Srijana Karki is a leader who is accelerating gender equality in Nepal.
As a Senior Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Officer with Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), a partner in CAWST’s Water Expertise and Training Centre program, Srijana has over a decade of experience in project implementation. She brings a gender equity and social inclusion lens to all projects and organizations that ENPHO supports. This means that she provides advice and practical solutions on how water, sanitation and hygiene projects can influence equitable participation across genders to accomplish health and social outcomes.
To achieve her level of focus and expertise in gender equality and WASH, Srijana is studied and systematic in her approach.
“When I completed my first master’s degree in Rural Development, I started to work in WASH. Soon, I ran up against recurring limitations of WASH interventions due to gender stereotypes and a lack of consideration of gender in the design of interventions. Women simply could not access WASH in the same way as men. So, I pursued a second master’s degree in gender to get beyond my surface-level observations. This education opened an opportunity for me to implement my knowledge in bringing gender sensitizing campaigns to life within our interventions.”
So, what were Srijana’s observations around gender equality?
“There are many barriers to gender equity and social inclusion. First of all, I work in a very patriarchal society. Stereotypes around gender run deep and influence all WASH. We’ve seen a commitment to gender equality through government policy, but I feel strongly that the greatest opportunity for practical change starts at the household level.
In many households, there’s a prevailing belief that WASH is women’s work. Men must support it too. We can influence the shift in belief and behaviour with ongoing sensitization and mainstreaming. Sometimes projects include one training on gender roles, but that is insufficient. Shifting stereotypes requires daily repetition of messages on gender equality and strategic interventions, such as creating meaningful leadership roles for women on community committees.”
Looking at gender equality at the societal level, Srijana observes opportunity for change within organizations, as well as communities.
“One of the most exciting areas in my work is within my organization, and others we support, to integrate gender policy. We recently reviewed the ENPHO gender policy. Learning from that, we guided four organizations to complete gender assessments of their organizations. From there, we helped them develop gender policies and implement them in the field. Implementation included creating key positions for women, both at the coordinator level and field staff, and mainstreaming gender throughout the full project cycle. The results are hopeful. On community visits I often see men cleaning and supporting household water work with pride.”
“I simply feel lucky to work in this area. Now, I’m honoured to represent ENPHO at international and national forums, sharing cases and knowledge. But I’m also always eager to learn more.”
We simply feel lucky to work with Srijana. As a changemaker, Srijana is inspiring to us to look more critically at gender equality and social inclusion in water programs. Srijana’s hope for the future is something we can all get behind and something we can walk alongside:
My greatest hope is that in offices, households, communities, and within ourselves, we start a dialogue to fight the stereotypes that permeate media, institutions and culture. That’s my intent to shift gender equality.
Srijana is starting a dialogue next week on Facebook Live. Join us on Wednesday, June 24 at 9 am MDT at facebook.com/cawst to hear more about her perspective and the work of ENPHO and CAWST.
Changemakers is an impact report produced quarterly for members of the Water Circle. Members of the Water Circle are donors who make a contribution each month to support changemakers, such as Srijana. For more information, visit caw.st/watercircle