Championing gender equality as an architect in NepalWednesday, 7 Mar 2018
What’s your name and what do you do?
I am Pujita Shrestha from Kathmandu, Nepal. I am an architect, working with the Nepal Health Sector Support Programme (NHSSP) as part of the Health Infrastructure team. My main task is to prepare architectural designs and drawings, detail working drawings for construction work of health infrastructure facilities, and 3D modelling and rendering works of health facilities. Besides, I am a fun loving and optimistic person who believes in “worry never fixes anything.’’
Why is gender equality important to you?
Gender equality is very important to me because I firmly believe that no society can function and operate to its full potential when half of its members are regarded unequal. Moreover, for me, gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenges such as reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance. Further, I feel that no struggle can ever succeed without all the genders working side by side.
What challenges to gender equality do you face in your country or area of work?
We can see a constant stream of stories showing gender disparities in the workplace as well as at home. Women have fewer opportunities in all spheres to benefit from development, especially economic development. In a developing country like ours but even in developed countries, the wages of women are less than men. In the traditional Nepalese context, the structure of society, socio-cultural factors, and behaviours became barriers preventing women and girls from participating in education, training and to work outside the home. Although some are educated, they are confined to do only housework and raising children, which prevents them being under a common umbrella of equality. In modern Nepal, as their careers progress, the barriers for women increase and although they are capable, women have to compromise while juggling between careers and parenthood. There comes a need to work part-time hours or flexibility in working hours to balance their personal and professional life, which can undermine and compromise their talent and hard work.
As a professional, I believe that the number of women working in the engineering and architecture professions is disproportionally lower compared to the number of women graduates in this field. The reason may be that they don’t get the same chances as their male colleagues, as they cannot work late at office due to family issues, transportation problems, and safety issues.
How are you championing gender equality where you live or work?
Mahatma Gandhi once said “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. It comes from determination, guts and heart from the men and women believing that they can make differences to eradicate gender inequalities.
When my family’s house collapsed during the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, as the eldest daughter, I had the responsibility to reconstruct it. That was really a hard time for us. I gave moral and financial support to my parents and took all the responsibility. Building our own house was difficult because it was not planned and we were not prepared for it. I could often see in the face and reaction of many people that being a young woman I would not be able to do it. However, my determination and the courage to overlook such demotivating forces helped me do it.
Sometimes I miss my previous house and my room which was damaged during the earthquake. I tried to redesigned my house in a simple and cost effective way. I looked after all the requirements for rebuilding our house. I took it positively also because I got the experience and the chance to learn practical knowledge about the construction process. My parents and my two younger siblings are very proud of me. I am very happy that I brought a smile to their face.
I am so proud to say that I have been happily living in the house I constructed.
At work, fortunately or unfortunately I am the only female staff member in my team. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to work with such a great team who respect and believe in equality and shared responsibility. However, it’s not the case with numerous women working in other organisations. Thus, I constantly voice that a gender-equal society would be one where the word “gender” does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.