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Dr Radha Wagle Q&A: Promoting gender equality in Nepal’s forestry and climate change sectors

Posted: 7 March 2022

Nepal, Alumni, Environment, Experience, Impact,

In light of International Women’s Day and this year’s UN Women theme for the Day, ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’, we interviewed Australia Awards alum Dr Radha Wagle about her relevant experience. Dr Wagle is the Joint Secretary at Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Environment—the first woman to hold this position at the Ministry. In this capacity, she leads the Climate Change Management Division. She also serves as the national focal point for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and as National Climate Change and Gender Focal Person. Working as a public servant for around two decades, Dr Wagle has contributed to community forestry, eco-tourism and wildlife management. All the while, she has supported the empowerment of women wherever possible.

Dr Wagle’s PhD focused on women’s inclusion in forest bureaucracy. She completed this qualification from Monash University in 2019, with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

How are you promoting gender equality, specifically in climate action initiatives?

“I have been trying my best to address gender-related issues in my profession. Promoting gender equality in the forestry and climate change sector is my passion in addition to my responsibility. I firmly believe that we should eliminate all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence sooner than later. We cannot wait for another generation to fight for gender equality.

I have also contributed on the policy front. For example, I took the lead in formulating the first-ever Gender and Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (2020). I have also actively contributed to revising the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan for Nepal’s Forestry and Environment Sector and the Gender Code of Conduct for the Ministry—both policies are currently undergoing Ministry approval. In addition, I helped integrate the gender component in Nepal’s Second Nationally Determined Contribution (2019). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has publicly recognised this as a highly gender-responsive document.

In addition to policy contribution, I have also promoted gender equality through capacity building programs. For example, when working as Chief of Central Forestry Training and Extension Centre, I introduced gender as a dedicated topic in all training programs. As a leading person of Female Foresters Network, an informal network, we have also trained more than 1500 foresters on gender equality, elimination of sexual harassment at workplaces and the need for women’s participation in decision-making. These training programs have effectively sensitised forest officials to create a safe, dignified and gender-friendly workplace.”

How did your studies in Australia contribute to the work you do?

“My PhD research focused on women’s issues in forest bureaucracy, an entity responsible for climate change actions in Nepal. I looked at this issue from ‘feminist institutionalism’ perspectives, which suggest that the ‘institutions’ or ‘rules of the game’ need to be changed for gender equality.

My PhD study has had a huge impact on my current work. Through my degree, I developed a critical perspective on gender issues and have been using this perspective to promote gender equality and justice in natural resource governance. Based on my research, I have also co-authored a book, Feminist Institutionalisms and Gendered Bureaucracies. I believe the ‘rules of the game’ that favour gender discrimination and resist equality should be challenged and transformed at all levels—households, communities, organisations and governments. That is what I am doing in my capacity as a Joint Secretary. My studies in Australia have substantially contributed to these outcomes.”

Dr Wagle presenting her book to the Australian Ambassador to Nepal HE Felicity Volk

What is your message on International Women’s Day 2022? What does ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ mean to you?

“When we talk about a sustainable future, we often mean that the planet will be good for people, biodiversity and the climate forever. On the other hand, these three components affect or are affected by each other. Being good for people means the sustainable world should be free from all forms of discrimination against people based on sex, ethnicity, colour, nationality, sexual orientation, economic classes and other diversities. Discrimination against women is a problem against humanity, and therefore we cannot foresee a sustainable future without gender equality. Our aim is to achieve ‘Planet 50:50 by 2030’, which means 50 percent women participating in all walks of life and all levels of decision-making—ranging from households through organisations and official positions to global forums—in 2030 and beyond.”