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Choosing to Thrive in a Male-Dominated Profession

Updated: May 16, 2021

"I looked with envy at my engineer brother carrying these fancy tools in his back bag and I was only carrying a dhoko (= a basket for carrying rice). That's when I decided to become an engineer too", says Saraswati Kumari Joshi, a 23 year-old sub-engineer, when asked why she decided to become an engineer.

It is not a common sight to see women engineers in Nepal, especially in the more traditional Far Western parts of Nepal, but at the RVWRMP Survey Training for Intern Sub-Engineers held in August in Dadeldhura, there were three young female engineers present.

Out of them only Ghita Dhami, 21, is already married. Her husband since two-years is an engineer too, so they share an interest. Ghita says she was supported by her husband in her career choice and now can consult him whenever she needs technical advice. "It is a great advantage to have a husband who supports me in my career", she contemplates.

"But it is not always easy to work in such a male dominated environment. I have noticed that on field monitoring visits my colleagues do not expect as much from me because I am a woman. But I want to participate and be as involved as they are. There is nothing different in my engineering skills because of my womanhood", Aayisha Khati, 21, continues.

The road to becoming an engineer in Nepal is not easy for women, although most offices will give additional points for female applicants. In Far West, most women do not have a profession outside the home, let alone a technical one. All women say they had some struggles and feel they need to prove a bit more. Just because they are women.

Especially Saraswati had a rocky start. She was inspired to become and engineer by her engineer brother, and in her nuclear family everybody supported her, although no other woman in her family has a formal profession or education. But when she had to move in with her father's older brother to continue her studies the situation changed. Her uncle did not approve of her studying in the technical field and pressured her to discontinue her studies. She had to drop out and could continue only when she could live with her father again. Saraswati fell behind one year in her studies.

All of the women acknowledge their position as role models for other women in the Far West. In the villages people often come to talk to them and ask them about their profession. Many women say how they regret not having any education or profession of their own and wish their daughters will have more options in life. But some also wonder how they can travel with strange men. "I tell them these are my colleagues, they are like brothers to me", Saraswati concludes.

RVWRMP hires sub-engineers for one-year internships. The sub-engineers are provided with various trainings and they participate in local level monitoring gaining a fair amount of field experience. The sub-engineers are stationed in all ten districts and they are mostly locals. This enhances the technical human resources of the districts.

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