Amrita founded Dress for Success Kathmandu in 2017 and is working tirelessly to drive change for women in Nepal. In this interview with Dress for Success Worldwide, Amrita discusses the challenges women face in her very patriarchal country, the moment she realized she needed to give back to women in her community and why it is so crucial that women in Nepal strive to become educated and financially independent.
What does Dress for Success mean to you?
Dress for Success is having the means to approach more women, especially in a country like ours. Nepal is so different and since insurgency we are going through so much of a transition inside the country. There are big changes with our political establishment and soon there will be a lot more economic development. This is the right time to empower Nepal women to achieve economic independence.
How did you hear about Dress for Success?
I heard about Dress for Success from a friend and found that most of the objectives are very similar to the issues women are facing in Nepal. Nepal is a developing country and women are very poor. This is a male dominant society where disparity prevails on every sector. The ratio of women professionals to men is very low. I have always dreamed of helping women in my country by empowering them with training, capacity building, skill development and really building their confidence.
Why did you want to be a part of Dress for Success?
I read all the success stories and case studies and saw the chances for life development for women here in Nepal. Because we are still a developing country, we need more of this. I decided our country should be part of this movement for women.
Can you talk a little bit more about the economic issues in Nepal and how you are planning to help women overcome those obstacles?
Nepal is a really patriarchal country and a male-dominated society. The majority of women only get low paying labor jobs even with the same education level and they don’t even get access to the higher levels. It is a huge problem in our country. I think with our interference, Dress for Success will become a milestone to change that. My dream is that women will get to the level where they want and deserve to be.
What does the term economic independence mean in your culture?
In our culture when you have your own money, you are pocket full. You don’t have to rely on your husband, your brother or your father. I’ve seen the difference between the women who really earned a living themselves and others who are really dependent on someone. Their lives and confidence levels are so different. Economic independence, means you’ve earned, you’ve decided for yourself and you don’t have to depend on someone for what you want in your life.
What were you inspired by to start Dress for Success?
I was traveling to a very remote part of the country where we have a system of bonded labour, basically a form of slavery. A Social Mobilizer from the former organization I was working with forced me to visit one village. It was really dark as we drove through. The women in the village were offering myself and the other visitors flowers. They were severely malnourished and carrying children. It was visible poverty there. In that moment I knew I had to give back to the community because there’s so much of a need. It was a turning point for me to work for the women of Nepal. If I was in a poor community like this, and women can offer flowers to me, then I can do more for women in the country with a little education and the sharing of my experiences. I wanted to focus on two groups of women- the poorest of the poor and the educated women who are still in poverty. They don’t get opportunities. I want these women to be inspired by the employed women who graduated so more women go to school and send their children to school.
Why is giving back to other women so important to you?
I was divorced and at the time I was in a position where I could earn and I could look after my children. In my country, it was really difficult for me to get through the challenges of becoming divorced, but because I was economically independent I didn’t have to rely on someone. Other women might go through different stages in their lives, but if they are economically empowered then they don’t have to be frustrated with their circumstance. I want all women in Nepal to dream higher and bigger so we can really make changes in the country. The need for change is so strong. We need to get inspiration from each other.
What are your hopes for the next year or next five years? What are your plans?
At Dress for Success Kathmandu, we want to start by connecting women and allowing them to network for job creation and employment generation. Our primary focus is training women so they can develop their confidence. In five years, I want to see thousands of women become educated and get good jobs so they have the ability to change their own lives.
What sort of skill sets and tools are you hoping to help women gain at Dress for Success Kathmandu?
We hope to offer women communication skills, information technology skills and leadership skills so that they gain more confidence and dream bigger. I want women to be able to go beyond their lower level jobs and become managers or directors.
What do you think it is about Dress for Success that resonates globally and throughout different cultures?
We are diverse, but our mission is the same. The ultimate goal is to empower women and empower women to be economically independent. Even with all our diversity, we all hope to achieve the same goal.