This month I interviewed Manisha Paudel, a Senior Policy Analyst for the City of Tacoma. She works in the Equity and Human Rights department. In my understanding, equity is when people no matter who they are, what their background is have access to opportunities and resources without bias or discrimination. I would like to point out that there is a difference between equality and equity. Manisha explained that equality is when everyone receives the same thing, but equity is when everyone receives what they specifically need to succeed. In her role she works to inform service providers of this difference and what it takes to close gaps and bring more people from various communities to the table. In addition, she works on creating policy that benefits the whole community, particularly in areas where people have been historically marginalized. Outside of her 9-5 job, she has been involved with Amnesty International and leadership – based organizations for more than 10 years. She served in various capacities in Amnesty International, including Student Group Founder, Regional Group Member Leader, and currently Workshop Facilitator. She is a Nepali woman I admire because she works hard to make sure everyone gets their fair chance at having a quality life.
How long have you worked on equity/diversity issues with local governments?
With local government, specifically, for almost 5 years.
How did you get started in this field? What led you to be where you are today?
There were many things I thought I wanted to be, but my first local government job in Parks & Recreation department led me to find opportunities to address the inequities I had been seeing and personally experiencing. Working in the human rights and non-profit sector surely equipped me very well to think critically as well as inclusively of these issues.
What has been the most satisfying about being in this field?
Being able to actually change hearts and minds of people has been the most satisfying. It’s incredible that government staff recognize that the disparities in our society do not stem only from personal choices, hard work and luck.
What has been the most challenging thing about it?
Time. The progress in this work is slow. While we’re working on bringing long-term positive changes, communities continue to be impacted daily. This, added by newer and even more pressing issues, makes the work challenging (and also continuously motivating).
Equity is a big problem in many places, especially Nepal, what kind of policies do you think Nepal needs in order for women to have more access to resources?
Gender inequality is a world-wide issue – definitely a lot worse of a situation in Nepal. Equity basically means re-leveling. Men in Nepal have always had access to opportunities and resources, and sometimes, more than needed for them to reach their full potential. Often times those opportunities came at a cost of women losing any and all of what they could have had. So, for women to have an equitable access to resources in Nepal, men must be willing to give up a little. If there are 10 chairs around a table all occupied by men, AT LEAST 2-3 of them will have to get up and empty the seats for women – AND/OR bring in 5 extra chairs for women to have access to the table.
What social issues do you feel most passionate about and why?
My passion lies on issues impacting young people. It is our responsibility to change their world for them, not us. A lot of what we’re working on are based on how we want to see the world – without recognizing that we’re not going to live forever. We don’t stop and ask children and young people what it is that they would want to see. One will be surprised at how well informed and aware they are of their surrounding.
Who are your role models?
I struggle with this question a lot. I don’t have individuals to call role models. I seem to learn from so many that I interact, and find them to be pretty amazing. When I grow up, I want to be a little bit of every awesome people I’ve met.
What advice would you give to women who want to pursue a similar career?
Be authentic. Don’t worry about what others say. Cliche, I know. But, really. I always wanted to do/be what I thought would sound and be impressive to OTHERS. Nah! Do what makes you smile when you tell yourself you do that for a living. My career requires a lot of patience. So, have that. Connect with people. Learn about how government works – but also how communities work. Be civically and locally engaged, and it’s an easy entry to this field of work. By that, I. mean, take advantage of every opportunity. I volunteered, interned and worked in so many different areas and sectors that didn’t help me focus on my career – I thought. However, that’s exactly what I needed to be where I’m at. I learned so much along the process.
Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.
I still wonder if there is something more “cool” I can do to impress my family and relatives.
Best piece of advice you have received.
“You owe nothing to anybody, but to yourself.”
Thank you for your hard work Manisha!
Follow Manisha on Twitter: @GoverningGirl