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Nepalese women have traditionally been very cooperative with and helpful to one another, but urban Kathmanduites today are often more focused on their individual well-being. Bringing the Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk to Kathmandu narrowed these gaps within the Nepalese culture and created a platform of cooperation between established and emerging women leaders.

More than 50 girls and women walked together for the first time in Kathmandu, Nepal, spreading the message of mentorship, leadership and perseverance.

Laxmi Sharma, one of the mentors, is a self-made female entrepreneur who started off as a housemaid and worked hard to become the first female tempo (rickshaw) driver in Nepal. Her story touched the hearts of mentees who, after listening to Ms. Sharma, began discussing opportunities to carry her message back to their communities and implement the opportunity for change in their own lives.

From this first Mentoring Walk in Kathmandu, Nepal I have realized that empowerment is possible when women support one another, develop strong networks and collaborate with each other to realize their full potential.

On the same day as the Mentoring Walk, my organization, Social Empowerment by Empowering Women (SEEW), marked International Women’s Day with the launch of the Pink Bus Project. These special buses will facilitate the safe travel of women and girls in the Kathmandu Valley. The initiative is unique project in that the driver, passengers and conductor will all be women. It will act as an opportunity to build social norms around making public spaces more secure for women.

Data from a joint study between SEEW (Nepal) and SafeCity (India), a non-profit led by fellow VVLead colleague Elsa D’Silva, found high rates of mental, physical and emotional abuse against women in public spaces. Because the Nepalese justice system is currently in a transitional stage , when a crime against a woman occurs, justice is often slow to be served. Transportation services driven by women, for women, such as the Pink Bus Project, will provide an interim solution and enable women and girls to go about their daily life with dignity and safety.

After a very successful start to the project and considerable positive feedback, we plan to initiate a nation-wide campaign against sexual harassment on the Nepalese transport system. We plan to start a helpline through which women and girls can report incidents to the police and coordinate with organizations who will provide funding to train women drivers and secure job placements for them.

The Pink Bus Project will empower women drivers and help facilitate a necessary shift in the treatment of and attitude towards women in Nepal.