KATHMANDU- Once considered to be an ‘exclusive domain’ of men, Nepal’s foreign service is now observing a gradual rise in women’s participation.
While women representation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) is still low in comparison to the representation of men, they are now making their presence heard, albeit gradually.
“The number of women entering the Foreign Service through both inclusive and open opportunities is increasing,” says Bharat Raj Poudyal, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson. “This may not be enough, more women need to come to this field.”
The growing presence of women in the Foreign Service is attributed to the attraction of holding a career in the diplomacy sector. For aspiring public servants, the Foreign Service is considered to be a highly coveted and competitive career, which offers not only certain perks that come with the job, but also a chance to serve in missions to other various countries.
The minimum reservation in the Civil Service as enshrined in the Constitution has helped an increasing amount of women join MoFA, and thus made the Foreign Service sector more diverse, say experts.
While the reservation has led to the rise of women working as staff members possible to some extent, Nepali women diplomats affirm that it is due to their own competency that nearly three dozen women in the Ministry are now moving up their career ladders to reach higher posts.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are 33 out of a total of 58 women employees who are serving as Section Officers or in higher posts. They comprise one Joint Secretary, eight Under Secretaries, 24 Section Officers and 25 Naayab Subbas (non-gazetted first-class staff).
While some of them are already representing Nepal in various foreign missions, others will also have the chance at some point in their careers to serve as diplomats. In addition, there are four women leading Nepal’s missions abroad as Ambassadors through political appointments.
The women in the Ministry represent nearly 21 percent of the total of 275 employees. Kathmandupati has compiled a list of the current Nepali women diplomats who are making a mark in Nepal’s Foreign Service:
Sewa Lamsal- At the Top of the List of Women Diplomats
As a Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sewa Lamsal Adhikari is the highest-ranking female officer in Nepal’s Foreign Service.
Appointed as the Joint Secretary through an open competition, she is poised to become the Foreign Ministry’s very first woman Secretary.
Adhikari is currently Nepal’s ambassador to Pakistan, and the only woman to become a career ambassador. She is known to be a skilled diplomat by her colleagues.
Rita Dhital—Deputy Mission Chief in Abu Dhabi
Rita Dhital, an Under-Secretary at the Ministry, is serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission at Nepal’s Embassy in Abu Dhabi. She entered the Foreign Service before the reservation system was enforced.
After working in the South Asia Division at MoFA, she was sent to UAE to help strengthen Nepal’s ties with the Arab country, which has become one of the largest destinations for Nepali migrant workers. She had previously served as the Director of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Durapada Sapkota- Nepal’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Australia
Durapada Sapkota is another Under Secretary at the Foreign Ministry, who is currently serving at Nepal’s Embassy in Australia as Chargé d’Affaires.
When the Government recalled its ambassador Lucky Sherpa from Australia, Sapkota briefly led the embassy as its Mission Head. Sapkota had previously worked at the Office of the President as an Under Secretary.
Prathma Uprety- Aiding Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the UN
Prathama Uprety is an Under Secretary who is serving in Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the UN as a Counselor. She was appointed at the Foreign Ministry in January 2015.
Uprety had also worked at the Nepalese Embassy in South Korea. While serving in the Permanent Mission to the UN, she has been actively helping to maintain necessary liaisons between Nepal and the UN.
Roshan Khanal- Head of NEA Section
Roshan Khanal, an under-secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is currently heading the Northeast Asia section of the Ministry.
The section that oversees Nepal’s relations with Northeast Asian countries also includes two other women- Sabitra Oli, a Section Officer and Sangita Neupane, a Nayab Subba.
Ila Mainali- Head of SEAP Section
Prior to joining the foreign service as a Section Officer, Ila Mainali who is currently an Under Secretary, was a senior dentist at Patan Hospital. Mainali now leads the Southeast Asia and Pacific Section of the ministry.
Mainali has already worked at Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. She is the daughter of Umesh Mainali, Chairman of the Public Service Commission.
Pramita Adhikari- Leading the SAARC Section
Pramita Adhikari, an Under Secretary, is now leading the SAARC section of the Ministry. She entered the Foreign Service as a Section Officer nearly a decade ago, and has already gained experience in various sections of the Ministry.
Adhikari also served at Nepal’s Embassy in Australia. As Nepal accords high priority to the SAARC, Adhikari’s role as Section Head in the Ministry is considered to be crucial in helping strengthen ties with the sub-regional grouping of eight other countries.
Indira Aryal- Deputy Chief of Protocol
Indira Gohiwar Aryal entered the Foreign Service as a Section Officer nearly a decade ago and rose to the rank of Under Secretary in July last year. Currently, she serves as the Deputy Chief of Protocol in the Protocol section of the Ministry, which is responsible for handling protocol matters. She also worked at Nepal’s Embassy in Moscow, Russia where she gained experience in leading the embassy as an acting ambassador for a few months when the post of ambassador was vacant. During her time leading the embassy, the then Speaker of the Parliament, Onsari Gharti Magar, had visited Russia.
Rojina Tamrakar- Under Secretary at Administration Section
Rojina Tamrakar is currently serving as Under Secretary at the Administration Section of MOFA. Appointed to the post last August through the Public Service Commission (PSC) examinations, she had previously assumed the role of Second Secretary at the Embassy of Nepal in Muscat, Oman. She also served as the Charge’d’affaires in Oman for around 22 months until the ambassador was appointed.
33 Promising Officers Helping to Advance Foreign Relations
There are 33 section officers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are either working inside the country or in missions abroad with a common goal of advancing Nepal’s foreign policy through effective diplomacy.
Nearly a dozen women entered the foreign service at once as Section Officers a decade ago, putting them under public spotlight. Shivani Basnet, an officer from that batch, is now working at the Nepali Embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Sabita Nakarmi, another officer, has served as First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations in New York. She is now working in the Policy Planning, Development Diplomacy & Nepali Diaspora Section of the Ministry.
Lalita Silwal (SEAP), Mudita Bajracharya (First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the UN, New York), Sita Basnet (BIMSTEC Sector in the Ministry), Ranjita Dahal (SAARC Section) and Sabitra Oli (North East Asia Section) are other officers who are currently working at the Ministry.
Other officers include Srijana Adhikari, Dhana Kumari Joshi, Astha Subba, Sujani Rana, Bishnu Kumari Adhikari, Antara Singh, Pratigya Rai, Richa Bhattarai and Ashu Basnet. Likewise, Tara Gautam, Janaki Ojha, Chandika Pokharel, Shruti Kadariya, Sumitra Poudel, Ganga Sundas, Srijana Aryal and Yojana Bomjon are also promising officers pursuing their careers as diplomats of Nepal.
Women Ambassadors as Political Appointees
There are currently four women ambassadors who bagged political appointments to represent Nepal abroad. Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP)’s leader Prativaa Rana has been serving as Nepal’s ambassador to Japan since June 2017. She is also a member of the Constituent Assembly (2008-2011).
Dawa Phuti Sherpa is representing Nepal in Spain as an ambassador. Not very known in the public sphere before her appointment to the European nation last year, the ambassadorial role is her first diplomatic appointment. Prior to her appointment, she was the President of the non-profit organization Pasang Lhamu Foundation. She is also the daughter of Late Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the very first Nepali woman to scale Mount Everest.
In Israel, Dr. Anjan Shakya heads the Nepali embassy as the ambassador to the Middle Eastern country. Though Shakya was posted to Tel Aviv after receiving the political appointment in November 2018, she is not a novice on foreign affairs. Prior to her role as an ambassador, she was a Deputy Executive Director of the Institute of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2012.
As Ambassador of Nepal to the Sultanate of Oman, Sharmila Dhakal Parajuli has drawn admiration in the recent months for her role in helping promote the welfare of Nepali workers in the Arab country.