KATELYN'S FORSYTH'S JOURNEY AT UNICEF NEPAL
Written by Katelyn Forsyth
Namaste from Kathmandu, Nepal!
I have been living in Kathmandu for just over a month now and the vibrant, cultured, and historical city has stolen my heart.
I arrived in the city at undoubtedly the best time of the year, with the festival season just beginning, the monsoon season just ending, and during the middle of the trekking season, which offers the clearest views of the Himalayas.
My first week in Nepal was spent in a guest house where I lived alongside foreigners and locals who were visiting Kathmandu to celebrate Diwali, otherwise known as The Festival of Lights. The festival lasted four days, with each day bringing a new reason to celebrate. During the festival, the streets were lined with decorative lights, candles and colourful homemade mandalas, and the evenings were filled with cultural parades, singing and dancing in the streets, and feasts of specialty Nepali food. Since it was a national holiday, I was able to enjoy the festival and immerse myself in the true Nepali culture before beginning my work at UNICEF in the Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) as a Junior Professional Consultant for Gender Equity in Education. In this position I will spend the majority of my time influencing policy advocacy and evidence building on gender equality in education and I will work on initiatives related to gender responsive education sector planning, school-related gender-based violence, and education technology in South Asia.
My first month interning at UNICEF was a whirlwind experience filled with many exciting and unplanned experiences. After spending just two days in the office, I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend two days engaging and learning in a conference led by the People’s Action for Learning Network. The conference addressed various issues related to education within the region and around the globe and provided an opportunity to network with organizations and experts who are doing their part to improve education and learning for all children.
After the conference ended, another unique opportunity arose, and I was invited to attend a visit from the Executive Director (ED) of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore. ED Fore had been visiting some countries in South Asia and UNICEF Nepal was lucky enough to host her for a “Town Hall Meeting” where she answered questions and engaged in conversation with the staff. It was quite the event and a once in a lifetime experience!
After all of the excitement from the conference and the visit from ED Fore had settled down, I found myself starting to establish a comfortable routine within the city. I have settled into a beautiful apartment, where I drink my morning coffee on the balcony and enjoy a distant view of the Himalayas! Sadly, this part of my routine will soon be ending as the high pollution season is beginning and it is not recommended to spend much time outside during this time of the year. On my walk to work I am greeted by many familiar faces – from store owners, to coffee shop workers – I can always count on numerous smiles and waves from friendly locals, who truly make the city feel like home. After work, I usually visit the guest house where I first stayed to enjoy a tea or dinner with the local staff there who have become my “Nepali Family.” They are always excited to take me to new places in the evenings to teach me about their culture and the history of Nepal or teach me how to prepare some of their traditional foods!
So far, my weekends have been full of visits to historical sites around Kathmandu or hiking in the mountains. Last weekend I spent an evening in Nagarkot, a famous place to view the sunrise over the Himalayan mountain range. This weekend I hiked to another famous viewpoint to see the Himalayas, Chisopani. After a 6-hour hike straight up the mountain, I was greeted with a view of Everest, making the difficult hike worthwhile!
I am looking forward to spending more time in the mountains during the Christmas Holidays and on future weekends! There is always somewhere beautiful to visit in Nepal and of course, a lot more to learn in the office!