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Australia Awards Scholars meet Ambassador for Gender Equality

Posted: 3 March 2023

Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal, Scholars Platform, Sri Lanka, In Australia, Scholar,

Ahead of International Women’s Day, seven Australia Awards scholars recently had the chance to meet and hear from Australia’s newly appointed Ambassador for Gender Equality, Ms Stephanie Copus Campbell AM.

On 23 February, the scholars from Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal and Sri Lanka attended the University of Canberra’s Celebrating Women in Leadership breakfast, at which Ambassador Copus Campbell provided the keynote address.

Ambassador Copus Campbell noted her pride in being appointed Australia’s lead advocate on gender equality. She highlighted her desire to break down barriers to gender equality, such as unconscious bias and gender-based violence (including online abuse).

Highlighting that one billion women live on less than $1.90 per day, Ambassador Copus Campbell said that Australia has a responsibility to use its voice and lead from the front in advocating for women and girls.

Following Ambassador Copus Campbell’s keynote address, a panel that included Elizabeth Lee MLA, ACT Leader of the Opposition, and Gai Brodtmann, former federal Member of Parliament, discussed their experience as women in politics and their advice for women seeking to step up as leaders.

The Australia Awards scholars who attended the breakfast, from left to right: Amita Thapa Magar (Nepal), Tshering Lhamo (Bhutan), Sudharma Karunarathna (Sri Lanka), Hemraj Shahi (Nepal), Thilanka Bandara (Sri Lanka), and Nikita Pradhan (Nepal).

After hearing the speakers discuss barriers for women in leadership, scholar Sudharma Karunarathna reflected on her experience as a Sri Lanka Administrative Service Office and Assistant Secretary at the Ministry of Defence. In this role, Sudharma had advocated for changes to allow more women to be promoted to senior positions. “I am pleased that while in Australia as a scholar, I have the opportunity to learn from women leaders and take their advice back to Sri Lanka” says Sudharma, who commenced her Master of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU) in February 2023.

One comment from a panelist— “you cannot be what you cannot see”— resonated with Nepali scholar Nikita Pradhan, who is studying a Master of Environment at ANU. “Previously I worked at a hydropower company in which I was the only female employee. Now at that company there is a program in place to address the gender imbalance and encourage greater female participation, with a support network which did not exist when I started,” Nikita says. “I hope that through my experience as an Australia Awards scholar, I will gain the expertise to further support gender equality on my return to Nepal.”