Women of IFES: Q&A with Radhika Regmi Pokharel
by Meagan Allen*
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is at the forefront of innovative and inclusive work to provide citizens around the world with the fundamental human right to have a say in how they are governed. IFES’ leadership in the field is comprised of a cadre of women professionals with firsthand experience administering elections in every region of the world. This Q&A is the first in “Women of IFES,” a series of stories throughout the month of March that highlight the contributions of female IFES staff around the world and mark both Women’s History Month in the United States and International Women's Day on March 8.
Here, IFES Deputy Country Director for Nepal Radhika Regmi Pokharel discusses IFES' work to raise the voice of marginalized communities in ensuring greater government accountability, campaign finance challenges in Nepalese elections and provides some motivational advice to young women working in this field. Regmi is an elections administration specialist with over 20 years of experience in democracy, governance, elections and inclusion programming. She has overseen and managed projects providing technical support for inclusive, effective and democratic elections and governance in Nepal. Regmi has been a member of the IFES team since 2011, providing support to the Election Commission of Nepal. Regmi also has experience strengthening civil society organizations’ inclusion of underrepresented and disenfranchised populations and managing IFES’ civic and voter education programs in Nepal.
What drew you to IFES and the field of democracy, rights and governance?
I was inspired to work with IFES by the organization's continuous efforts to achieve credible electoral processes to contribute to inclusive democracy, rights, governance, stability and development. In addition, my personal values and interests in empowering women and other marginalized groups to hold governments accountable to their citizens aligned well with IFES’ mission and its focus on issues of electoral management, inclusion, and participation. Overall, I feel privileged to be a member of IFES family and enjoy working to further the mission of the organization.
How have you supported IFES' efforts to advance good governance and democratic rights?
Being one of the few Nepali women Building Resource in Democracy, Governance, and Elections (BRIDGE) facilitators in the region has enabled me to enhance the capacity of election management bodies (EMBs) and other electoral stakeholders in Nepal and elsewhere. Also, as a woman manager and specialist, I have tried my best to be a role model for other women leaders and have invested my time and energy in facilitating the process of challenging traditional gender roles in both in the workplace and society. My role with IFES is to help ensure that EMBs and other government partners are held accountable to citizens by ensuring space for marginalized groups and their institutions to have a voice within government and political leadership.
How is IFES is well-positioned to overcome challenges in promoting democracy and political participation?
Elections in Nepal have become increasingly expensive and unaffordable for political parties and candidates during election campaign periods. This has both directly and indirectly fueled the tendency of funds [to be] generated through corruption and poor governance practices. To overcome this issue, development of strong legal and institutional mechanisms to regulate political finance, specifically campaign finance, is urgently required. In Nepal, IFES may be the only trusted and credible institution to contribute to such a system.
What has been one of your proudest accomplishments in your work with IFES?
One of my proudest accomplishments has been my direct contribution to three layers of consecutive elections in Nepal, notably the Constituent Assembly, federal, provincial and local elections. Also, I’m quite proud of our proactive engagement with the Election Commission of Nepal in drafting an electoral legal framework to better institutionalize the representation of women in leadership positions at various levels. This engagement has been fascinating and quite memorable in my professional career.
What advice do you have for other women working in the field of democracy, rights, and governance?
First, empower yourself. Break stereotypes through leading by example. Women should raise themselves up and demonstrate that they are change agents. Also, don’t give up – keep on fighting until proportionate representation of women in electoral and political spheres is achieved. Finally, make allies and join campaigns to advocate for inclusive democracies where space for women is guaranteed.
*Meagan Allen is the IFES liaison for the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening.