Passionate about environmentalism, women’s rights, and youth empowerment, Dipika Badal, 22, is transforming communities around her and has already begun making long-lasting meaningful change throughout her local community in Kathmandu, Nepal. In 2018, Dipika organized silent, peaceful protests powered by 150 students and over 1000 local commuters, which has helped spur her government towards environmental policy changes.
“Nepal is a beautiful country, and I’m not just saying that because it’s the place that I was born, it really is very beautiful,” she says. “There’s fresh air and greenery and beautiful forestry, but in the big cities, it’s just not the same.” For the nearly one million people of Kathmandu, the capital city where Dipika was raised, pollution is an ever growing problem. Ranked 177 out of 178 countries on Yale’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index, Kathmandu’s air quality has become somewhat of a national emergency. Sensing the urgency Dipika swung into action, mobilizing her friends, family, and community.
Utilizing the power of social media, in 2018, Dipika launched Pahal: Justice for Peace, a movement that encouraged the local government to take initiative towards improving the air quality of Kathmandu. As one of the city’s most prevalent problems, air pollution accounts for the majority of chronic diseases, respiratory illnesses, allergies, eye infections, and lung cancers–making it one of Kathmandu’s most notorious and most silent serial killers. With a government that didn’t appear to be taking the issue seriously, Dipika saw a need for change. Coordinating over 150 youth, Dipika organized three silent protests that helped raise awareness about the pollution and ignited hope for a greener Nepal.
Pahal: Justice For Peace silent protest.
Reporting on the progress of the third silent protest on www.peacefirst.org, Dipika wrote, “The silent protest was conducted for 2-hours. This was the most successful protest among all three as we were able to gain attention of almost 1000 local commuters.” She adds, “During the event, many people after seeing our effort came to us and thanked us for our initiative. An interesting moment that happened during the event was when one young boy came to us and asked us if he could join it too. We welcomed him with a happy heart and continued our protest.”
Garnering national acclaim Dipika and her Pahal initiative drew the attention of the Minister of Environment who utilized the information and passion provided to ensure that real tangible change was made. Starting with the installation of monitoring stations and progressing with priority towards electric vehicles, the government now maintains a commitment towards a greener Nepal.
With a core focus on helping those around her create meaningful change in their community, Dipika encourages youth to get involved at every level. “I myself started as a volunteer” Dipika humbly shares, “I got to know about my interests, explore a little, and network with a lot of young people.”
In 2016, as a young volunteer at ‘We’ for Change, a youth led organization focused on encouraging young people to give back and make tangible change she was offered the chance to progress within the organization and she jumped at the offer. “I got the opportunity to work as a core member of the organization,” she shared, which led to the position of Program Manager. It was during her time at ‘We’ that Dipika launched Pahal. Now, as their President, Dipika continues to lead by example, not only inspiring those around her, but actively leading the way through her own powerful initiatives.
Committed to empowering youth to create change from the ground up, she has continued working diligently to better her local and global community through peer education and collective youth interests. With a focus on everything from leadership development to civic engagement, Dipika takes global leadership to the personal level ensuring everyone in her community has the opportunity to make tangible impact.
Working with a team to plan and implement long term strategies, write proposals, and project manage, Dipika is tackling some of her nation’s most pressing issues with dedicated passion, educated strength, and unwavering enthusiasm. “In Nepal,” she says, “there are very few platforms where young people get the opportunity to explore, make mistakes, and learn – but with Pahal and ‘We’ for Change, there’s now a platform where young people can learn by trying. Learn by doing.”
From planning community demonstrations to creating online educational content, she works diligently to ensure that the youth of today are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today, securing a better future for years to come.
As for advice she’d give to the next generation wanting to get involved and follow her community-building footsteps, she says, “From my experience, you need to know yourself. Know your strengths, your weaknesses, and educate yourself. I feel like there’s a big misunderstanding within young people that in order to make change you need to start your own company or organization. That’s not true at all! You can be a change-maker by simply volunteering or working within an already existing organization. It actually helps you to know your goals better, make your vision clearer, and find your network.”
Dipika working in a community in Nepal.
Dipika also suggests you “find yourself a mentor, join any organization that you’re interested in, and then take advantage of that platform. Stay updated, be educated, and keep joining organizations. Most importantly, ask questions. Don’t ever be hesitant to ask questions, because when you ask those questions you can get the answers, learn more, and move forward.”
Dipika plans to continue to impact her community through ‘We’ For Change projects like “I Can Lead.” The initiative aims to break the cycle of belief that “girls can’t be leaders” by strengthening the leadership and decision-making capacity of 30 young women 14-20 years old.