(Written By: Camille Hayes)
Nepal is a small country in south Asia whose power structure is similar to its neighbors. Like the more recognizable China and India on its borders, men are at the top of the patriarchal society while women are subservient, expected to cater to the country’s household needs. Of course, there are always exceptions to these customs. Swastika Sah is determined to be one of those exceptions.
Swastika has been on the track to do so since her early years living in Janakpu, Nepal. “When I was young, I was told that no matter how successful I become in my educational path, my primary task would always be to become the ideal housewife,” she said. But she and her family would not let that be her destiny.
Her father sold his business to be able to pay for her education — a huge risk because not only was schooling a challenge for low-income families, it was nearly unheard of for girls. Even Swastika’s mother fell to the cultural norms of Nepali society and never finished receiving an education.
But Swastika’s parents have always bucked that conservative school of thought. Her father moved to a different city to find new work, and came back two years later with a Visa to the U.S., forever changing her life.
“I felt like I was purposely chosen out of thousands that applied for the visa,” said Swastika. She hopes to return to Nepal to fight for women’s rights and education, working with an organization called Maiti Nepal to protect girls and women from gender-based abuse.
But her journey from the poor streets of Janakpu to the advanced metropolis of Dallas wasn’t an easy one. She struggled through learning English and faced bullying for her name and ethnic background; but her unwavering determination carried her through. She will attend the University of Texas at Austin to study international education before returning home to Nepal to give women educational and financial resources to achieve their dreams.