For our recent Didi Program, we invited Ms. Deepa Shakya who is a gender and social inclusion expert who works with the Nepal government on various projects as well as being a Faculty Member at Kathmandu University. She came to not only share with the scholars about her experiences, but also to share her beliefs about education and empowerment. Deepa Didi is a very accomplished woman who has many amazing academic achievements like earning a Master’s Degree from East West University in Bangladesh where she was awarded a Gold Medal during her convocation. It was exciting not just for the scholars, but also the Didis to have her come to talk with us.
Deepa Didi: Photo courtesy of LinkedIn
27 Rukmini Scholars and 6 foundation staff members had the chance to listen to Deepa Didi as she talked about her life, academic and work experiences. All of the scholars and mentors were inspired to hear from her, and the major part of interaction that followed was based on Deepa Didi’s suggestion to the girls that it is very important for young girls to develop the habit of questioning, both in academics and in life.
Deepa Didi’s educational background includes a Master’s Degree in Development Studies from East West University, Bangladesh and she was named a gold medalist for getting top marks during her studies there. She told the audience that her ability to ask questions if she did not understand something along with her hard work in school were the reasons why she was so successful. In Nepal, there is a culture of not questioning teachers and elders, which often causes students to not raise their hands in class to ask questions even if they do not understand something. Deepa Didi did not want the scholars to fall into that trap. She let the scholars know that much of her academic success was because she was not afraid to ask her teachers if she did not understand something.
Girls listening intently to Deepa Didi
Deepa Didi noticed that even during this program that a lot of the girls did not speak up, and she was not afraid to let them know. She encouraged the scholars to speak up and let them know that they would not be in trouble for wanting to learn and wanting to ask questions. She talked about how people are shy to share their questions, thinking people might laugh at their question or think they are not smart. She warned that it was not the right way of thinking because keeping a question to yourself instead of asking can keep you from learning something important. After her encouragement, the girls started to get more involved and started asking questions.
Scholar Smriti Shrestha (center) asks Deepa Didi a question
Due to her great success in academics, the scholars were interested to learn her secrets of academic success. Scholar Amrita Sunar asked question about some techniques to improve the understanding of subject matter in textbooks and how to write the best answers in examinations. Didi in response to Amrita’s question explained that while reading the text in the books, reading line by line and memorizing might not be the most effective way to read and understand. Doing that doesn’t help you understand the concept of the subject, but reading the text and relating that with your own experience might be more meaningful and will help you understand the subject and also write the answers in exams. Additionally she also said that if you do not understand the text well, then it is important to ask teachers or friends about the things that are not clear because questioning is important for good learning.
Deepa Didi also talked about her professional life where she is currently working on a government project as a gender and social inclusion expert. Before this job, she had also worked for the International Finance Cooperation. She is an academic success and a professional success as well. It was great for the scholars and the mentors to see a woman who was working in such a capacity to make a difference in Nepal. Deepa Didi related the idea of questioning to her professional life as well and shared that she developed her interest in development and gender equality by questioning why there was such discrimination against girls and women in Nepal.
Scholars very happy to have taken part in this session
Finally, as another example of how questioning can bring change in society, she gave the example of Malala Yousafzai who questioned why girls couldn’t be educated in her community. Even though she was attacked for her questions, she was brave and now she is now the face of girls’ education around the world. It is difficult to question the way things are, but if we do not challenge them, we cannot improve on them. With this insightful interaction session with Deepa Didi, Rukmini scholars have learned why questioning and relating learning to your experience is very important. Thanks to Deepa Didi’s words of encouragement, the Scholars felt more confidence in asking questions during the program and hopefully they will carry that to the classrooms as well. Scholar, Nirupa promised to apply these techniques in her classes and we will check with her to see how she is doing in the future.
Deepa Didi was inspiration for the Didis like Usha Didi and former Rukmini Scholar Sushmita Didi
All of the Didis want to thank Deepa Didi for such a wonderful session. from the interaction session. She was an inspiration to the girls and all of us mentors as well.