WOW | People

Women To Watch 2019

There is an abundance of strength and depth in today’s generation of women. WOW unfolds the stories of five young women who are making waves in their respective fields.

Text by: Rojina Maharjan


TEEING OFF – Pratima Sherpa

With her amazing golfing skills, Pratima Sherpa has made the country proud; she has become the first Nepali to participate in the Symetra Tour 2019. The 19-year-old golfer came into limelight after being featured in an ESPN documentary: A Mountain to Climb in April 2018.

“I am very proud to be the daughter of my parents. They have always supported and motivated me to become the person I am today.”

Born and brought up at the Royal Nepal Golf Club (RNGC), Pratima’s interest in golf began at a very early stage in life. However, it was only at the age of 11 that she started playing with proper equipment. She recalls, “One afternoon, the President of Nepal Golf Association, Tashi Ghale saw me practicing my swing with a wooden stick. He invited me to join the Junior Camp which took place every Saturday at RNGC. This was a major turning point in my life as I got the opportunity to play golf with a real club. My swings were really high and I became more confident of my skills. After this, there was no turning back.”

However, success did not come easy. Pratima reveals that as she was a child, the golf club did not fit properly as the swinging gloves used to be very loose for her; this caused blisters all over her palms. “I am a firm believer of two things in life: Hard work always pays and nothing is impossible,” she shares.
Pratima turned her dreams into reality by playing in the LPGA. “My biggest achievement so far has been to represent Nepal on an international platform. Playing for the 2019 Symetra Tour has been a great experience. It was great to see Nepal’s flag among so many other countries during my tournament. I was blessed to meet the legendary Tiger Woods and Nancy Lopez; it was really overwhelming to receive positive feedback from them,” she says.

Talking about the scope for woman golfers in Nepal, Pratima shares that as golf is an expensive sport, generally parents are reluctant to support their children to take it up. “There are many challenges for women golfers. I have been playing golf for seven years but I have never had the opportunity to go for any kind of training. However, I see many male golfers being sent for training every two months or so. Also, there are fewer tournaments for female golfers,” she reveals.

Who is your favourite golfer?
Tiger Woods

What has been your life’s most memorable moment?
Meeting Tiger Woods and doing a swing with his club. It still feels like a dream.

Favourite food
Momos

Quote you live by
Stop thinking. Never stop believing. Never give up and your day will come.

What makes you WOW woman?
Hard work and dedication define who I am.


BREAKING STEREOTYPE – Faija Parween

Young and confident, 24-year-old, Faija Parween is trying to break the stereotype about Muslim women and how they are viewed by society.
Ever since her college days, Faija was interested in organising events and on April 25, 2017, she launched Open Space Network (OSN) marking the second anniversary of the massive earthquake that took place in the country. In just two years of its operations, she has come up with interesting events and is now considered a role model by many youngsters and her peer group. She recently won the National Youth Lead Award 2019 in the category ‘Entrepreneur of the Year – Female’.

“I have created an environment which gives me the freedom to do what I am passionate about.”

According to Faija, OSN organises large scale events such as festivals, markets, conferences and exhibitions for young entrepreneurs to exchange and interact about their products with people. “We have three major events every year: Namaste Eid, Namaste Mehendi Convention, 60 Second International Film Festival. There is a stereotype in our society that Muslim women are confined to their religion. But I want to prove that it is just people’s mentality. Although I am a Muslim, I have attended a lot of Dashain, Christmas, Holi events. I wanted to organise events that celebrate all festivals including Eid in this thread and invite people from different religions to come together,” she talks of her purpose.

Faija states that the biggest challenge for  women is they themselves. She explains, “I have witnessed many women are not confident about their own vision.” As an entrepreneur, she shares that she struggles a lot when it comes to convincing sponsors. “If you go through problems, you also have to find a solution. This is what I do and this way, I have seen many issues being resolved,” she concludes.

Quote to live by
Smile is the best charity

Favourite holiday destination
Santos Re Dei

Best way to unwind
Hang out with friends

What makes you a WOW woman?
I never give up on my dreams and goals and I like being humble, these two things are important in life to get success and build a positive connection with people, you work with.


KICKIN’ IT! – Sheshuka Rai 

Sheshuka Rai made her mark as one of the youngest karatekas in the country. At a very young age, Sheshuka has made a transition from being an active player to a referee at the Asian Karate Federation. She holds the rank of 4th dan in Karate. She had shot to fame in 2016 after winning the ‘Sports Icon Nepal’ Award.

 “I cannot imagine life without Karate. Winning the Sports Icon Nepal Award in 2016 and getting an international licence as referee from Sri Lanka in 2017 have been my biggest accomplishments.”

When asked about her transition from player to referee, she shares, “there is a vast difference when it comes to the responsibility. As a player, all you need is a coach and a lot of training. Your target is to win gold medals in national and international games. But as a referee you have a huge responsibility towards the players. You need to be very careful about judging the game to send the deserving player to national and international games. You are basically giving an opportunity to the player to build his or her career on an international platform.”

Sheshuka was born and raised in a village in Khotang. She considers her aunt Bimala Rai a major influence in her career. Sheshuka says she has always balanced her time between studies and sports and excelled in both. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in finance and has plans to venture into business in the future. She has also tried modelling and the movies.

According to Sheshuka, there are comparatively less female karatekas when compar to males.”I am really happy that female karatekas are doing really good in international games and bringing the medals home. This proves that women can do just as well in karate or in any other field if given the opportunity. I believe every woman should learn karate at least for self-defence. Karate has helped me to identify my strengths and grow stronger as a person,” she shares.

Inspiration
Farida Madani

Favourite Karate Player
Rafael Aghayev

Memorable match
It was in 2064 when I came to Kathmandu from Khotang to take part in the national games representing Purbanchal district.

What makes you a WOW woman?
It is my determination and attitude of never giving up.


THE STORYTELLER – Tripty Tamang Pakhrin

Tripty Tamang Pakhrin was the first Nepali female photographer to be awarded the Alexandra Boulat Grant 2019. The grant enables her to study I photo journalism at the Danish School of Media & Journalism, Aarhus, Denmark for their Fall Photo program. In 2018, she received the Fritt Ord Foundation’s Student Grant. She is currently associated with photo.circle and Photo Kathmandu. She has also been a part of the International Photo Biennale, Kathmandu.

“I feel I still need to learn more about photography and get a formal education in photojournalism. I am very happy to have received the Alexandra Boulat Grant and an opportunity to study photojournalism at Danish School of Media & Journalism in Denmark. I am looking forward to learning more and polish my skills and knowledge.”

Tripty’s interest in photography began while working at Jazz Productions where she had the opportunity to work with talented photographers and videographers. After taking part in a few photography workshops, she realised that she wanted to do storytelling. “I am inclined towards youth and my work focuses on themes related to youth culture, space, repetition and memories. This is why I have documented young Chinese gamers in internet cafes as it was very interesting to know the stories of these people who come to just play games. Similarly, during a project for Angkor Photo Workshop in Cambodia, I was fascinated by the country’s vibrant nightlife. I stumbled upon a gay bar called Bar Code. I found it very interesting and started taking pictures. More than focusing on the LGBT issues, I was really amazed to discover different human relationships,” she shares.

Tripty believes that one needs to be honest and have a creative mind when it comes to photography. “To succeed in a career as a photographer, creativity and a good vision is are must,” she tells. As for the challenges, Tripty shares that people did do not expect women to become photographers in our society.

What is Friday night like?
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I go out to party and sometimes I just watch Netflix at home

Favourite photographer
Prasiit Sthapit and Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati

Dream destination
Iceland

Happiest when...
I cook

What makes you a WOW woman?
I click photos that reflect personal stories rather than something that is issue-based.


SILENT STRENGTH – Sangita Magar

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sangita Magar has not only braved an acid attack but is determined to fight against this crime and raise awareness.

In 2015, Sangita’s life changed forever; she was a 16 year old preparing for her SLC examination. While returning home after her tuitions, a 20 year old boy from her neighbourhood attacked her with acid. She ran home to her mother, screaming in pain and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors managed to save her life but not her face; despite many surgical procedures, full recovery was not possible.

“Acid attackers should get life imprisonment or death penalty.”

“My mum tried to help me by pouring water on my face but my skin started peeling. I dreamt of being part of Nepal’s national karate team and one day becoming a doctor but my life completely changed. I went through depression and wanted to isolate myself from the whole world,” she recalls.
Other than the physical pain, Sangita had to constantly go through police inquires and the media spreading misleading news. Furthermore, people raised questions about her character and mocked her.

However, just as a diamond can’t hide its sparkle, Sangita did not confine herself in the darkness for long. “With support from my mother and well wishers, I regained my confidence and started to embrace my identity. I now walk the streets without covering my face,” she shares.

Sangita has been reaching out to acid attack survivors and their families for counselling while actively fighting for justice. She has become a role model for many victims like herself. She even challenged the country’s law on acid and burn violence and persuaded the Supreme Court to order that survivors receive immediate financial support from the government to cover the treatment expenses. The provision came into effect on August 17, 2018 as part of the new civil and criminal code.

“I am pleading for the sales of acid to be properly recorded with its purpose. There must be a proper registration system where the buyer must show identification proof; this will help track the criminals and control such inhumane acts. The court has already ordered the government to regulate the sales of acid but it hasn’t been implemented yet,” she states. Sangita is also lobbying with the Health Ministry to create a separate facility for acid burn patients so that they get specialised care even after being discharged from the hospital.

“One of the root causes of this crime is the gender-bias upbringing. In most households, boys are treated as superiors whereas girls are suppressed. This gives men the courage to conduct such heinous acts,” she concludes.

Role model
Ani Choying Drolma 

Favourite food
Buff chilly

Hobbies
Playing guitar and drums

Dream destination.
Mustang

What makes you a WOW woman?
I am confident about fulfilling my dreams. I will work for acid attack victims to get justice for as long as I can.