Even before activists had started struggling for affirmative action to reserve civil service jobs for women, Bindra Hada was already climbing up the career ladder with quiet determination.
That is Bindra's style: don't make a big fuss, just do your job professionally. As the first ever female director general of the Department of Commerce, Bindra does not believe that the government has ever discriminated against assigning women to top senior posts. "You have to prove yourself with professionalism and hard work starting from school," she says.
After working seven years as a geochemist at the Department of Mines and Geology, Bindra decided it was time to move from the lab to administration. Her no-nonsense style and efficiency meant she had nowhere to go but up. You can tell Bindra is not a whiner. She has a positive outlook and firmly believes that hard work and integrity pay off in the end. These values and her steely determination are an asset as she takes on the combined might of gas station dealers who oppose her campaign against fuel adulteration.
"You need a bit of ambition in life," she smiles, confiding that her real ambition was to be an airline pilot but she didn't have enough money to go abroad for training. "I have no regrets," says Bindra now, satisfied that she has set standards for the bureaucracy and, in her own small way, changed the public's perception of how things are run.
"Traditionally, bureaucrats are seen as inefficient, dishonest and lazy. I want to change that," she says firmly. "It can be done." She is working to turn the Department of Commerce into one of the government's best departments.
Bindra believes Nepal's civil service is improving and that top bureaucrats are younger, better educated, have more energy and commitment. When Bindra first sat at the director general's desk, it took some time to get used to the respect shown by her junior male staff. Once she overheard them say: "Wow, even a woman can do this job!"
Asked about her two daughters and husband who is a Bahun, and why she keeps her Newari maiden name, Bindra laughs it off. She steers the interview deftly back to her job: show she is in charge of 42 staff. She's a leader, not a boss.