Today, in this interview in the Women in Leadership series, we will be joined by Ms. Rupsi Parajuli, an amazing young female leader from Nepal. She has been serving as the Country Director of IYAP Nepal and is closely working with several youth-led organizations in several areas. Strong women don’t play victim, don’t make themselves look pitiful, and don’t point the finger. They stand and they deal. This is a moment with Rupsi Parajuli.
A very good day, Rupsi Parajuli. Many thanks for joining us today to share your story. To start off, how would you like to introduce yourself?
Rupsi Parajuli: I am Rupsi Parajuli and I’m 20 years old now. I’m currently an undergraduate in Business Administration at School of Management, Kathmandu University. I am also currently involved as the Country Director in International Youth Alliance for Peace in Nepal since the year 2019. To speak a bit about my passions, I love watching movies and reading books. I am a big fan of Harry Potter. I believe that I am very talkative. I’m a very dedicated environmentalist. Lastly, I think I’m very passionate about climate change. If I have to describe myself in one word I would say I’m a learner.
What areas have you been working in? What has your most significant work in these areas been?
Rupsi Parajuli: Talking about the area I have been working mostly, I have done much work in achieving sustainable development goals: especially SDG number 4: quality education and SDG number 5: gender equality . During this pandemic, I saw that children in my locality were not pursuing online education, because they didn’t have access to online education. They don’t have the required devices such as laptops, computers, smartphones and even the internet. Those students come from low income families and most of their parents were vegetable vendors, street food vendors, vehicle drivers etc. Simply because those poor students don’t have these devices and a proper internet connection, they could not have access to education. So I decided to do something for them because I am very passionate about working on improving education levels of the children and youth and making sure that everyone has access to education. I don’t think that not having internet facilities shouldn’t be a reason for someone to be deprived of a good education at all. That’s why I contacted several stakeholders to support these families. As soon as I told them the story about these students, they instantly decided to help them. Then, I gladly coordinated the process. Almost 16 families now have access to online education and their kids are able to pursue their classes without much difficulty, without having to drop out of their school or without missing out on their lessons. I think that is one of the most significant achievements that I have achieved in my work.
Also, I have been part of several initiatives where we focus on school students and educate them in a basic manner, within our capacity. I think our job will be done and we will be able to see the good outcome, when they become good adults.
You seem to be extremely passionate about working in the field of education. Apart from that, what other areas have you been working in?
Rupsi Parajuli: Yes, I have also worked in the area of gender equality, especially with IYAP. We mostly provide awareness programmes about LGBDIQ+ community and their rights. We have a very diverse team in IYAP Nepal. One of the members from IYAP belongs to the LGBTQA community. Coming from this background, he is very passionate about advocating for the rights of the LGBTIQA community and raising awareness about their concerns. There is a lack of awareness about the LGBTIQA community, their concerns and issues in our society as the school curriculum also fails to educate children properly on this aspect. Therefore, we go to several schools and coordinate with their administration to host sessions with the students in the aim raising awareness on the t LGBDIQA community. We share basic knowledge on aspects such as gender orientation, gender identity and how to be respectful towards all the genders. We have received good feedback from the students on our programs. I think this is one of the most significant contributions that the IYAP team has been making over the past.
What were the challenges you faced in your leadership role? What are the challenges that a young girl or a woman would face in a leadership role in today’s world?
Rupsi Parajuli: I think the first challenge I would say is that the people don’t trust young leaders, and especially young female leaders. One aspect that I would like to focus on is funding and sponsorship. A lot of funding and sponsorship is needed when we start an event or deliver a project. Since we are youth and mostly undergraduates, we do not have our own permanent income to implement our plans and sustain our work. Many people hesitate to fund youth led movements. I think access to resource mobilization is one of the challenges.
Leadership by a woman is not accepted by many in this society. However, today we see that many women are seen leading in multiple roles in the community and society is required to accept it normally. If you don’t do anything for society, you will not have a name in history as a woman leader. You have to work for society, you have to help people.
How would you overcome such challenges? How should young girls overcome these challenges they face?
Rupsi Parajuli: The hardest challenge as a female leader is to get our audience to listen to us and have everyone believe in our decisions and ideas. Since I have to work with people to gain their trust, I have networked with different clubs, with different communities, so that I can show them the work I have done. Then naturally, people will start investing confidence in us. The issue that young girls have to overcome is gender disparities. In this patriarchal society, it demands a lot of effort and determination for a woman leader to make her decisions and advance her journey. There will be many obstacles but we should never give up.
Are you satisfied with the female participation in your field? What are your views on female participation in leadership roles in our community?
Rupsi Parajuli: I think I see a lot of female participation in my field of academia (business management) or in the corporate sector. Seeing these female leaders enhance interest in my work motivates me to do more and I respect them very much. Yet, whenever I go beyond the capital city, I don’t think the scenery is the same. I think the reasons are that the girls in these areas lack education and opportunities as well as the attitudes of the people. Beyond Kathmandu and in the rural areas, women’s education still needs improvement. They have many kinds of challenges and most of the time, they are not supported by people from their family or in the neighborhood.
What steps should we do to enhance female participation and female leadership in our community? What can we do to empower more female leaders?
Rupsi Parajuli: I think it starts with awareness. The awareness about the rights of females and education plays a significant role, as I don’t think any female can be independent and ensure her participation without being educated. Awareness and education go hand in hand. Then we have to provide more girls with capacity building and training to guide them towards building connections with the organizations. We have to share the knowledge on how to become independent and improve their skills..
How can boys and men play a role in empowering female leadership?
Rupsi Parajuli: Since the males comprise half of the world’s population, we need their support in empowering the females. They should also be brought up in such a way to respect females so they also could listen to female leaders without any prejudice or arrogance. They will be able to play an important role in women’s empowerment.
What’s a leadership lesson that you’ve learnt that’s unique to being a female leader?
Rupsi Parajuli: I would say being true to yourself is what matters the most. Integrity and honesty are assets in leadership and without them you will never be able to influence others around you.
What’s the best work-related advice you’ve ever received?
Rupsi Parajuli: The best advice I have received is to engage myself in a continuous learning process. You can continue to learn no matter what stage of your career you are in. When you learn continuously, you gain more skills and become flexible in your career path. Possessing a willingness and a passion to constantly learn is an attribute that is highly valued in today’s workforce.
What is your advice to your fellow females?
Rupsi Parajuli: The simplest advice that I would like to give is, that you have to take care of yourself, you have to look after your own well-being, you can’t sacrifice your life for someone else, you have to make your own decisions.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us. You have been an exemplary leader despite your young age and we believe that it will inspire many more young girls and women out there. Thank you for joining us and sharing your story with us! We are proud of leaders like you, we celebrate you and we wish you all the best for your future endeavors.
Dec 21, 2021