29 Apr Scholarships strengthen Australia’s ties to the world
Nibha Shrestha is using the skills and expertise she gained in Australia to help some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in Nepal.
Making the decision to go abroad for study was certainly not easy for me, mainly because of two reasons: my daughter was too young and I did not have the funds to pay for an international education. My family encouraged me to apply for a scholarship and my mother assured me that she will look after my daughter. Fortunately, I was able secure an Australian Leadership Award to pursue a Master of Human Rights at the University of Sydney.
Although I already had a master degree in psychology from my home country, I wanted to pursue an international education to better understand the world, to broaden my networks and to have degree relevant to my work in human rights. An international degree would help me achieve a higher level in my profession and enable me to make decisions that have a positive impact on the lives of some of the world’s most marginalised and vulnerable people, particularly in Nepal.
A whole new world in Australia
Australia was a different world for me – a different language, a different culture and different customs. But its multicultural environment and the welcoming nature of the locals embraced me like a hug from a mother. In no time, I mingled with its culture, its customs and its environment.
My stay in Australia broadened my horizons. I had some knowledge on the human rights principles and standards from my working experience. But the education I received, and the network of people that I met in Australia, strengthened my ability to analyse human rights situations at a national and international level. The leadership component of my scholarship was even more beneficial in terms of reinforcing my leadership capacity.
Returning to Nepal
When I came back to Nepal, my education and additional skills started opening doors. Before I left for Australia, I worked as an officer at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR). When I returned to Nepal, I got a job at a higher position as a Project Manager.
My successes did not stop there. After my tenure at UN OHCHR, I got an important position at CARE International where I had to take leadership in advocating for women’s rights in collaboration with female political leaders. I was also responsible for mainstreaming governance and accountability throughout the organisation.
I then got a management level position at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Nepal, where I develop and manage projects related to human rights, governance, justice, development and humanitarian assistance. It is wonderful to see the positive impact my work has on some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in Nepal.
“Study in Australia has changed my perspective, strengthened my knowledge and skills, and enhanced my leadership capabilities. This doesn’t just benefit me personally, but as a professional who can contribute positively to the development of my home country.”
Sharing my knowledge
The skills I learnt and the networks I developed during my stay in Australia supported me drive the above programs not only at national level, but also at international level. I took part in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and advocated for the rights of most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in Nepal. I also supported Nepalese civil society and NGOs to develop their knowledge and skills in human rights and advocacy.
While working with LWF Nepal, I got opportunity to manage the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), which is funded by the Australian Government. This program was close to my heart due to my bond with Australia that I developed during my study. Given that I was already acquainted with Australian environment, laws and culture, it was easier for me to understand the different aspects of this program.
Study in Australia has changed my perspective, strengthened my knowledge and skills, and enhanced my leadership capabilities. This doesn’t just benefit me personally, but as a professional who can contribute positively to the development of my home country. Moreover, I will always be an ambassador for Australia, sending positive messages and developing trade and networks between Nepal and Australia. In my experience, programs like the Australia Awards really are strengthening the connections between Nepal and Australia.
Nibha Shrestha is an Australian Leadership Award alumnus and is currently working as a freelancer in human rights, development and humanitarian areas.