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Indu Ghimire: Overcoming gender barriers to become a senior government official

Posted: 7 March 2019

Nepal, Impact,

For International Women’s Day 2019, we are recognising the power of collective action and celebrating the achievements of Australia Awards alumni who are driving gender balance. This is the story of Indu Ghimire, a female senior government official in Nepal who recognises the important role of men in achieving gender balance.

Indu Ghimire has more than two decades of experience in the civil service and is currently a Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Nepal. She previously worked as a Chief District Officer in Kapilvastu and Syangja; districts she says ‘are considered the most challenging for an executive leader’.  She completed a Master of Public Administration from Flinders University in 2018 through an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Despite gender inequalities in Nepal, you are a senior government official. How did you get to this position and did you experience any challenges along the way?

Yes, there are gender disparities and discrimination in terms of roles, education and opportunities in Nepal. Despite these however, I have got to this position due to my commitment, determination and dedication. I think, whenever we have challenges, there are opportunities too and we need to know what these opportunities are. I got married just after completing my high school education. However, I did not give up on my professional development. I continued my studies despite several barriers I had to face at home as well as in society. If I had given up, I would not be in the position I am in today.

We need to have courage to break barriers in our mind. As women, we are equally competent and as strong as men. Even if we find ourselves with personal responsibilities, such as being mothers, we should not let responsibilities like this become barriers. If I train myself to believe that I can do it and that I am equally capable: I can manage my time and grab opportunities regardless my traditional challenges existing in society. I find I can convert my barriers into opportunities.

Have you had, and do you have, support from your male family members or colleagues?

I believe support from family members can play a crucial role in taking up opportunities and becoming successful in a career. The supporting role my family took on, especially my husband, was key to my successful career. I could not even imagine how my accomplishments would have been possible without my husband’s support as a guide, carer, motivator and partner. He supported me in looking after my children during my study and my different roles.

Similarly, my male colleagues have also been supportive: they encouraged and motivated me a great deal. I have found many of my colleagues to be encouraging and helpful. However, I found I needed to be careful and cautious as there are occasions when some male peers in Nepal make it difficult for their female colleagues to succeed.

How do you value the role of men in overcoming challenges facing Nepali women in general, as well as women in leadership positions?

It is obvious that women are facing more challenges than men in Nepal. I think women have two types of challenges: internal and external. External challenges are the by-product of culture and social-structure; to overcome these challenges the role of men is important. Men need to support women in raising their voices regarding the problems they face and in doing so, this would make a positive impact in society. Succeeding in a leadership position is not only about individual capacity, it is also about having the good support of a team and in workplaces in Nepal, most teams consists of men. A woman leading a team needs positive energy and strong support from a team – that is a good foundation for success.

What do you think about Australia’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘More Powerful Together’?

I think More Powerful Together is not only encouraging for women but also equally important for men in enhancing mutual responsibility. It emphasises the need for cohesiveness between men and women and helps explain how, through collective action, more can be achieved. Balancing gender roles can result in positive outcomes at home, in society and across the country. It helps reduce social disharmony, imbalances and societal problems in a country. It also helps ensure effective utilization of human resources.