By Leena Dahal from Women LEAD Nepal, July 25, 2016 —

***The following blog post was submitted by Women LEAD Nepal, an Alliance member from Nepal.***

At Women LEAD, we strive to reach Sustainable Development Goal 5 or the goal to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” by equipping young women with the skills and tools required to be change-makers in their community.

We encourage aspiring leaders to ignite change independently and courageously — without having to wait for wheels to turn on governmental and organizational levels. Moving away from the popular Nepali saying “Ke garne?” (what to do?) and instead demanding “ke garnu parcha,” (we have to do something) the next generation of women leaders in Nepal are demanding to be heard by taking matters into their own hands.

By investing and empowering young women who then go on to impact their communities in a variety of ways, we are also investing in other sustainable development goals beyond SDG5.

A Champion for Education: Remembering Sujata Basket, 2012 LEADer

Those who knew her well will attest to the fact that wherever Sujata Baskota ventured, so did an undying desire to create change.

That’s because Sujata, with her bright, rare and infectious “Let’s do it now” spirit, strived to always take action on issues she was passionate about and never failed to uplift other young women around her to do the same.

At the budding age of 21, she had accomplished much more than many do in a lifetime, especially when it came to one of her ceaseless passions: empowering women by making financing for education more accessible. She dreamed of reforming policies issued by commercial banks in Nepal that were currently making loans inaccessible to many students through complex documentation, demand of collateral, and high interest rates.

When she wasn’t dancing or exuding happiness in every room she entered, she was pursuing this passion—actively working in her community through various volunteering venues to unite young women and girls from marginalized communities in Nepal with educational opportunities. For a country where only 17.9 percent of females enjoy the right of secondary education, having such a young champion tirelessly working to bridge the gender inequality gap in education was invaluable.

So for those who knew her, her campaign to raise funds to sponsor school uniforms, textbooks, stationary, and exam fees for students affected by Nepal’s 2015 Earthquakes, came as no surprise; as always, her efforts were immediate, thoughtful and courageous.

“I know how it feels lacking money to pay for tuition fees,” She wrote on her campaign page. “The only reason I can afford university is because I got two-year scholarship from Wedu for my BBA, to which I got connected through Women LEAD. The reason I can now help children who have lost their home and can’t afford school is because someone invested in my education.”

In a few weeks, she raised $240 and in order to double her impact, Women LEAD promised to match her donation. Sujata then went on to raise $510 and donated materials for 20 students in need, 15 more that she originally intended. She also joined the Field Innovation Team to educate young survivors about public health through fun, interactive games she had created independently.

These inspiring actions, among a long list of others, were recalled at her memorial, after her devastating passing on July 14th, 2016. The many young girls she impacted, both pained by their loss and inspired by the many lessons of leadership she left behind, were determined to continue her spirit of actively engaging on issues they’re passionate about—not tomorrow but today.

Sujata serves as an example of one of many girls around the world who are demanding ownership in the process of achieving SDG 5. Though she is no longer with us, her legacy will live on through the young people she empowered. Closing the gender leadership gap will bring about more ethical and thoughtful leaders like Sujata who strive to rise in their communities and are determined to bring everyone up with them.

Replicating, remembering and re-harnessing this spirit to act now for all girls, everywhere, is one of many ways we can #AchieveSDG5.