Doing our bit to produce more women hydropower engineers
The first batch of the Hydro-Himalaya Project during the orientation programme (Shiva Thapa Magar/KU)
Across the globe, engineering is a field largely dominated by men, and Nepal’s story is no different. While it seems that this picture is gradually changing, it is still rare to see women opting to pursue courses that are highly technical, such as hydropower engineering. Only 1 in 10 students doing engineering in Nepal is a woman. Very few women candidates hold a master’s degree in the sector, and fewer still hold doctorates.
Committed to bringing better gender balance and social inclusion in such technical domains, the Hydro-Himalaya project encourages women candidates and candidates from marginalized groups to apply for master’s and PhD courses in the domains of hydropower engineering. The 2021 application call for the project received almost 75 applications across all courses; around 15% of the applicants were women.
From the 11 women applicants, 3 were selected for the PhD course, 2 for the master’s course, and one promising candidate – Mamata Rijal – was placed in the waiting list for the PhD course since the seats for the current batch were full. The selection panel was keen to place Mamata in the course and sought a different funding source – HydroCen – for her.
Institutions generally do not have supportive policies for career women during their most vulnerable career phases – marriage and childbirth. Many highly educated and qualified women are compelled to let go of their career aspirations as they enter this new phase in their life. The Hydro-Himalaya project had the very timely opportunity to demonstrate their support for women’s participation and inclusion. Towards the end of the 2021 application call, a candidate selected for a double PhD degree, Manika Manandhar, shared with the panel that she was pregnant. She also informed the panel that she was determined to continue pursuing her degree. Recognizing her potential and zeal, the panel deferred her admission until after her maternity leave. Manika gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and is looking forward to joining the course from August 2022. The Hydro-Himalaya is proud to have played a small role in helping Manika keep her dreams alive and is committed to producing more competent, determined women hydropower engineers.
“I highly appreciate the Hydro-Himalaya project team for postponing my PhD study considering the due date of my pregnancy. I've been able to take care of my baby very well.”
- Manika Manandhar