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I Have a Dream to See All the Women in the Nation Resilient to Climate Change: Ashra Kunwar

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#WinnerSpeaks: EmpowHER 2016

Ashra Kunwar, one of the three EmpowHER winners this year, is a graduate of Bachelor’s degree (BSC in Environmental Science) from Golden Gate International College. She is also working on ‘The Climate Reality project Nepal’ since January 2015, after being trained by Al Gore, the former Vice-President of USA and also a Nobel Peace Prize winner. As part of the project, she has organized many talk shows, given presentations and also organized concerts for awaring the people on the climate issue.

Besides, being a climate activist and a passionate environmentalist, she is also a singer/songwriter and has used this as a strength to even persuade more youths to draw their attention towards environmental sustainability with a thought to have more concerts every year which, with climate awareness, can bring more youth and others to be aware about the need.

With her success to be one of the three winning Changemakers of EmpowHER 2016, she was able to receive Rs. 50,000 as the seed fund money to launch her impact project.

In a discussion with Glocal Khabar, she shared about her experiences from the EmpowHER sessions and her plans ahead. Excerpts:

 

How did you come to be part of EmpowHER 2016?

I came to be a part of EmpowHER 2016 after getting nominated by a friend from the last year’s cohort. As I was into climate awareness and environmental issues since 2012, the impact project idea caught my eye. I always thought of having an impact after awareness, as it will be something for a long term rather than just awareness. That’s when I thought it would be a good platform for me.

Would you please briefly share about your 3-months of the journey in EmpowHER?

My journey was fun filled and also very interesting as we had 15 sessions and each of the sessions were totally different. We also went on a trip to Odari in Kapilvastu district in western Nepal, where we actually met young girls and worked with them, facilitated them on their public speaking and communication skills and that was the most memorable moment I have had. In the 3-month long sessions, we had been facilitated by various mentors about leadership skills, interpersonal skills, knowing about ourselves, our core values and the community, and various other sessions which were very interesting and informative for our project planning.

How does it feel about becoming a winning #ChangeMaker?

First of all, I never believe in a competition, I always think if we have a true passion for the thing we want to do in our lives, nothing can stop us, not the seed fund money at least. I always had a feeling to do this project no matter the seed fund money, even if I win or not. But at the end, as I won, it definitely feels good, but also with a lot of responsibilities. As people look up to you, it gives the willingness for doing even more and outreaching even more group of women helping them to be more resilient, because of the willingness to inspire others’ lives, which at the end will surely help me to drive the focus.

What do you consider is the special quality in you that made you the winner?

I always consider myself as a relentless person who never gives up on anything and passionately wants. And just like that, as the project was in my veins, I knew I had to make it happen even if I’d win or not. So, my faith in myself and the project helped me win.

Talking about your impact project, what was the spark that caused you to choose the particular impact project?

I am an Environmental science student who is always passionate about nature, environmental issues and climate change resiliency. And, Nepal falls under vulnerability zone on this. I was always involved in raising awareness on this issue in schools and colleges and schools, and have been awarded a certificate by Mr. Al gore for completing many acts of leadership when I thought I should go beyond awareness campaign which is by serving the community regarding the same. That’s when I chose the same project as per the necessity to serve the community and especially women’s group, something that highly triggered me to start the service project!

Now, you have received the seed fund money that you had been waiting for, to kick start the project. So, how will you initiate the project, and how will it move ahead?

For my project, the mobilization with focus group discussions had already taken place months earlier at Khokana, which is my initial target area. To move it ahead, I will have volunteers and few more collaborators to spread between other wards at Khokana and mobilize and help them be self-reliant in terms of climate crisis.

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How long do you think the project will go ahead? And, have you already made plans to broaden the project area to make it reach to a wider community? Do you also see the possibility of taking the project nationally, in coordination with the authorities and organizations concerned?

The project will go ahead by revenue generating module. My project focuses on water retaining vegetables as the revenue generating module so each month the generated revenue will be used to reach out other women’s group in the community. Also, solar demonstration will be done by portraying Bunker Roy from Barefoot University as my inspiration to do the same thing in Nepal which will help reach the wider community of women to make them self-resilient in terms of crisis and also generate income. One after another in a sustainable basis!

My project on Creating Solutions project began with a clear vision to take it nationally. Organizations and Government level support is very important to take this project to a national level and make a greater number of people climate resilient. There was also a programme, reaching out to the government level to talk about the strength and weaknesses which can be mended in terms of climatic issues during the sessions at EmpowHER. We hope for a positive response from the government level towards establishing research centers and help the groups of women in terms of crisis in the days to come, helping the project to reach the national level.

What is your reflection about EmpowHER and in what way was it able to bring about a change in you? And, what do you want to say to the girls out there about the ‘project EmpowHER’, who might have not known about it?

EmpowHER is a programme which is very different from the other leadership programmes that happen in Kathmandu. Something that caught my attention about EmpowHER is that it does not focus on girls with better personalities or looks. This is a programme which focuses on girls by giving them a platform to showcase their talents and goals in life as service projects by being fearless of what others might think. As per the founder of EmpowHER, she also has an aim to take this project to the national level, which will then be a huge benefit to the nation as more women will be there having a broader sense of what they want in terms of their projects just like us. EmpowHER is a programme that transforms the participants because they know where they are going in the days to come. My project is in my veins, and it always was and will be. The reason: Empowher gives a strong platform to women and girls like me who are actually born to set a mark in the country for ourselves and for others, more like the strong soldiers to raise our voices for the change and for the betterment- Something I would like to tell all the other girls, unaware about this programme.