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Encouraging womentrepreneurs

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Kathmandu has joined the worldwide network of 200 cities in organising Startup Weekends with its fifth edition in the capital this week.

Sunita Thapaliya (left) and Shilu Pradhan discussing their project with Resta Jha, one of the judges.

Sunita Thapaliya (left) and Shilu Pradhan discussing their project with Resta Jha, one of the judges.

In over 54 hours, ten teams of aspiring entrepreneurs worked at Startup Weekends Kathmandu (SWK) on business ideas in varied fields – from music, to environment, including transport. There was a dramatic rise in the number of women who took part during the event 12-14 September at SAP Falcha.

“The small number of girls in Startup Weekends is a global phenomenon, and especially in South Asia,” explained SWK’s organiser, Brijendra Roshi. “But we hope there will be more women in future events.”

Sunita Thapaliya, 24, was leading a team whose idea was to sort waste and converting garbage to organic fertilisers. “Our motive was to address the crucial problem of waste management in Kathmandu,” Thapaliya said, “as organic farming is getting more popular in Nepal, we thought preparing manure from waste would work as a business.”

The team also included Shilu Pradhan, Shraddha Kunwar, Preeti Kaur and, the only male in the team, Romel Bhattarai. None of the girls looked like they were “shy”, and the only apprehension for Shilu and Shraddha was that they had no IT background.

But they’ve never let this become a problem. “They had a focused business model and their final presentation proved their plan was financially viable,” commented Karmath Dangol, one of the judges.

The members of the winning team finally found out that Startup Weekend is not dedicated to men specialised in IT only. While Shilu has found more strength to fulfill her dream there, Sunita thinks SWK really helps to explore one’s potential.

Still, SWK could do with more women participants. Aayush Shrestha who won SWK’s fourth edition had invited his female friends to come. “I know many talented girls,” he said, “but I don’t why they didn’t come.”

Brijendra Joshi started SWK in February 2013 as part of a global effort to encourage young entrepreneurs to start new businesses. He is fully committed to encouraging more women to join the effort.

“I do believe that it will take some time to have more gender balanced SWK,” he said, “but I am confident it will happen.”

When Brijendra Joshi launched the first edition of Startup Weekend Kathmandu in February 2013, his objective was to promote entrepreneurship in Nepal.

“I like the idea that 54 hours can change the way we look at things,” he said. The prerequisite to bring the event in Nepal was the participation in a Startup Weekend. So, he went to the September 2012 edition in Delhi with Pravin Raj Joshi and won the first prize.

“Our idea was to have a platform for the interaction with blue-collar workers and home owners who need services in convenient way,” recalled Brijendra.

Since then, he has been trying to eliminate the gender-gap in entrepreneurship in Nepal. “Women have managed households in Nepal and put everyone together to run smooth families. As the management skills are already there, why not bring it out to manage their own ventures?” asked Karmath Dangol.

However, Brijendra is still doubtful when he sees parents who are reluctant to let their daughters attend a SWK. “I don’t understand why some can send their daughters to Australia or USA, but not to a program in their own home city.”

Stéphane Huët

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