2015 IDEX Fellow and InvestWISE Scholarship recipient, Ranjita Sapkota, talks about her experience as a woman coming from a developing country, sustaining confidence in the workplace and returning home to a very changed Nepal post fellowship. Ranjita was placed with Plustrust as an IDEX Fellow where she focused on inclusive education and animal welfare.
IDEX: What do you think is the one misconception about women in the workplace?
Ranjita: The place where I work as an IDEX fellow is very liberal and open to women. I did not face any challenges inside my organization, whereas in the outside world it was totally different. I worked as a volunteer in couple of social enterprises in Bangalore and almost in all of them I found some common misconceptions like women are strictly family oriented, emotional and cannot work more than working hours at office. Mostly I found women working in operational levels whereas men were assigned with higher level jobs with more challenging tasks with higher responsibilities along with high pay scale and facilities. I was engaged mostly in local level non-government organization where I saw men dominated workplace and idea of women are rarely prioritized unless they are fully confident and strong enough to defend and take risks.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I have a platform to explore my ideas in the real world. For the first time I was able to go to six rural villages in South India, interacted with local people and successfully conducted my research work on value chain analysis of Mid-day meal scheme. I presented the overall findings on the Annual day of Plustrust Organization and received lot of positive feedback. Now two NGO’s in Karnataka are adopting my research work as their full time project. One is Plusturst organization where I worked as an IDEX fellow and another is Spandana, which is working for social justice and gender equality in the Ramanagara district. Plustrust is continuing the research as a 3 year action research project on “Value chain Analysis of Mid-day Meal Scheme in Karnataka”. Spandana is going to initiate a project on “Organic Kitchen Garden” at 10 government schools in Ramanagara district of Karnataka. The recognition of my research and findings from such reputed organization is itself the biggest achievement in my professional career.
What’s the most important thing you learned in IDEX that you couldn’t have learned in a classroom?
I have learned so many things after joining IDEX, which cannot be expressed in words. The most important one is I am determined enough to go back home country and establish myself as a successful social entrepreneur in the field of sustainable agriculture and food security. Though I had theoretical knowledge regarding sustainable development practice, I used to lack confidence in applying them into real world scenario. The regular IDEX readings, capacity building workshops, discussions over various issues in social sectors through google hangout, Insight and portfolio project along with regular mentorship from IDEX family has provided me a self-confidence to initiate and lead for the social and development cause. Such practical exposure is only possible in IDEX and nowhere else.
What question do you wish more people would ask you?
I wish they would ask me what impact I created for the local community as an IDEX fellow within past 6 month. And what impact can I create after post fellowship? Being a woman from a developing country how did I prepare myself to stand out in the crowd and establish myself as a successful entrepreneur in future?
What's the one challenge or request you have for someone reading this post?
Understanding the local culture with full empathy may be the biggest challenge that everyone faces in the social sector but once you are able to do so you can do anything to change the world. Don’t think of yourself as weak or less fortunate for being a woman. If you are determined to work for a good cause nothing can stop you reaching the peak.