BY: SANJITA POKHREL, MENTEE OF STEM MENTORSHIP PROGRAM, SMART CHELI
Ms. Manisha Dwa is a physics graduate from Prithvi Narayan Campus, Tribhuvan University (TU). Her research interest lies in Astrophysics, STEM education, and art-craft. She is a member of the National Astronomy Olympiad Organizing Committee-Nepal and International Board of International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA). She is a focal point for Universe Awareness (UNAWE) programs in Nepal, coordinator of Women in Astronomy Nepal (WIAN), and a landscape astrophotographer. Her works have been featured in different national magazines and newspapers.
Here is the written interview between Ms, Manisha Dwa and Sanjita Pokhrel.
S.P: I met you at the 7th National Astronomy Olympiad. Since then, I have been admiring your bold and confident personality. You are persistent in your work. So, what keeps you motivated to move forward?
M.D: When I was your age, there was no one I could look up to. So, I am always motivated to be someone who could guide others. For that, I have to be confident. When I go back to my past days, I have witnessed various incidents when boys seemed more powerful than girls. Even, I was taken for granted. Hence, I had no other options but to voice myself and march forward.
S.P: How did you associate with NASO?
M.D: I used a telescope during my masters. So, you guys are lucky in that case. There was an Astronomy organization in Pokhara. When I used to go there for any observation, my father used to wait for me outside the gate at night. When I was a teacher, I got an opportunity to attend the Galileo Teacher Training Program. At the program, I met Suresh Bhattarai and other members of NASO. Both of us were impressed by each other’s dedication and aspirations. After that, Russian Cultural Center at Kathmandu invited me to take pictures. I came to Kathmandu. This is how my journey at NASO started.
S.P: Does your family support you and your work?
M.D: Absolutely. My parents are always liberal to me if I want to do anything related to academics
S.P: How does support from a family help girls to be in a field of STEM?
M.D: Most of my high school friends are doctors and engineers. Even I attended one of the reputed schools of Pokhara (GBS), which allowed me to get many opportunities, most of the girls at that time could not achieve. This is based on a limited scale. However, if I have to talk in the context of developing countries like ours, yes, family help matters a lot.Society’s role is also vital in that aspect. Most of the girls are suggested to take Architecture if she wants to study engineering. In fact, I was also suggested to be a nurse. When I decided to study physics, most of the people doubted my ability. Most of the time, girls are always advised to have a safe career. In the present context, family and society have become more supportive. Sometimes, they support girls only to certain levels like +2.
S.P: Manisha ma’am, you are an Astrophotographer. Please share about your experience in Astrophotography during the recent Geminid meteors shower.
M.D: Sanjita, there is a huge difference between my experience in my initial days and now. Earlier, I used to be delighted if I could capture one meteors. During Geminid meteors, I saw around 200 meteors in an hour in a particular direction. Sometimes, I wonder about less girls participating in observational Astronomy. At the same time, I remember the hardship I had to face waking up all night on a cold days of December. Sometimes, people also make an issue if a girl stays out of the house. So, I have both sweet and bitter experiences about Astrophotography.
S.P: You have represented Nepal in various international platforms. How are international females directed towards STEM than women in Nepal? What is the difference?
M.D: First, we have limited resources. Our upbringing is also different. I want to share one of my personal experiences. I was harassed when I was young. I tried to share it with my seniors. They neglected it like a normal topic. Instead, they blamed me. When females from all over the globe meet, we share our experiences with each other. After listening to their life story, I was more determined to raise my voice to make a difference in a life of at least one person.
S.P: Congratulations, ma’am for your signature on the telescope along with Nobel laureates, astronauts. How was it possible?
M.D: I have been working continually in the field of Astronomy. Sometimes, my works are not acknowledged. However, any hardship could not stop me from doing my work. COVID-19 also brought hard times for me. In IAU ( international Astronomical Union), Nepal has been contributing a lot. Therefore, to acknowledge my contribution especially among girls and children, I get this privilege to have my signature on telescopes which will be distributed in many countries.
S.P: What is your message to all girls who look up to you?
M.D: I would like to share a famous quote from Albert Einstein, “The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” So, do not look back. Follow your instincts. Never feel alone. Collaborate and make a good circle of people.