A New Strategic Vision for Girls and Women, Binita Shrestha

Binita Shrestha believes that more girls exposed to computer science at a young age will lead to more women. Attitudes must change to get more girls to study Computer Science.

Shrestha Binita

Tell us yourself 

My name is Binita Shrestha, currently following Engineering in Information Technology and Software Bachelor in Kathmandu, Nepal, with a particular interest for Android development. I have always been passionate about Engineering and STEM subjects. Ever since, I notice a very low representation of women in tech and science fields I along with my friends decided to found an organization Women in STEM, Nepal with the vision of encouraging and promoting more young girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as the field has huge gender gap.

Why WiSTEM Nepal Community Started ?

STEM has became an integral part of mankind. These days it has en grained in our lives such that none of us can now escape from its impact.It has helped in better employment, innovations and opportunities. According to the Census 2011, the female population outnumbered male population but still the ratio of participants in STEM fields is minimal. And this statistics prevail not only in Asian countries but also across the globe. In the country like Nepal most of the areas have the major issue geographically and culturally, the extension of STEM skills can be the “Game changer” as it helps connecting interested women.The STEM careers are one of the most ranked career in the world and it’s high time to promote girls/women to gain e-skills here in Nepal as well as we represents only 12% in Science and Technology according to the survey conducted by Nepal Telecommunication Authority . If the idea is followed strategically then both urban and rural women can contribute in this mainstream together. And hence Women in STEM Nepal is initiated to engage and enroll more girls/women in STEM fields.

But why girls should be apart of it?

Girls’ lack of participation in creation of today’s technology has the serious consequences for the future of technical innovations.With the involvement of more girls/women into this mainstream can contribute towards the creation of new ideas, technologies, valuable perspectives and uniqueness in solutions as I believe they possess they are natural leaders.There is an old adage “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” With the changing time where women are not just defined for their beauty and their home making skills, the same adage should be transformed to “STEM Skills are girl’s best friend.” Indeed if one holds the STEM Skills, she will have diamonds laid on her path. And this is the message we convey to every girls today through Women in STEM, Nepal as the field lacks the mentor and awareness.

So, with the objective to capitalize on the changing attitudes of the society towards girls where the girls’ aspirations expand their horizons for learning and developing skills way above than princess and fairies,I along with group of young, dynamic ,skilled and extremely passionate girls initiated the idea project Women in STEM, Nepal as an organization to reach out beyond the backgrounds and geography.

“No industry or country can reach its potential until women reach their full potential. This is especially true of science and technology, where women with a surplus of talent still face a deficit of opportunity. “ says Sheryl Sand-berg, COO of Facebook.

Who are the founders ?

I along with my Friend Pratiksha Pandey ,currently following Engineering in Electronics Bachelor in Kathmandu, Nepal, Java developer are CO- Founder at Women in STEM, Nepal  and Sinuna Chaudhary, PHP Developer and Sudeshna Pradhananga ,Java Developer are our two Chief Program Executives of Women in STEM, Nepal.

What are the challenges to start and run such types of community in Nepalese society?

Remember the historic time when workplaces used to be male dominant? Well, sadly history hasn’t changed itself much, as the situation for Nepal is still similar. Especially in the case of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) or STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) a huge gender gap can be distinctly seen in Nepal and across the world.

Giving my own example, when I joined Computer Science, I was the “only girl” among 150 students! Can you imagine how you would feel? It was scary and made me doubt my passion. My uncountable requests to my other female friends to join Computer Science were ignored as just like many others they thought that computer field is male dominated. The irony is that today, we live in a world where we have male nurses and nannies, and we are finding the field of computers “too manly”.

However, my persistence to continue was backed up by my passion for this field, but I know this is the story or situation of every girl / women here in Nepal. Women here tend to choose a field more women eccentric.

Challenges for the women themselves is the ultimate challenges for community as Gender stereotypes and socialization says that “ Technology is not for girls or women”. We live in a society where early stereotypes matters, those stereotypes which were build at a very early age from family, society and school. Studies show that 95% of young girls are interested in Science & Mathematics subjects during their primary and secondary schools. The number decreases to 35%-25% when they reach to High school. Why? Possible reasons might be the fact that they lack the right mentor, someone who could train and mentor them well on STEM subjects, regardless of whether or not they succeed. So since that’s not happening at the moment women just tend to funnel themselves out. As we all are also familiar with the low representations of girls/women in this field, It’s crucial to involve the girls from very early age as the funneling starts from schools and high schools.

During visits in schools and colleges, I found that the first response towards this field generally was “ STEM & CS subjects are for guys ”. This is also because we lack female role models from such fields in Nepal. Women in STEM, Nepal is contributing to impact the root causes of the gender gap in STEM mainstream.And in order to boost the confidence of the Young Girls and inspire them into coding and programming, we are conducting HOUR OF CODE workshop program as an impact project for winning the title of young Aspiring Women EmpowHER2015  hosted by Ujyalo Foundation. The goal of the Workshop  is to teach anybody  learn science with  fun and bring the creative designing, that it is accessible at all ages, for all students, regardless of background. The measure of success of this social campaign is not in how much CS students learn resulting increase in enrollment and participation we see in CS courses at all grade levels. The training program is focused on the quick market substitute training and programming projects targeting from the basics of any languages. The training will help the students (especially women) to learn the programming base and develop the confidence to code within an hour. The more they are into it, the more they can learn and code. And also in collaboration with Children & Youth First organization we are conducting Children Go Coding program at Life Vision Academy , a 4 month long intensive program where children of age group 6-15 years are trained on Raspberry Pi Projects including Scratching, building legos, e-pustakalaya, and programming skills helping them to think beyond the comfort zone, explore out of curriculum world of books, and expose them on technology driven world.

If we could label beyond the Time management issue, ICT policy for encouraging girls, family support, cultural and economical factors, women empowerment etc then we can welcome more Women Tech Leaders, Women Entrepreneur, and eventually more women in STEM Fields.We are really thankful to our Mentors, Technologist’s, for inspiring us in our early days ,empowering through training for skill enhancement.

Will you please share us your habit on use of social media?

Actually, I am social media savvy person.

Have you anything to say about ICT Community in Nepal?

Well, ICT Communities in Nepal are conducting a lot of events,skill based training’s programs , meetups and seminars in Nepal. I find many communities of them very active and helps in creating the working environment even for the new visitors. When I started attending events where I usually met few girls and sometimes none.
Due to this , I started studying more about the few representations of women in Nepal. But later I discovered that this issue was an issue across the world, since STEM represents only 24% of women according to WOMEN IN SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY ENGINEERING & MATHEMATICS (STEM),UNITED STATES.

Currently, We are involved with KTMJS Community, one of the most well received community in Kathmandu  hosted by Punit Jajodia, Co-Founder at  Parewa Labs  and Aayush Shrestha, Co-Founder at  Lishn. The  community of JavaScript developers in Kathmandu that aims to share knowledge and expertise in JavaScript and related technologies through regular meetups, workshops and discussions as well.

Apart from IT? What are your interests?

I love Sports especially Futsal and Basketball. But i have been limited to colleges and with friends circle only.

Are you aware of IT Policy of Nepal?

Yes, I do.

And Since technology is the critical factor for development , the technology policy greatly affects the technological development of the country, Nepal. Imparting the technical education at schools and high schools and higher educational levels will create the conducive environment for promoting technical education. And recently National and communication Technology Policy 2015 has been released by Ministry of Information and Communication in order to meet the objectives like : Making IT accessible to general public;increase employment through IT, Building the knowledge based Society and Establish more IT-Based companies as well.

Do you have anything to share through ICT FRAME?

YES, We are running many programs through Women in STEM, Nepal. Through ICT Frame We would also like to kind appeal to the girls to join the classes as “WE UNDERSTAND YOU BETTER”. Hopefully, We could reach many girls who are interested in the awareness and training classes in near future. At last “KEEP CODING LADIES”