My capability was questioned, even as an educated woman: Nepal Activist Soni Joshi
She was raised with a rare privilege- being told that anything was possible in her life. But that didn’t make her oblivious to the struggles of women around her- instead, it ignited a fire in her to extend the privilege to everyone who wasn’t so fortunate.
Over two decades, she dedicated herself to vociferous activism for women and child rights. She went on to become the first woman president in the history of the AWON (Active Women of Nepal). She now serves as the president of ASMAN, (Association of St. Mary’s Alumnae in Nepal), where she is inching closer and closer to her dream of seeing educating every girl child, and received various
In this interview with SheThePeople.TV, she tells Binjal Shah about everything that inspired her to continue down the road of silent revolution:
How do you feel, being at the very heart of change?
It does feel good to realize that I have carved a niche for myself in my field of work but there is still much to do. I feel everyday brings a new challenge.
Your life and career are set in Nepal, which offers a rather conservative backdrop. What did that entail?
Indeed, my country Nepal is still predominantly traditional and conservative in its way of thinking.
Yet, even as the eldest amongst three daughters, I never realized till I got to college how privileged I had been to have been brought up in a very unconventional manner. My father is a retired UN Scientist and my mother was educated only till class 5. But the three of us were brought up believing that anything was possible in life.
When my parents realized we must have some knowledge of our motherland, we came back to Nepal and studied in the country’s first convent run by German Nuns. School life was a sheltered existence. Holiday times with the rest of the family were the beginning of the awareness on my side of the poignant differences existing between girls and boys in Nepal.
Tell us about your journey- on your path of activism, did you face social or even legal roadblocks? How did you overcome them?
I would say that the roadblocks I faced were more focused on the socio-cultural.
environment. College life, marriage, becoming a daughter-in-law, becoming a mother to a daughter and a son, at the workplace – there were instances in every aspect of my life that reinforced barriers. It often haunts me that as an educated woman I faced situations where my capability and integrity were questioned.
Consequently, as the mother of a son I have also come to appreciate more the impact and effects of incorporating gender sensitization to both the genders from a very young age.
What were the greatest milestones in your career?
I would measure milestones in my career, in terms of coming across as a person who is committed and dedicated to the causes I work for.
Becoming the first Nepali President of the Active Women of Nepal (AWON) in its long history in the country; Becoming the Chair of the Social Welfare Committee of the United Nations Women’s Organization (UNWO) identifying and leading projects focused towards women’s betterment and well being, are some incidences that I consider as milestones in my life
What do you enjoy the most about your work? What keeps you going back to work every Monday?
I love every aspect of it – meeting with the most amazing women and men, the young girls and boys with their thoughts, the elderly with their stories. Every person that I have met, young or old, has brought something into my life and left teaching me something.
The most enjoyable and rewarding part is when one can bring a difference to the life of even one person. The smiles on their faces and their happiness is what makes it all worthwhile!
With all the experiences I have gained I have come to realize that the scale and the severity of women’s anguish may differ, but the problems are universal. Women in whichever strata of society are more resilient than men. During tough times they are better equipped emotionally to handle situations with an inborn sense of responsibility.
My perspectives have widened considerably interacting with amazing women and listening to their stories from different worlds and different sectors of life.
Simultaneously, I have also come to know that whilst there are men who are sensitive to the issue of women, there are women who are also equally insensitive to the issue.
As an advocate for women’s rights and awareness, I have become even more sensitized and realize how important it is to bring the different voices of women from different parts together; how important it is to relay to each other that what we are all going through it not just in one place but all over.
What are the mantras that you have followed through your life, that you would like to share with the aspiring women leaders of today?
A mantra I strongly believe in and one that motivates me all the time is “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
I cannot and will not take things lying down. I believe that if we aim to bring some change to the world then we need to be that change. I also firmly believe that we need to concentrate on the smaller details before we embark on ambitious ideas. I feel that the smaller details that we tend to miss out are responsible for many of the discrepancies we see in society today.