Dec 08, 2021
Today’s article in the Women in Leadership series is based on an interview conducted with yet another inspirational female leader based in Nepal, namely Ms. Medha Sharma. She has been serving in several leadership roles especially dedicated to promoting youth empowerment and rights of young girls and women including sexual and reproductive rights.
Miss Medha Sharma is a President of Visible Impact. Visible Impact is a young women led organization in Nepal that aims to create a visible impact on the lives of youth, women and girls, in various issues including sexual and reproductive health and rights. Medha is also the Member of High Impact Practices Technical Advisory Group in Family Planning, Youth Focal Point at FP2030 Committee under Ministry of Health and Population, Nepal, Member of Steering Committee at FP2030 Advocacy and Accountability Strategy, Member at Technical Working Group for Finalization of Research and Learning agendas for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health activities in Nepal.
Being the second out of three daughters of her parents, she has grown up realizing the spectrum from which girls are being treated in the patriarchal society, and those moments have taught her to be resilient. Therefore, she has grown up as a strong leader. She is well aware of the differences in gender norms during socialization. Besides experiences, she also tries to read about gender dynamics, and understands that social norms and structures designed for women are highly linked to curbing women’s sexuality. Talking about her inspiration to work on sexual and reproductive health and rights, she mentions Melinda Gates statement – “The only way to empower women is to provide them access to contraception”. She proudly mentions that her greatest contribution towards society is that Visible Impact has given birth to more than 500 youth champions who are working both at micro and macro level in different nooks and corners of Nepal. Besides this, Visible Impact is also advocating for Policy change at National and International Level where she has shown her active engagement representing youth, leading policy dialogues and consultations, and linking international advocacy mechanisms to national level.
She views society as, “one of the biggest agents of change.” Leadership quality one acquires is highly linked to the way an individual is socialized, and each and every aspect of an individual life has been shaped by the society gradually. By birth we are surrounded by cultures, norms and values but some of those cultures, norms and values might be biased and creating a bar, specially upon women, to unleash themselves. In such a world, working on the sector of sexual and reproductive health was never easy for Medha.
She believes that, “Family remains one of the biggest support systems of an individual”. Ms. Medha’s parents, husband and in-laws’ family has become her biggest support system. She has been able to balance her personal and professional life because of their support. Having said that, she has actually faced many hurdles and has undergone lots of struggles working in this area. She believes that the perception of people towards leaders and leadership is not yet gender neutral. She explains that everyone’s support counts in the journey of leadership and likewise men’s support is also important. We still need to normalize men and women supporting each other in personal and professional spheres. Why are men being appreciated if they do any household chores, as if it was solely women’s work? For normalizing gender neutrality, progressive realization is the most important idea that needs to be inculcated by people in everyday living.
On the way of presenting herself, she delightfully mentioned her journey of working in this area where she mentions that she has also advocated on youth HIV/AIDS area and during this journey she received an opportunity of meeting HRH Crown Princess of Norway Ms. Mary Mette. Since, her and HRH’s tables happened to be side by side, it left Medha wondering how she being a female from a patriarchal and underdeveloped country, can still share the table and discuss global leadership issues, with the most powerful women of one of the most gender just countries. After having a very experiential discussion, what she felt and concluded is that “Leadership is all about hard work and dedication one has”. Along with it, she also had a thoughtful conclusion that “one must push oneself from one’s comfort zone if one wants to grow, as the struggle for existence remains everywhere.” Undoubtedly, the meeting with the Norwegian Crown Princess has become her most inspirational experience ever.
To summarize, being an active leader, she is advocating for youth friendly SRHR policies at national and international spaces. Moreover, she has been actively engaged in engaging youth issues in the FP2030 recommitment process. Recently, she presented about the importance of engaging youth in policy making during the “National Write shop on Drafting the FP2030 Commitments”. Through Reproductive Health Rights Working Group, she actively advocates on issues relating to safe abortion., and through MHM Alliance, on issues of menstruation. To conclude, she advises youth leaders like us that it’s up to an individual how much they want to grow. Situations will definitely arise that might create obstacles and try to knock you down, but never lose your confidence and get up every time with the same dedication and grab opportunities that come your way. “Keep trying and be a role model; be your own competitor and improve day by day.”
(The interview was conducted on the 21st of July 2021.)