Dreaming, Growing & Endeavouring The Journey of Prakriti
Young, exuberant and talented! These three words help best define our cover personality. She is the chairperson of Political Literacy for Women (PLFW). She is a woman with many facets, skills and abilities.
Growing Up and Schooling
Prakriti was born and raised in a lower-middle-class family with basic aspirations. Carrying the hopes and expectations of her parents from a small age, she always excelled in her studies. She had a wish to complete her father's unfinished dreams, and this motivated her throughout. Started her schooling at V.S. Niketan school, continuing her
+2 in St. Xaviers Jawalakhel and completing her Bachelors in Social Work (BSW) in St. Xaviers College Maitighar. While doing her bachelor's, she also enrolled in executive education on leadership, organising and action at Havard Kennedy School. What’s more exciting is that she got into Columbia University and will be going to the U.S. to continue her journey.
Introduction to Politics
We all go through various phases in life. The journey and the varied encounters of our childhood help define our personality. This is how we all become unique. Similarly, Prakriti holds a story of her own. She spent her early days in a neighbourhood where people migrated from remote areas and rented one room, she always saw their struggle to make a decent living in this city of troubles and opportunities. As a kid, she normally preferred playing in the streets like everyone else but going outside and playing was out of the question in her family. Instead, she was sent to study along with her neighbour brothers who were preparing for the public service commission exams (Loksewa Aayog). She saw them studying 24/7 and she helped them by asking them GK questions for their exams. This daily routine sharped her knowledge of her country and the world. Her seniors taught her about democracy, inclusion and other basic things. This very monotony of her childhood brought forth her curiosity and understanding of politics, governance and the process of nation-building. Who would have thought that a young girl who was assisting her seniors would one day head the charge for her female associates in the area of politics?
Spark of interest
She grew up in a small house with two rooms, Prakriti was motivated by many factors to be a diligent student. Like every other parent, they wanted her to be a doctor or an engineer. Thus she enrolled in the stream of science in her +2. During her high school studies (+2) at St. Xaviers, Jawalakhel, she joined a club named interact club. There, she was involved in a lot of social work and in addition to that, it was the year that the massive earthquake took place. This gave her the realization that her interests are aligned with helping people and developed her passion through it. To be better equipped for this role, she took up Bachelor in Social Work at St. Xavier’s College, Maitighar. She wanted to understand the social process, its structure and the agents of development. Obviously, it was not easy to convince her parents but she made it through and they gradually understood that her will shall set her way too.
Initiation of PLFW
During her undergraduate studies, she expected everyone around to be actively conscious of society, its events, political participation and more. But, she was disappointed with what went around as just theoretical knowledge and less political understanding among the students. She never heard any discussions on the wrong and right or what could have been done by the parliament instead among her friends. When she asked “WHY”, the answer was “Well, you talk about things that you know about and have ideas about. We have no knowledge of the political scenario, so we never discuss it”. It angered her for a while but later her realization hit in. So many people are deprived of political knowledge and that is what the people require. So, during the pandemic, she and a few of her other friends came up with the idea of PLFW (Political Literacy For Women).
What is PLFW?
Political Literacy for Women (PLFW) is a movement that aims to increase Nepali women's knowledge about politics and is designed to facilitate learning, develop networking, and create a healthy platform for Nepali women. Looking at the present scenario, literacy in the political domain is unsatisfactory in many contexts, but across gender lines, political literacy is particularly still inequitable. The team believes this movement will bring political consciousness amongst women which ensures political participation. They hope this will head to a shift in prevailing political culture.
It is a 12-days-long online course that aims to build a strong foundational level of knowledge of politics. As an institution, they work as an aid and agency to create space to learn, network, and run discourses on politics and its domain. The course aims to bring awareness and increase women's participation in the political domain of Nepal.
The team is welcoming their 7th batch in Mid-July but when they were welcoming their first batch there were almost 700 applications. Even if they could only select 50-60 of them in one batch, this showcased the interest of Nepalese women in learning about politics. The application surpassed their expectations and motivated them to do more of it. They have already taught 600-700 young girls from all around the country and from all 77 districts.
Prakriti saw the unseen enthusiasm in young girls that no one else did and she explains how her students and the alumni of the 12-day course gradually developed a change in their perspective. The exciting part of what she does simply is seeing the young naive girls become politically aware and strong-headed. Being able to keep an opinion about politics is rarely seen in girls and now they are willing to compete for the position, this change gives her hope. She claims that the progress her initiative brought is her biggest achievement.
Women in Politics
Women lack access to a lot of political spaces and “Women in Politics” already comes with a lot of barriers. Progress of women in the political area is not yet a reality and the biggest hurdle is money. People develop their political wings. But in our society, women are not allowed to be treasurers. They rarely have a property in their name and are always discouraged when it comes to enabling themselves through investments. Thus, they do not have much to start with. How will they ever compete with existing political giants or new enthusiasts who have good funding?
Minimal funding, lack of trust and a lot of stereotypical thoughts pull down women to a no political involvement state. We can see a common example, here if a woman is to get married, the family is ready to spend 30 lakhs on her but if the same amount is asked to run a business, will they?
Our country has just started economic rights for women, we have a long way to go. The lack of access to power for women created this scene. Thus, to support our women leaders, political literacy for women works accordingly. We believe that if our girls learn about the core, they will easily strengthen the surface too.
The experiences of the PLFW Journey
There were so many instances that shocked me throughout the journey. Being vocal was always my thing and once when I spoke about a particular case, I got death threats and a lot of it. I never imagined someone like me, who isn’t affiliated with any political parties or has anything big, would get threats like this. Well, it was a new experience and I was surprised how people dared to say something like that just because a woman feels self-efficient and confident. This led me to think if a woman tries to be vocal in a remote area, what would she do? Not being vocal at all would be the only option for her. Talking about good shock, I would say it was the overflowing applications for our program. I never thought so many women would be interested to learn, knowing and exploring with me.
What hinders women in politics?
People first need to understand that reservation solely doesn't make any difference. The approach should not just be top-to-bottom but rather bottom-to-top to solve the actual issue. We all need to have an understanding that representation only is not enough. The opportunity itself will only come to use if people are well aware of it and have the resources and motivation to use it.
Suggestions for the Readers
Learning about politics and being politically aware isn’t about age. People can start any time but you should learn and read about it. Where should you start? You can simply begin with the definition of politics. Access to the internet is something we are blessed with and reading newspapers and books should also be done later. Whatever your occupation is, everything is directly affected by politics so the faster we develop political awareness, the easier it is to live. Everyone should know about the system we live in. We have democracy in our hands but if we don’t protect its values and principles, we will lose it. To protect it and institutionalize it, we must be politically literate and I think everyone needs to know this.
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