An Interview with Saurav Raj Pant
Q: What do you do as an International Relations Research Associate and International Development Consultant?
International relations is all about how global politics, economy and society work. I usually write a blog, an op-ed, or a commentary about this in national and international dailies. I’m also an international development consultant. For this, I usually write proposals, concept notes and do monitoring and evaluation tasks for various NGOs. Currently, I am working for a Lesotho-based NGO. In Nepal, I also do consulting for a few NGOs.
Q: Tell me about your Organization?
The name of my organization is GARJAN-Nepal. It was formally established in June 2015 but had started in June 2014 with an informal group of people who were interested in international relations. In October 2014, I met like-minded people who wanted to start this [organization] as a legal entity. In June 2015, along with Mr. Samaya Lama, I registered this organization, which would become GARJAN-Nepal. We work on sustainable development, women’s rights issues, and community development; therefore, we do not have strict objectives.
Q: What motivated you to do both of these jobs?
My personal interests are international relations issues and consulting, so while reading and researching international systems, international economies, international politics, I thought there were inequalities among the people. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, but has many possibilities to become a developed country; it is lagging behind for various reasons. With that in mind, and to contribute by using technology and the power of globalization, I thought, why not start an organization and raise current issues- women’s empowerment, democracy advancement and sustainable development. This motivated me to start an organization.
Q: How closely do you work with the government?
We have a series of programs that works with the government. In 2015, we did a campaign on sexual harassment that women face in public places within cities. We did a series of research in places where reporting of such incidence was frequent. Then, we submitted a lobbying paper to the government such as the Transport Department to fix this issue. These are things we work on with the government. We just got started, but we have many projects in the pipelines.
Q: What kind of work do you do besides submitting papers to the government? What are some things that you do at a grassroots level?
Now, we are working to help girls who cannot attend school during their periods due to uncleaned toilets, lack of sanitary pads as well as social taboos. This is one of our ongoing projects.
Q: You’d said you like to eliminate social taboos, how hard is it to do so, and what is the public response to that?
Eliminating social taboos related to periods is hard and complicated. It involves people from different sides and backgrounds. There are many powerful women, powerless women, and powerful men who create barriers to eliminate the social taboos. We are sensitizing against this social taboo. It’s hard because it has existed for many years; it’s hard for them [the people] to give up these things. But we are doing our best.
Q: How many girls or women on your team are working on this project?
Currently, we have Anisha Kapri, who is Nepali and currently lives in New York City. She supports us by providing us with the resources that are required for the period project through her seeds fund that she is raising in the US. We also have three other girls who are supporting our work- three girls and a boy, including myself. So we have an international friend along with Nepali fiends working on this issue. We believe in thinking globally and acting locally.
Q: That’s incredible. What are your goals for your organization?
Most of the Nepali NGOs have many different objectives and goals. So we have very simple rules to work for community development.
Q: I’ve seen some of your work on social media. How effective is social networking or social media in promoting your cause?
The number of Nepali internet users is quite high now. People have started using social media for a cause. Many Nepali organizations are also using the Social Networking to disseminate their information. We have also started using this to disseminate our information and updates.
Before, when we started our social media page on Facebook, the level of engagement was quite low. Now, it is growing slowly. Usually, people just want to see photos and comment on it. Few people engage in social content. We are also working on ways to engage more and more people in our work. Our content on the social media page are news that are related to social taboos, women, latest development and so on.
Q: I have one last question. What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced setting up this organization?
Personal challenge or professional challenge?
My personal challenge was— there are many NGOs in Nepal. There are thousands of NGOs in Nepal. If I start there will be one more. Whenever you start an NGO in Nepal, people think it is like a dollar-making game. But my vision is different than other NGOs. My plan is to work in a different ways. For example, to diversify the fundraising method. Because most of the Nepali NGOs rely on traditional fundraising method. My intention is to do online fundraising and search various alternative fundraising ideas.
People discouraged me, not to start this kind of work, because it takes time and money. Those where the things, I felt during starting this initiative.
My professional challenge—it was difficult for me to find like-minded and dedicated people. The second thing is that, fund is necessary to start any initiative and it was a huge challenge for me. As no one trust the young and newly established NGOs. These were some of the basic challenges that I faced at a professional level.
Q: It’s interesting to hear the contrast between professional and personal challenges. You had to start from scratch.
That’s the reality of any NGO in Nepal. We have to start from the scratch. My philosophy to get success in NGOs is Research, Teamwork and Technology.
Q: That’s a very clear motto. That’s important. It looks like you’ve answered all of my questions. Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything you would like to add?
Those who wants to know more about our work or support our initiative you can visit our page http://garjannepal.blogspot.com/or send us the email email@example.com
Q: If there is anything we can do, please let us know. We appreciate your support, especially because it’s such a complicated issue that many of us might not understand.
Marina Yoshimura is a visiting student from Japan. You can contact her at marina.yoshimura