Supporting students implement their thesis or graduation project on two major environmental issues, water and/or plastic pollution, this international competition helps kick-start the careers of graduates with a funding support ranging from cash prize of 2 lakh rupees to the first-place winner, 1 lakh 25 thousand to the second and third place winners, and 75 thousand rupees each to the rest of the winners in the top 10, bringing their project or research or scientific contribution to fruition.
Bivishika Bhandari, Head of Marketing and Outreach, Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI), advocates for sustainable development and aids in educating, mentoring and inspiring both national and international youth about the intersectionality among social, environmental, and economic pillars of development through courses like Sustainable Development Goals and Social Inclusion, which she designed. She embodies and exemplifies the same with her pledge never to carry plastic bags again in her life and her commitment vegetarianism. It has already been four years since these pledges. After moving back to Nepal with a bachelor’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies from Hollins University in America, she has been motivated to turn advocacy for sustainable development and women’s empowerment into everyday actions, or as she calls it, actocacy.
Bivishika has a strong voice for women’s rights and empowerment, which has helped envision women-centric entrepreneurial ventures at HCI like HamriBahini-The Green Angels, a social enterprise. Collectively, she and her team have successfully created employment and self-employment opportunities for more than 1100 women. As the creator of The Vagina Monologues, Vagina Workshops, and V-Day Kathmandu, she is a trailblazer for creating safe, innovative, and informative space for young girls and women to normalize conversations related to sex, orgasm, gender, and sexuality, and remove taboos surrounding those topics. She also spoke about the same recently in TedxJawalakhel.
Bivishika is taking the lead to organize the DopperChangemaker Challenge 2019 in Nepal. She believes that the use-and-throw culture of unrecyclable plastics are polluting our rivers and other water bodies, which in turn is causing problems not just to water bodies, but humans, too. Fr!day interacted with her to know more about the DopperChangemaker Challenge 2019.
How did you come up with DopperChangemaker Challenge?
Crystal-clear water in every ocean, from every tap—that’s Dopper’s goal. Dopper is a social enterprise from the Netherlands. Dopper’s nemesis? Single-use water bottles. That’s why Dopper created the ultimate reusable water bottle, called Dopper. This bottle battles the throwaway lifestyle, and it is working. Up until now, Dopper prevented over 40 million kilos of single-use plastic from entering our oceans. Feels pretty good, but when you realize that we throw a garbage truck of plastic waste in our oceans every minute, we still have a long way to go. Luckily, we’re not doing this alone. We joined forces with HCI, Nepal. We believe that we need the next generation of changemakers—yes, you!—to change the world. That is whyDopper introduced the DopperChangemaker Challenge with HCI.
How did HCI and Dopperadvocate this thesis award with a goal?
We all know the recipe for plastic soup. Just add over 9 billion kilos of plastic waste to the ocean every year. Stir a little. Done! More plastic than fish by 2050. We don’t like those numbers. With the DopperChangemaker Challenge, we started our own thesis award to accelerate the development of solutions that have a big impact on the plastic and water issues.
Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) has been a strong advocate to solve plastic pollution in Nepal. The youth-led campaign that was born in HCI called, “No Thanks! I Carry My Own Bag”, was successful in introducing a policy to ban single-use plastic bags in Kathmandu and effectively phase out plastic bags from the biggest supermarkets in Kathmandu. HCI has also formed a coalition with WWF called “Beat Plastic Pollution”, and through the coalition HCI is also undertaking efforts to ban and has already declared Chitwan National Park plastic free. HCI has always believed in youth empowerment and has kept youth at the center of all engagements, with over 80% youth leadership in all the work, in hopes that they will re-envision a new world, a sustainable world. Hence, HCI too wants to connect Nepali youth to opportunities to lead their future by solving the most pressing problems in our environment. That is why HCI is beyond thrilled to have joined hands with Dopper, Netherlands, to implement the DopperChangemaker Challenge in Nepal.
HCI and Dopperadditionally has partnered with water experts Smart Pani, research experts CERAD at Kings College, and marketing experts Blinc Ventures to implement the competition in Nepal. Additionally, MalvikaSubba, co-founder, HCI, Pankaj Panjiyar, CEO, Doko Recyclers, Nikita Acharya, co-founder, Urban Girl, and RanjuDarshana, politician, have been identified as local change-makers to inspire the youth.
Why has the focus been only on a particular section of society?
The median age of Nepal is 22 years, and so it is a young country, to be led by these future leaders. Through my experience, I and my colleagues at HCI have realized when conducting courses on SDG’s and Climate Change and Social Inclusion that youth have the capacity to grasp knowledge on the intersections between society, nature, and economy more than the older generation. This makes it easier to inspire this group to re-envision our future. Our parent’s life goals were different than ours. Generally, they focused on gaining skills to help them to land a good paying job that provides for the family. This generation is focused on meeting those aspirations, but also doing meaningful work and earning well at the same time. And, this can only happen if we, the youth demographics, work on solving environmental and social problems. This is where the gains and opportunities lie, and this is exactly the need of the hour, too.
How does the Challenge work, and who qualifies for the challenge?
Scientists, engineers, architects, researchers, advocates, entrepreneurs, artists, everyone can apply! Final year bachelor and master degree students under 32 years of age can submit their application online at http://www.dopperchangemakerchallenge.com/ and answer the 6 questions asked in 150 words each by the application deadline on April 12, 2019. We have made the application process much easier too. Above all, their thesis or graduation project should be under two themes—water and/or plastic pollution—and show how they will implement their research or research findings. The cash prize can be used in any form, be it to scale research, to interview someone in New York, to start a business, or even to run a campaign.
What do you expect from this challenge?
We would like to encourage students and young researchers to be innovators to solve the urgent environmental problems we have in our society and be the change-makers that they’re supposed to be. We want everyone to realize the urgency to act on environmental challenges that are growing to cause an existential threat. We want to bring youth closer to problems like water and plastic pollution.
We hope to help youths in Nepal start a career. Most of us, after completing bachelors and masters, are on the lookout for jobs, and these days, even entry-level jobs seek experience. Unfortunately, our education system does little to bridge that educational-professional gap post-graduation. We focus on bookish knowledge, which is great and much needed, but don’t give much attention to how to convert that knowledge into practice. Participation and winning the DopperChangemaker Challenge can actually be that experience they need prior to their job application process. It will push students to not only research, but help them implement it, as well, through the cash prizes and mentorship support. We hope that we are able to inspire that culture of actions.
Additionally, we would also like students, especially in Nepal, to take research more seriously and make it the robust ground to work on anything else after, like staringt a business or campaign. We want our youths to be informed and make informed decisions. This can be a great profession too. Above all, we want youth to be not apart, but a part, of the solution.
For further information:
Bivishika Bhandari, 986-017-8609