Pramila Acharya Rijal is President of South Asian Women Development Forum which is a regional network of women entrepreneurs, associations, organisations and institutions working towards socio economic development of entrepreneurship in the SAARC region. She is also Executive Member of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Much of Rijal’s work and efforts are targeted towards women entrepreneurship, developing social enterprises, capacity building of women led organisations at the national and South Asian level. Recipient of several awards as a harbinger of change for the advancement of women, she has attended a number of international forums as a speaker and expert on women entrepreneurship.
She is also a founder and past President of Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (FWEAN) besides being the immediate past President of Zonta Club Kathmandu Nepal, a global organisation of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women with the objective to improve the economic, education and health, address issues related to violence against women through service and advocacy.
Rijal has also been instrumental in bringing Sulabh technology to the country which has been declared as one of the global best practices for achieving success in the field of cost-effective technology. At a time when lack of proper sanitation and toilets has been blamed for the possibilities of sexual exploitation of women and children in Nepal, a number of community and rural household toilets with the Sulabh technology have been constructed to address the sanitation challenge in Nepal since.
In her personal capacity, she is the Chairperson of Pratistha Construction Company, registered under the government as A class construction company. She is also founder member and promoter of SAARC Chamber Crafts Village, promoter of Manushi Micro Credit Bank and Chairperson of Nourish Nature, a demo cum commercial farming enterprise.
In this issue, Business 360 talked with Rijal to learn her opinion on leadership.
What is leadership? What are three major traits of a leader?
Leadership is creating something out of nothing, the power to build your dreams into reality and experience the pleasure of enjoying your creation. The three major traits of a leader to me is: a clear focus on your plans and strategies – all targeted toward success, strong belief in honesty which is the foundation of integrity, and the most important is to have the ability to take decisions at the right time for the right cause.
How significant is leadership in the areas of business and social development?
Leadership can redefine the image of one’s business and help achieve social development. A true leader can motivate, inspire and help others to discover their dreams leading to better performance.
How do you overview the status of women leadership in Nepal?
Nepalese women are very aware of their rights. There has been a tremendous level of socio and political transformation in women leadership. Yet we are in the infancy stage when it comes to women leadership.
Despite a handful of women having opportunity to serve top level positions in business, social, political and judicial sectors, a majority still struggle for their status as equal citizens?
My strongest belief is that the mind set and the cultural perception of women has to change. Women and poverty are always defined together. Due to these social stigmas women have not discovered their ability to achieve what they are capable of. The access of political power is going to create a middle layer leadership which will greatly help change the status of Nepalese women.
Many attempts have been made particularly from the government and development sector to upgrade the current situation of women. How do you view the progress?
Let us accept the fact that Nepal ranks very high in the inclusion of women in positions of power. The future generations will be able to look up to these women as role models.
What are the major factors that hinder women’s leadership development?
Changes cannot happen overnight but the doors have opened for the representation of women in different sectors. Women are heard and that voice does not get lost though the social norms still strongly limits opportunities for women.
How do you assess yourself as a leader?
Having headed quite a few organisations, the most important role of the leader is to build a strong brand for the organization to achieve its vision and mission. Secondly, as a leader of an institution, I firmly believe, we have to create the zest for work among our peer group. I am a person who is very passionate about my work, and take my responsibility with sincerity and commitment. I want things to happen. I do not wait for anything to happen. You yourself have to create and then only there is a new dimension to what you do.
Three persons who have shaped leadership qualities in you…
I have been influenced by many people is some ways as I have discovered learning never ends. I think more than being shaped, there are some people who have influenced me greatly: my late father, Phanindra Prasad Acharya who was much ahead of his times, Shanti Chadha with whom I learned the value of not only empowering yourself but others too. The third person is my husband, Dhruba Rijal who is a strong believer in women empowerment.
What is happiness? Does leadership has anything to do with happiness?
One derives happiness from many sources. Able leadership can be linked with happiness.