerous times but also have had the willpower to try again and succeed.”
She found that purpose – a soap revolution through Eco Soap Bank – in 2017. “I have been ignored multiple times but my perseverance paid and now many luxury and boutique hotels have registered with Eco Soap bank,” she says. But as the project was taking shape, the pandemic hit bringing the hospitality industry to a grinding halt. “We started to brainstorm about the alternative and have finally collaborated with Unilever. They have tons of waste soap and we were more than happy to recycle them,” she shares.
“We provide the recycled soaps to underprivileged school children,” she tells us. Eco Soap Bank also runs hygiene awareness workshops for teachers and children.
Besides the Wash Programmes, Eco Soap Bank – Nepal hire and empower local Nepali women to recycle the soap enabling them to earn an income. “We also teach them other life skills and are provide trainings to be an independent entrepreneurs through our community-to-community soap drives,” she informs. Nicky works with various NGO and INGO hygiene programmes and is planning to open recycle centres in Pokhara and Chitwan in the near future.
She is also working as a Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) expert at VRock & Company on a sub-national development project.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Founder of Learn Infinity
Nepal’s education infrastructure relies on didactic transmission and is in need of reforms and revamp, believes Aditi Goyal, 23, who realised that the existing education system lacks real life skills. The young woman entered the field of education more by default than by choice. But once there, Aditi realised the responsibility that comes with shaping young lives. “I started working in organisations which were connected directly or indirectly to the education sector,” she shares.
After some time, she decided to start her own digital platform in the education filled to fill the gap that she deems is important for proper and relevant education. The lockdown gave her just that opportunity. “I had many projects onhand during the first lockdown but none of them could function due to the pandemic. Hence I took a break and this gave birth to my digital learning platform,” she shares. She introduced an online platform called ‘Learn Infinity’ which teaches about real life skills, relationships, etc. Aditi finds a discernible rise in confidence levels of the students over the 12 session courses offered by Learn Infinity. She works with students in the age group 11-18 and is exploring a new system of teaching and learning via this digital learning platform.
“I always pay attention to details no matter what I am doing. Every day I focus on what I’ll be learning new rather than how much money I am making.”
“Most of us send our children to schools that hammer them out into assembly-line products. Through Learn Infinity courses we want to raise those students to be creative and perceptive individuals. I believe that fantasy and imagination should be a childhood anchor, and independent and idealistic thinking that of adolescence,” she opines.
Over a year, the platform has trained more than 2,500 students and now has expanded its courses for different organisation employees as well. The price per course varies from Rs 1200 to 5000.
WINDOW TO THE WORLD
Filmmaker & Writer
One of the very few commercially successful female filmmakers in the country, Sampada Malla is a source of inspiration for many women. She is driven to find success on the basis of her values of hard work, facing struggle strongly, and not letting dreams die.
Coming from an artistic family, Sampada always wanted to be a filmmaker. Her journey took shape early in life. “I was a child artiste for many TVCs and I started voicing my opinions through leading dailies when I was only in grade eight,” she recalls. She also published her first book “Anayas Ek Din” at the age of 18. While her father wanted her to study theatre, she wanted to tell stories via films. “I went to Delhi for my Masters degree in Filmmaking and onward to Mumbai with a job,” she shares.
“When you love what you do and are so passionate about your work that your work feels like a vacation, no one can stop you from being successful.”
In Mumbai, Sampada worked for many years as a screenwriter for many popular TV series telecast on Star plus, Colors, Zee TV, etc. “For Indian television, I have written many screenplays. I enjoyed the genre then and I wrote a lot of them and hence I am kind of well-versed about how to put a lot of threads together. I am still learning, still work-in-progress, but I enjoy doing multiple things.”
Sampada, 33, returned to Nepal three years back with the aim to make films. “I always wanted to have experience working in a country like India and come back home with stories of grit, failure, relentless attempts and success,” she quips.
Sampada is the scriptwriter of critically acclaimed Singha Durbar TV series, telecast on Nepal TV. She also worked on Kathaputali and she is now working on her debut feature film as a director.
She is the Co-founder of Srijana Sutra, a creative recruitment company which gives jobs to many creative artists. “Over the years, I have realised that there is enough work in the industry but there’s no one to tell you about. It revolves around the same circles based on your connections. To end this and make it more seamless, Srijana Sutra came into being,” she opines. She is also the founder of Banki Production, a film and film production company.
THE GAME CHANGER
Suneera Regmi is the first Nepali registered female Aerospace Engineer. “I was fascinated by the concept of flying since high school. When I realised becoming a pilot is the way forward, I applied for it. Luckily, I qualified but coming from a middle class family, my family couldn’t afford the cost. Hence I dropped the plan,” Suneera recalls. However, Suneera’s father was adamant and he motivated her to pursue aeronautical studies. In 2008, she completed her studies in India, returned to Nepal and interned with NAC as a Maintenance Engineer. “I interned for over a year with no pay. When there were no vacancies, I felt nothing more could be done,” she recalls. However, after a year, NAC announced a vacancy and Suneera was hired. “Coincidently my name for the position was revealed during the day of my wedding. It was a day for celebrations,” she smiles.
“No matter what, never allow gender to become the barrier to accomplish your dreams.”
She has been working as the Senior Flight Operations Engineer with Nepal Airlines Corporation for over a decade. “I was the first woman to get a license from the Nepal Engineering Council in 2008 and it took a few years more for any other female to join the list,” she states. Suneera says that there are still very few women in this field. In Nepal, however, aerospace engineering potential has not been exploited. “We need aerospace research centre to inspire young people to be a part of the industry. I have always believed that sky is not the limit but the very beginning.,” she concludes.
General Secretary of Hami Nepal
Pragya Bajracharya, the activist who was part of a peaceful protest during “Enough Is Enough” movement is now directing her energies towards bridging the health crisis that the pandemic has got us into. “I had never protested in my life but the peaceful book reading protest during Enough Is Enough struck a chord inside me,” she says.
Pragya met Sudan Gurung, the Founder of Hami Nepal during the protest and joined the organisation without second thought. “I was working in a Danish company and it was a well paying job. I left it to join Hami Nepal where it is selfless service,” she shares. Hami Nepal is currently working solely in the field of Covid 19 response in order to provide medical relief to individuals as well as medical institutions.
If you believe in your dream, you have to advocate it everywhere, regardless of how unpleasant some outcomes might be. The best lessons learnt in life are through failures and challenges.
Pragya tells us that it’s not quite that simple to serve the needy day and night. “There are days when I answer 60 calls. I listen to their medical needs, consult them, and give them hope. And this continues on loop every day,” she says.
A student of Banking & Insurance, Pragya, 25, dreams to build an affordable health care system in the country. She shares her vision with the team who is working amid odds and risking their lives to help the helpless.