The following entry was contributed by Erisha Suwal, a second year student at SIPA. Erisha is working in our office this year and she, along with several other students, will be contributing posts throughout the year.
Being in New York has been one of the best experiences while at SIPA. Early last year during the General Assembly (GA) meetings at the UN, I along with three other students organized a protest to demand from the then Nepal Prime Minister that Nepal’s constitution be written on time and that the government expedite investigations on the people disappeared during Nepal’s decade-long Civil War. It was an intense experience. I distributed pamphlets on the streets of Jackson Heights, a South Asian neighborhood in Queens, and had heated discussions with many people. It was interesting to see that many fellow Nepali men thought that as a student in Columbia, I should become a doctor or an engineer but not get into politics. Although not all Nepalis think this way, it is a common sentiment.
The foreign advisor to the then Prime Minister also called me directly to request that the protest be called off. It was terrifying, as I was exposed to the challenges of political activism. Nonetheless, organizing the event introduced me to other Nepali political activists in New York, to institutions and informal groups that worked for justice in Nepal. Also, because of this event, I became aware of the India China Institute at the New School. Since then, I have attended many events on Nepal organized by the New School and even audited a class on Nepali Society and Politics.
Another highlight of being in New York is my current internship with UNIFEM (part of UN Women). Prior to joining SIPA, I had limited work experience in the development field. Most of my work was in the financial sector and my development experience came from summer internships throughout my undergraduate years. Interning with UNIFEM provides an excellent opportunity to gain more work experience and to understand how the UN works from the inside. Also, as I’m interested in the political participation of women, working with UNIFEM’s Governance, Peace and Security division could not have been a better match.
Between the extra activities and internships (and awesome parties) I am making the most of my time at SIPA.