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Prof Dr Kushum Shakya: A role model for women in academia

Posted: 14 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 Prof Dr Kushum Shakya, a leading academic in Nepal, who highlights the important role played by men to address challenges relating to gender balance.

 

Prof Dr Kushum Shakya, an academic by profession with more than 30 years of experience in teaching, is currently Head of the Central Department of Economics at Tribhuvan University, Nepal. She obtained a PhD in Economics from Tribhuvan University and, through an Australia Awards Scholarship, completed a Master of Demography from the Australian National University.

In 2008, Prof Dr Shakya served as the Director of Quality Assurance and Accreditation at the University Grants Commission in Nepal. She has been part of the Association of Nepalese Alumni from Australia (ANAA) and served as its Vice-Chair in the past. She also received the Alumni Excellence Awards both in 2012 and 2016 for her outstanding contribution to Nepal. She has carried out several research projects as a team leader, gender expert, socio-economist, senior social development expert, research fellow, coordinator, project chief, and as a national consultant.

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

It is true that gender barriers in Nepal make it particularly challenging for women to have a successful and satisfying career. I think a combination of factors has made me what I am today. My qualifications and dedication combined with my family’s support, and most importantly, my ability to prioritise obligations, both personal and professional, have made it possible to reach this leadership position.

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

Yes, of course. Support of all family members, male or female, is important. My father always encouraged me to study and was proud of my academic achievements. My husband fully supported my teaching career, and my decision to study further in Australia for a Masters and in Nepal for a PhD. Since he is also in the teaching profession, we have a good understanding of what the profession entails, and often advise one another.

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

Men play a significant role in overcoming the challenges that women face in Nepal. A man can be someone’s father, brother, husband, son, and/or father-in-law, so their perspective on gender equality matters a lot. For a Nepali woman to be successful, a father must encourage his daughter to study and become financially independent. A brother must see his sister as his equal, a husband must respect his wife’s career aspirations and help with household chores. A son must understand his mother’s work commitments, and a father-in-law must support his daughter-in-law’s decision to work. In all these roles and many others, if men support and encourage women, gender inequality will surely diminish in Nepal.

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

I fully agree with the statement that men and women are more powerful together. Such cooperation and collaboration need to exist from a household to a national level. Any task that is done together creates a positive environment, establishes healthy relations and builds progressive mindsets. It basically enforces a productive change that is core to the development of a family, society and a nation. One needs to realise the power of togetherness, as it not only leads to change but also allows individuals to share their perspectives and understand each other.

 

Click below for more stories from Nepal to mark International Women’s Day 2019.

 

Read more more on how Australia Awards – South West Asia is Celebrating the power of collective action on International Women’s Day