Binjana Gaud, 25, who runs a bike repair workshop in Sunwal in Province 5 of Nepal, is a hope for many who want to increase women's participation in gainful employment and help them unleash their full potential.
When most women of her age in Sunwal are working as nurses or school teachers or have opened tailoring shops and beauty parlors, Binjana chose to venture into what is traditionally thought of as a man's job.
After failing her tenth grade final examination nearly a decade ago, she opted for a short-term technical training course available under government scholarship to secure a job and support her family. She was among the few girls who took a three month long Auto Mechanic (level 1) course at the Mahakavi Devkota Technical School in Sunwal. However, there were many who advised her against her choice.
Her friends discouraged her move, saying that auto mechanic was a "man's job" which required lots of strength and technique. And as a woman she wouldn't be able to handle dirt, grease and the constant (and unwanted) attention of mostly male coworkers. According to Binjana, they told her that she would even blow her chances of getting married.
But the more her family and friends tried to dissuade her from taking up thecourse and later going to a distant repair workshop to finish her mandatory practical work, the more she became convinced that it was indeed her calling.
"I wanted to do something new, something different unlike my friends. I had never seen a woman mechanic in my life, at least not in my locality, and I wanted to change that," Binjana says. "So what if the work is difficult, tiring and makes your hand and clothes dirty. Money doesn't come easy and what I earn at the end of the day would at least not be considered dirty, but hard-earned."
Fast forward to present, the determined woman through sheer will and hard-work has made it in her profession that is heavily dominated by and now is often referred as a "bike doctor" in her community. After setting up her own repair shop after years of working for others, she now has regular clientele and makes an average income of Rs 30-40 thousand a month with which she supports a family of five that includes her husband, her infant child and in-laws.
In fact, she even persuaded her husband to return from Malaysia where he was working as a migrant worker to help her run the bike repair shop. Although her husband had initially threatened for a divorce if she continued as a mechanic, she later convinced him to take up the auto-mechanic course so that they could expand the business together.
Earlier during her practical sessions, clients did not believe her as a mechanic and doubted her skills to repair bikes. "Same people who used to doubt my ability now come to my workshop. I feel proud to be able to change their perception, that there is no such thing as a man's job," she says with a smile.
Although female workforce participation stands at 82.6% for Nepal and is by far the highest in South Asia - 34.9% for Sri Lanka, 33.19% for Bangladesh, 26.97% for India and 25.12% for Pakistan - a careful study of the data reveals a much bleaker picture. A staggering 77 percent of female workforce in Nepal is engaged in agriculture, a low-return employment sector, says a UN Women report.
UNDP's Support to Knowledge and Lifelong Learning Skills Programme is working closely with the Government of Nepal to come up with favorable policy changes to increase female labour force participation and employment rates to help the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and progress towards middle-income status by 2030.