Female leaders’ contributions to Nepal’s COVID-19 response and recovery
Posted: 5 March 2021
This International Women’s Day, as the world continues its COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, Australia Awards acknowledges the contributions of four alumnae in Nepal to addressing gender-related issues during the pandemic.
Latika Maskey Pradhan
Latika Maskey Pradhan is an Assistant Representative at United Nations Population Fund, where she heads the Reproductive Health program and supports the reproductive health sub-cluster coordination for the COVID-19 pandemic response efforts led by the Ministry of Health and Population’s Family Welfare Division.
Due to lockdowns and travel restrictions, many women and girls in Nepal—especially those from lower-income communities—are facing challenges in accessing sexual and reproductive health services. This situation is increasing the risks of home deliveries, unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions. Latika’s support to cluster coordination efforts, by liaising with government/non-government partners and related cluster mechanisms, has contributed to ensuring that essential sexual and reproductive health services are not interrupted.
The Reproductive Health program’s sub-cluster established a helpline during the lockdowns, developed interim guidelines, and conducted training for staff managing women and children’s health services. They also provided equipment and supplies and developed risk communication materials. By the end of 2020, these coordinated efforts reached more than 300,000 women of reproductive age (15–49 years) and up to 18,000 pregnant women through various services.
Latika completed a Master of Gender Studies at the University of Melbourne in 2007 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.
Dr Anusuya Joshi
Dr Anusuya Joshi works as a Senior Environmental and Social Safeguard Expert at the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC). Anusuya and her team developed an action plan for employees to return to work after Nepal’s lockdown was lifted. She planned a safe workplace consistent with national regulations that minimised infection risk and focused on employees’ long-term safety and wellbeing. She also formulated a standard operating safety procedure that she implemented at AEPC’s mini hydro and biogas subproject construction sites in various districts in Nepal. She has conducted COVID-19 safety orientations for AEPC employees and subproject staff.
Anusuya completed a Master of Science (Environmental Management) in 2005 and then also completed a PhD in Environmental Science in 2015, both at Victoria University with the support of Australia Awards Scholarships.
Meena Thapa began working as a Nutrition Officer and COVID-19 focal point for UNICEF’s Field Office in Bhairahawa, Nepal in late 2020.
In this position and as Nutrition Cluster Co-lead for nutrition activation, she has been supporting the provinces of Gandaki and Lumbini in their COVID-19 nutrition response, focusing on information management, coordination, essential nutrition commodities planning, partnership building and collaboration. She also supports the provincial and local governments to plan, implement and monitor the scale-up of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions under the broader framework of Nepal’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Plan. Working as COVID-19 focal point, Meena has built positive relationships with sectoral colleagues, government agencies and other development partners.
Meena completed a Master of Global Health at the University of Sydney in August 2020 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal, Shanti Barmashkha was working as a Program Manager at Nepal’s National Dalit Social Welfare Organisation. She worked with elected women representatives to support their capacity development and promote gender-responsive and inclusive sub-national governance in Nepal.
Working with elected women representatives, development organisations, community-based organisations and women’s organisations, Shanti raised awareness about the pandemic’s impact on women and girls, especially for minority groups and women with disability. She encouraged the aforementioned types of organisations to advocate for gender-friendly quarantine facilities. She also raised awareness of the increase in gender-based violence during the pandemic. She lobbied local governments to address this issue and establish a gender-based violence desk and hotline service to provide information, monitoring and response.
Shanti completed a Master of Development Studies at the University of Sydney in 2020 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.
Latika, Anusuya, Meena and Shanti join women around the world who are leading innovative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are sharing their stories as part of Australia Awards – South Asia’s International Women’s Day 2021 series, which acknowledges the achievements of women leaders and progress towards empowering women in our region.
Image on top of page – Australia Awards alum Dr Anusuya Joshi