Anushka Shrestha is widely recognised as a Miss Nepal titleholder, an entrepreneur and a woman who chooses to do things with a deeper sense of passion and purpose. Highlighting her culture and roots, she started her business venture, Makkusé, in 2020, and within three years, her brand has captured a niche market of people who love the luxurious twist that she has given to traditional Nepali sweets. Anushka seems to be mapping her professional trajectory with a lot of thought and originality, staying true to the representation of the strong women of today. In conversation with WOW’s Ankita Jain, she talks about gender equality, her personal challenges and how she uses her voice to champion change. Excerpts:
What does it mean to be a woman in 2023?
Embracing yourself – allowing yourself to think, feel, speak and make decisions that impact yourself. Conversations about women empowerment and the need for equity being responded with “But it is difficult for men too” needs to change. We have never said men have it all perfect; every individual faces unique challenges in life, but systemic prejudice exists and it is this bias that we want to tackle.
What does gender equality look like to you?
A gender equitable world for me looks like one where we acknowledge and address that women do face a unique set of challenges in today’s world in comparison to our male counterparts, and where there are adjustments consciously made to bridge the gap that has been formed due to centuries of patriarchy.
Have you felt challenged or held back because of your gender and how did you overcome it?
Quite a few times unfortunately. Often, I am questioned whether as a woman I am fit to lead. I have always taken this questioning with a pinch of salt. I say “I can imagine why you would question my ability solely based on my gender, but I’ll let my performance do the talking”. I overcome doubts by action – numbers don’t lie.
What are the barriers to gender equality in your line of work and what can be done about it?
There are not many women leading manufacturing businesses in Nepal, and often there are limited people you can relate to and share your concerns with and learn from. I have found networking groups, events and seminars a very good way to engage with women in similar positions, and the conversations I have had at such gatherings have been an amazing way to learn.
What is the greatest challenge women face today?
Still having to explain the need for equity and feminism.
A lesson on equality you imbibed in life.
Conscious intervention is required for equity. Without such efforts we will continue to have manels, continue to have only men in major decision-making positions. We must understand that to equalise am imbalanced scale, corrective measures first will be required.
How do you use your voice and agency to champion the rights of girls and women?
I find family members are the best-positioned to bring about required change within families, and people with the blessing of a public platform can do our bit by continuing to highlight inequities that exist. Without reminders, unfair rules continue to thrive in silence.
A cause that is close to your heart and why?
Domestic violence. Having experienced physical and emotional abuse more closely than I could have imagined, the truth is that violence in different forms continues today across the world – be it in urban or rural areas – even in countries we consider “developed”. I strongly feel that we must continue to empower women to relieve themselves of abusive situations – the fear of shame and guilt rides too heavy on most women’s mind.
What is one thing you would like every little girl to know as she is growing up?
You are worthy, in yourself. Your identity is not just as a daughter, a sister, a wife. YOU are worthy for being you.
How can women stand in solidarity with each other?
By accepting that while we face many common challenges as women, there remains unique characteristics still. Empathising with each other on a personal level as well I believe helps us build solidarity.