Reporting from: Nepal
Local Contact: Claire Charamnac, co-founder of Women LEAD
1. We believe that the full participation of women at all levels of decision-making is crucial to create peaceful and inclusive societies.
2. We are youth-driven and youth-led.
3. We are locally owned and sustainable.
4. We listen, respect and value of all our partners.
5. We are a learning organization. We are constantly reflecting and growing.
~ Women LEAD website
What kind of work are you doing in Nepal?
We founded Women LEAD, a leadership development organization for young women in Nepal, because we both strongly believe that the lack of female leaders around the world is one of the biggest inequalities of the 21st century. Women in Nepal face overwhelming challenges: 1/3 of girls aged 15 to 19 are married and 60% of women are illiterate. Less than 2¢ of every development dollar goes to girls and 9 out of 10 youth programs are aimed at boys.
These grim statistics stand in stark contrast to the potential we see in the young women we serve through our organization. When we first started our programs in 2010, we saw that they had the passion, vision and solutions to create change in their communities, but they simply lacked the resources and support to do so.
For the past two years, we have been working with our team of youth leaders (all under 24) to empower young women in Kathmandu. Despite limited resources and rampant gender discrimination, we have grown from a 2-week pilot program serving 28 young women to an organization with 3 year-long programs serving 200 youth.
Women LEAD empowers these young women to take leadership positions alongside men in Nepal by providing them with the skills to pursue their vision for change. Our girls come from diverse backgrounds but share a passion for building a more equal and inclusive Nepal. We provide them with leadership skills, mentorship, school leadership, social entrepreneurship and internship opportunities to support them as they become brilliant leaders in their schools and communities.
What have you seen there that inspires you artistically, creatively or otherwise?
The girls we work with inspire me. They are passionate, opinionated and funny. They have big dreams for themselves and their country. I absolutely don’t believe in only presenting a negative narrative about development work, and I hate it when organizations only present the people they are working with as victims, helpless, and robbed of their dignity. That is not what we do at Women LEAD, and not how we view our work. We’re not working FOR these girls; we’re working WITH them. As partners, we respect what they’ve already done to create change. We’re not transforming their lives – we’re supporting them as they change their own lives and their nation.
What can our readers do to support the work you are doing with Women LEAD?
They can join our Young Women Leaders Network, which is an offline and online volunteer community that raises awareness and funds for Women LEAD! They can join existing city or campus teams, or create their own.
Also, we’re on the lookout for someone to donate their laptop for us to be able to work more effectively in our Nepali office!
Claire Charamnac is the co-founder of Women LEAD, a leadership development organization for young women in Kathmandu, Nepal. Claire founded Women LEAD in 2010 with her close friend Claire Naylor when they were juniors at Georgetown University. Women LEAD equips young women with the skills, resources, mentoring, and leadership opportunities to become catalysts for social change. They work to empower a new generation of female leaders who will work with men to transform Nepal’s unjust structures, building a culture of gender equality in their schools, communities and nation. To date, 200 promising leaders have graduated from the Women LEAD programs and taken their skills back to their communities. Women LEAD was selected as Women Deliver’s “Top 50 Solutions Delivering for Women and Girls in 2012”.
Christine Mason Miller is a writer and mixed-media artist who loves to travel, wander and explore, whether on her own or vicariously through others. Her latest book – Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World – is now available on Amazon.com and at bookstores everywhere. Visit her at www.christinemasonmiller.com.