WOW | People

Woman to watch 2016

Sumana Shrestha

It was her idea that assisted and gave hope to others during a crisis. Sumana Shrestha initiated Carpool Kathmandu group on Facebook that helped people find a ride to their destination when resources were scarce and having money was not enough. A firm believer of the power of humanity and compassion, Sumana started her earthquake relief while still in the US. Upon return to Nepal a month later, she continued to support the on-going relief and recovery works. She is currently ensuring necessary medications are reaching the most rural areas.

When asked about the best part of being a woman, she exclaims, “They think you can’t drive, think or lead. So go ahead, take a larger parking spot, and blame it on the stereotype. What do they know… you are reserving a spot for your friend’s scooty!’ She also loves futsal, tennis and hiking.

I am proud to be a woman because…

Women have come a long way fighting for our rights. We should be really proud of what we have achieved as our collective rights. There is yet a lot to be done though.

Most significant barrier to female leadership

Women in Nepal need to win two battles to get to the c-suite. A woman has to first win in her household to get the freedom to pursue her dreams, and second, she has to win the uphill battle of being taken seriously at the work place.

Woman of inspiration

I have always been inspired by individuals who stand up for a cause despite personal risk to them and have changed the entire discourse of the cause. Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist who fought against racial discrimination in 1950s in the USA. She is an example of how each of us has with us the power to stir a movement and inspire others. She refused to give up her bus seat for a white person during segregation in the USA. Back in those days, her action was termed “civil disobedience”. She also suffered for that act personally – lost her job, got death threats and what not. But what she was able to stir was monumental. Without people like her who risk, who stand up for their beliefs, USA would not be where it is right now.

women-to-watch-sumana-shrestha1Biggest challenge for the next generation of women

For Nepali women in particular, they need to be twice as smart as women in developed countries to make it through as the system is so patriarchal. Women have yet to even hit the glass ceiling; we got a very visible concrete ceiling we need to break through. Access to finance is tough in general, and the constant reminder of needing father’s, grandfather’s, and husband’s name, if not infuriating, can be very annoying and distracting.

One act of change…

Apathy. This is probably the most evil side of human nature. This is a demon I think we all need to work to destroy in us and in our society. It is worse than any corruption, any nepotism, anything you can think of. If we can get a person in Ilam to start standing up for someone in Darchula, that’s when we will really start seeing changes in Nepal.

Best advice you have ever been given

Don’t go for grades, number or ranking, go for what you want. Nothing else really matters.

Greatest fulfilment

When I was trekking in 2014, I came across this bubbly little girl sent to work in Manang by her parents. Due to the avalanches in the Annapurna circuit, I got to meet her again. It was a long six months slow battle to get her out of her situation and get her to a shelter. I ran a half marathon to fundraise and worked with my friends to convince her parents that it is not a good idea to get a 10- year-old to work in the cold mountains. This makes me feel it is possible – that there are enough compassionate souls who will come forward and help.