Dr. Niti Rana, our inspirational Nepali woman of the week has worked with the youth in her community to prepare them for professional jobs for 22 years. Through her developmental institute, The New Era Career Development Institute, Dr. Rana has equipped dozens of young adults with the skills necessary for their careers. Dr. Rana established two organizations, Rakshya Nepal, whose goal is to raise awareness on bullying in school. She also established the Amar Jyoti Foundation, which is an organization intended to give back to the underprivileged community.
Could you tell us what you’re currently doing and your journey till here?
I’ve been running The New Era Career Development Institute for the past 22 years. It is the first professional institute to motivate and provide trainings on secretarial management, communication skills, customer service, leadership, personality development and many more to young people so that they can stand on their own feet, gain confidence and get a good job through our placement services.
As a hobby I also started a restaurant called “Momos & More” where we serve very good Momos.
Then I established Rakshya Nepal in 2008 to work on the issue of School Bullying because my PH.D research focused on School Bullying. I didn’t want to waste all my hard work and let my research end up like so many other dissertations – a thick black book on some shelf in a university. So I decided to establish Rakshya Nepal, the very first social organization that works in the field of School Bullying by raising awareness, disseminating information and promoting research in this area. Till date we have 16 school partners whom we try to help and give talks on this issue. We promote research on school bullying at the Bachelors, Masters and even PHD level by giving research grants, so far we’ve already had five studies completed.
I’ve also established Amar Jyoti Foundation, which works in four areas: arts, sports, elderly care and grief recovery. It is a giving organization and we try to help and support underprivileged people in these four areas, especially in grief recovery, since grief recovery doesn’t have any kind of help or recognition in Nepal.
Although bullying is prevalent, it isn’t talked about so much in Nepal and the concept is new here. What motivated you start Rakshya Nepal, an organization that works solely on the issue of school bullying?
I am the first Nepali researcher to study the issue of school bullying. Even though my professors all dissuaded me, saying it was a new subject and there were no materials on it, I told them that because it was new, somebody had to do it. I did my research after years of running around getting information, and I found that it has been totally neglected and unacknowledged in our context.
Bullying is a very vast term and it occurs everywhere. It could be our politicians bullying us at a national level or a husband bullying his wife at a household level. Even school bullying has so many different aspects. It could be the teachers bullying the students, the principal bullying the teachers or the teachers bullying the principal.
School Bullying is rampant everywhere, across the board in all types of schools, whether it be a small Nepali village school or a famous school in New York City. In spite of this, it is totally unacknowledged and unnoticed. My experience was with victims of school bullying; not eve teasing on the roads, not college ragging. So, Rakshya Nepal’s focus is on studying peer victimization; the bullying that is perpetrated by children themselves. It lets people know how harmful it is, how the victims suffer and how we can help the bullies too as they are also children and it is necessary to understand why they bully others. That’s why I thought that just doing research, earning a degree and then putting it on a shelf is not enough. So, I started Rakshya Nepal.
What changes have you seen in this field from when you first started and now?
I have given close to 50 awareness programs. I’ve been doing a variety of talks for government officials of our Ministry of Education who don’t know anything and whose eyes I’m trying to open. My talks are geared towards government officials, social workers, NGOs working for children like UNICEF or Save the Children, parents (who don’t know anything about school bullying and how their children are suffering), teacher and school heads. And I’ve given a lot of talks to the school students themselves so that they can talk openly about the issue and report if they are bullied. All that is happening slowly and wherever I’ve given talk, even outside Nepal, people have felt that they hadn’t realized all the aspects of School Bullying. The more you know the more frightening it is and you realize how much more there’s still to know.
On your journey until here, what is the achievement you’re most proud of?
Opening the New Era and running it for the past 22 years, providing a platform and place for youngsters to learn important skills which would make them professional as well as give them confidence has been a big achievement. After my Bachelors Degree in Delhi University, I did my Masters in English Literature here after a gap of 20 years. And at that old age of mine, I topped the university. I am the kind of person who doesn’t like to give up and I never realized how tough it could be running the New Era, the restaurant and going to the university and studying like anything. But, once I joined I thought I had to prove to myself; so, I really worked hard, topped the university and got a gold medal from the king. Then again, after a gap of two years of running all this, I did my M. Phil and topped there also. I’m proud that I finished my PHD at the shortest period of time; the whole thing only in two and a half years and my total writing 6 months flat. I was the first woman scholar to do a PHD from Kathmandu University and the subject of course is the first one. Also getting ‘The Best woman Entrepreneur Award’ in 2006 for The New Era Career Development Institute is an achievement I’m proud of.
You are an inspiring personality to young girls like us. I wanted to know about a woman who has inspired you in your life?
There are so many women who’ve inspired me. One of them is Kiran Bedi, an Indian social activist and the first woman officer in the Indian Police Service. She’s so brave and she speaks really well; I really like to watch her interviews. Hillary Clinton, United States Secretary of State, also inspires me as she’s a real fighter, never gives up and speaks so well. I love people who speak well. And my own mother who has sheer courage and determination. She is very bold and talks a lot, which would embarrass us during our growing years. My mother, who was not formally educated and never knew English talks confidently even with foreigners. She’s not shy at all and she’s very determined and persistent. If she wants something, she will get it. Some of those qualities I think I have acquired from my mother and she’s been so courageous and strong despite facing illnesses in the family and having to face many problems. She’s 86 and she still has that fire. She has always inspired and encouraged me.
What are some of the obstacles to leadership that are unique to women in Nepal?
Although women have gone ahead and achieved positions of power, the ratio is still not balanced. If a man has to work let’s say 30% hard to reach a position woman has to work 80% for reaching the same position. As a rule, it’s always a little bit tough for women all over the world. Even in United States, it has been impossible for a woman President.
Do you think it’s the result of gender based discrimination?
I think it is the mindset of everybody, including women. If there is a daughter born in the family, even the woman, who has just given birth to the lovely girl, will be disappointed and wish it were a boy. Its not only men, but also women who think in that way. It is our thousands of years of brainwashing that men are superior and more important. It is felt that women are also necessary, but man gets the priority. Even Aristotle, the great philosopher, said woman is someone who is half man. He thought we were men, but half. He didn’t even recognize woman as 100 % woman, but said they were 50% man. Imagine that.
In this context, how would you describe a Nepali women?
I feel Nepalese women have a lot of potential and strength. Generally, I have seen them working much harder than men. I’m not saying every woman works harder than every man but generally, Nepalese women across the board- town, village, educated, uneducated- work much harder than men. When a man comes back from office he doesn’t do anything at home, and watches TV, plays tennis, relaxes, has a beer or plays a card game. But a women in the morning she has to do all the housework, do full time office work, come home and still continue house work. Hasn’t she worked in the office also? Especially if you are a housewife, then of course it is a 24 hour unpaid job. And housework is very tough and monotonous. There’s hardly any variety or pay. There were two researchers who visited so many villages in Nepal. At one particular village, they were interviewing the men and asked about their wives. The men said that the wives were out and did nothing. Upon further inquiry the researchers found out that women kept the houses clean, looked after the children, brought water, cooked food and fed the cattle. So, the house work is unrealized, unappreciated and unrewarded whether it be in a village or a house in Kathmandu.
Do you think the situation of women will improve in 5-10 years? How do you feel about it?
Yes, every situation changes and over the years women have demanded a lot and gained quite a bit of liberty. As we can see, 40 years ago, girls couldn’t go out of their houses let alone interview people, but this generation of girls is smart and young people are the future of our country. Things are definitely changing and young girls will not be downtrodden for much longer.
What advice do you have for the next generation of female leaders of Nepal?
Women should continue learning and their learning curve should never end. We should never feel that we know everything. Working is just a part of life but learning keeps the mind really active and your learning may not even be related to your work; it could be Reiki Healing, a mini MBA course or a foreign language you’ve always wanted to study. Also, not only teach people, but also be smart to learn from the trend, learn from people, even your juniors because they can give so much of input.
Shout, be frustrated, complain, be irritated and get angry because that’s a part of human emotion given this stupid situation. But, let it not stop you from going forward and achieving. Don’t get so mad that you don’t move. Be persistent. We are down in the dumps, but have hope in our country, in our people and have hope in ourselves. I’m sure things will improve if we face problems heads on, do our part and strengthen each other. Like Mahatma Gandhi said, “You be the change you want to see in the world”. We always want to change others but that change, I have to start from myself first. I am a guide and a motivator, thus, I have to inspire and motivate others and I’ll do that. But, from my own side also I need to motivate myself and change myself everyday.