Learn how to manage time better. — First, we live in different time zones. Also, both of us have full-time jobs and personal projects on the side. So working on projects, even getting on a call together can be challenging. We have to make sure we separate our time as friends and work time or else we aren’t as productive as we could be.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sukriti Adhikari and Dhalu Sherpa, co-founders of Kanchi Ko Awaj.
Dhalu Sherpa is a PR specialist and designer who helps women shape and take charge of their stories. She is an advocate with years of experience in community-organizing, helping young women get politically engaged, and a feminist with a passion to amplify the voices of women. She received her B.A from the University of Washington. A creative by nature, she is interested in advocacy and awareness through storytelling and content creation.
Sukriti Adhikari is a global leader, a community-based feminist activist, an independent researcher, and program director by trade. She is interested in the intersection of media, technology, and education in the global development field. A pragmatist at heart, she believes that together, we could bring the change we hope for.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Sukriti: I grew up between two places with two completely different cultures. I went from living in the same town in Kathmandu, Nepal for the first 11 years of my life to moving to four different cities in Virginia within 5 years. My early teenage years consisted of me constantly navigating what was normal and acceptable in both of my environments. As the oldest child, I constantly looked for ways to find and share the best resources I could to my family and friends. This habit has grown into creating what I am today.
Dhalu: I lived in Nepal until I was 10-years-old then I moved to the U.S. and have lived here since. The U.S has been my home for 15 years of my life. Growing up in two starkly different countries and cultures has brought its own lessons and trials, yet encompasses everything that makes me the woman I am. One thing in my life that has remained consistent is the encouragement from the women in my life, mainly my sisters and mother, to
You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Kanchi ko Awaj is a digital platform dedicated to amplify and encourage Nepali women. In Nepali, Kanchi means a young woman, or the youngest girl in the family. Awaj translated means voice. Kanchi ko Awaj started as a safe space where Nepali women could talk about anything and everything without feeling judged. This name was suggested by one of our members and voted on by the group therefore it holds an extra special meaning.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Our lived experiences as Nepali women is what ignited the passion for this cause. ‘Inspired’ may possibly be too positive of a word because we felt the rage against the body and tone-policing, sexist societal pressures, and violence against women, in all forms. From that rage grew the passion to create a space and community that Nepali women can find comfort, strength, encouragement and the freedom to be their authentic selves.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Sukriti: One of my go-to phrases is: If not me/us, then who?
When the pandemic started I started hosting a virtual happy hour. The turnout was pretty good and for almost 2 months, we met every week once a week and most of the conversations were just things that we had always wanted to talk about and I love that we don’t have to justify our experiences because someone had read a different theory that didn’t match our experience
Since we were already doing happy hours per month I thought why not expand to a bigger group because the more happy hours we hosted the more I realized that there were so many women who have similar questions.
I just needed a space where they could be themselves and just talk about things that mattered. and as much as there is a representation of South Asian women I didn’t really find a lot of them about Nepali Community especially Nepali women because everything is always dominated by men so we thought why not just make an organization for Nepali women specifically dies for a Nepali women because I haven’t seen as many representation there.
Dhalu: For me, it was finding other Nepali women who were on a similar path as me. The Nepali community in my city is much smaller than other places in the U.S. and while there is a sense of community at large, the resources and representation are scarce. Moreover, Nepalese-Americans are a fairly newer group of immigrants within the U.S. Today, a growing number of us, mostly first and second generations, are entering higher education, careers and industries. I wanted to create a platform that provided the representation, resources and support we need. While there are multiple well-established platforms that serve South Asian American women, there is not one that specifically serves Nepalese-american women and Kanchi Ko Awaj was created to bridge that gap.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
The first and important step was to acknowledge the need for the community and work is much bigger than both of us and our egos. It took hours of facetime calls to discuss the vision and goals we have for the community as well as get to know each other more.
The next step we took was to create an online space through peer-to-peer invitation and build a sense of community and sisterhood. We surveyed the members on resources and events they would be interested in which helped us host our first event and launch a resource list for sexual assault victims. Our first event was a mental health workshop with a Nepali therapist to focus on the importance of culturally competent therapy. Our most recent and third step was to establish a team. Starting 2021, we will have two community members joining our team to help us successfully move our ideas to action.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
We started the organization in June of 2020 while in quarantine therefore we have actually never even met in person. We met online through another nepali networking group. So Kanchi Ko Awaj community, our friendship and partnership has grown concurrently which is the most interesting aspect of this entire journey. We are learning and growing together as we step into our roles as founders but also as friends.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
The most interesting thing is that we have never met before yet we are so good at working with each other and respecting our space. We both have similar work ethics and expectations on how we get things done, so it’s been very easy to be ourselves around each other.
One of the funniest things was that we both somehow had the most miserable September 2020 and ended up ghosting each other for 3 weeks. No questions asked or hard feelings but just the mutual understanding that we needed our personal space. Despite having a meeting scheduled, we both just did not meet. That level of understanding and trust is rare to find in the early stages of a partnership but it came about naturally.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Sukriti: My cheerleaders are my friends, without them I would not have the courage to do what I do everyday. Navigating new projects is definitely scary. I am thankful for my friends who have constantly supported me and have patiently reminded me that I am not too ambitious.
It’s easy to get in my head and let imposter syndrome get the best of me. It helps me push myself when I have friends who understand and remind me of the difference that we are making and going to make in the future. I am forever thankful for my friends who are my clues to these puzzles, thank you.
Dhalu: My mentors and cheerleaders are my older sisters Dawa, and Mingmar. For me, impostor syndrome can be paralyzing to the point where I lose sight of my goals and capabilities. Through every trial and tribulation, my sisters have always grounded me to remind me of my strength and potential.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
The mental health workshop Kanchi Ko Awaj hosted with a Nepali therapist was an incredibly powerful event. The therapist gave advice that was applicable to being a woman in a Nepali household while balancing the western or modern way of life. It was extremely helpful and healing for our community members to have access to culturally competent therapy that is relatable and useful to their lives.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Speak Up! There are so many sexist things and practices in our culture that are normalized when it should change.
- The community as a whole needs to have more honest conversation about our cultural norms than continue the vicious cycle of enforcing strict gender roles, ostracization, and discrimination.
- Politicians need to stop considering women as a token but rather have accurate reflection of what the community is.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Learn how to manage time better.
First, we live in different time zones. Also, both of us have full-time jobs and personal projects on the side. So working on projects, even getting on a call together can be challenging. We have to make sure we separate our time as friends and work time or else we aren’t as productive as we could be.
It’s okay to ask for help, and that help looks different for each group/person.
We are both quite hard on ourselves while being perfectionists which is the perfect recipe to be the kind of person who doesn’t ask for help. Through time, we have realized that help also looks different for us. It could be allowing one of us to vent, speak out loud, or to give space without any contact at all.
Be realistic about how much time you will need to execute a program.
Learning to balance between personal life, our jobs, and Kanchi ko Awaj has been one of the most important lessons we have learned since the inception of Kanchi ko Awaj.
Everytim we have a meeting, we come up with so many ideas that we want to execute. We somehow manage to get them done but looking back, we have come to realize that we need to get better about timing and managing our projects.
No work is small.
Whether it’s posting recommendations, beauty tips, or sending out resources to domestic violence victims. We have to put in the effort to show our community members that we do value their inputs and address issues that are important to them.
Be kind to yourself as you navigate the new workload.
Kanchi ko Awaj has taught me so much for my personal development. Kanchi ko Awa’s growth was rapid and since it wasn’t that hard to grow I kept on invalidating my part in the success of this organization.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If not you, then who?If not now, then who? It’s quite simple, our message is that you don’t have to be an expert and the perfect representative. You just have to do the work and learn as you go. Everything is a process, goals can always evolve with the organization’s growth so you don’t have to have everything planned from the start. Just find genuine support and start there.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Michelle Obama. She encompasses the meaning of leadership in her own right. I want to ask about her experience as the first lady. Her role in community engagement and advocacy for young women around the world. More so, I’m interested to learn more about “when they go low, we go high.”, what it took for her to learn to take the high ground even when some people in the world were so incredibly cruel and disrespectful to her.
Grace if you see this, I want to say that you inspire me so much.
How can our readers follow you online?
The readers can find us on Instagram at kanchikoawaj, email us at [email protected]
We have a website in the making.
Note: the art we have submitted with the photos is our community mascot and created by artist Kreative Kirat @thekreativekira
Our Instagram handles:
Kanchi Ko Awaj: @Kanchi Ko Awaj
Sukriti Adhikari @sukritical
Dhalu Sherpa @dhalusherpa__
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!