by Shreeya Singh Dhakal
Shreeya Singh Dhakal is working to reshape social norms that have historically prevented women in Nepal from dreaming big. With the establishment of Nepali Women in Computing (NWiC), an AnitaB.org Systers Affinity group, she is celebrating stories of Nepali women who have broken past barriers in the often male-dominated tech industry and who have done great things in their fields.
“Women in Nepal are brought up with what I call an ‘Invisible Manual,’” Shreeya explained. “We have an age to get married and have children. We can only do certain things and in certain ways.”
Shreeya and her newly formed community are working hard to dispel the myth that “tech is not for women” through stories, events, and the Week of Giving, which is a yearly service break where members and volunteers of Nepali Women in Computing conduct tech outreach programs in remote schools in Nepal. The Week of Giving is designed to establish the importance of giving back to the community and to promote computer science education in local schools.
Shreeya discovered her own passion for computer science research and development during her junior year in college.
“In my junior year, I worked on a project called ‘Sentiment Analysis of Nepali Texts,’ and it was then I found that there are limited linguistic resources available for the Nepali language,” Shreeya said. “The challenges I faced while working on the project due to this limitation developed my interest in computer science, especially computational linguistics and natural language processing.”
Along with her college classmate Ingroj Shrestha, Shreeya developed Nepali Stemming, the first open-source contribution for Nepali language support. It is now a part of Snowball Library and PostgreSQL.
Shreeya’s most recent point of pride is starting the Nepali Women in Computing Systers Affinity Group. There are two things that NWiC is particularly interested in: first, to become a global community that provides support, resources, and guidance to increase and retain Nepali women in computing. Second, inspired by Wogrammer, NWiC wants to elevate stories of Nepali women who are already pursuing a career in tech to inspire young girls to consider similar career paths.
Shreeya and her team are using the power of stories to inspire more people to see themselves in tech careers. One example is Janaki Joshi, General Manager at Blue Panda Communications, and an expert in project management, planning, and working with cross-functional teams across the organization.
Shreeya shares how NWiC has been lucky to get support from many inspiring individuals. Pakistani Women in Computing, another Systers Affinity Group, helped with getting their group started. Additionally, several of her friends, including Prabal Dahal, Shiraz Shrestha, Simran Singh, Karthick Arya, and Ingroj Shrestha, have contributed time and energy to move the mission forward.
Looking ahead to the future, NWiC will compile their story series into a book that will be distributed at school libraries throughout Nepal.
Shreeya’s passion and beliefs make her a natural leader for this community.
“I firmly believe that we never get anywhere alone,” she stated. “We took a little from everyone we met and everything we saw to be where we are today. For today, give back a little and support one another! And do not hesitate to ask for help!”