What is it to be a woman – working woman – in Nepal? I ran the question over repeatedly in my mind. Having been raised as an equal – where my gender played no role in how I was brought up, the choices I made and the outcomes of my decisions, I know I am privileged. Because when I look around it is definitely not the same for many, many, many women.
Often how different our realities are is based on geographic locations within the country. Our life stories are different not because it is harder or easier to live somewhere because life can be hard anywhere, even in the capital, even if you are earning, even if you have it all. It is the raw intensity of human experience that shapes who we are.
Whether it is the story of Sunakali who went from Mugu to Europe to play football or it is Belmaya, a Dalit orphan, who became an award winning documentary filmmaker or Priya Adhikari who is the only Nepali woman rescue helicopter pilot, or Aayushi KC who became a waste entrepreneur and a global youth icon championing environment causes, or Megha Chaudhary who has taken forward her father’s business and is driving it forward with equal passion… we have so many young women today who do not allow their geography or their circumstances to hold them back. To me, they represent the power of choice that each one of us holds, but sometimes some of us forget.
If women are so versatile how come so few scale their business or hesitate to take on leadership positions: I used to wonder about this too when I was much younger because while time has flowed, the circumstances for women have not really taken a different course. Today I understand that success and power need not be shaped in the format the world tells you.
Women inherently create their own pace and definition of success, and it’s not always about personal achievement. Through the often messy and imperfect moments of life, women make choices that enable them to be happy. It could be the ability of a woman in Humla to send her daughter to school, it could be the fight for identity and citizenship, it could be a young girl’s first pay or a first time travel experience, it could be getting a loan for business or buying a new house… it could also be sacrificing her dreams to help her family build theirs.
I also know that being a woman is hard work… work that often goes unrecognised and unpaid in our societies. It’s also a journey of breaking barriers and asserting our truths. As we come to another International Women’s Day, may we build the capacity to embrace the theme: An equal world is an enabled world.