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Changing the young people’s perspective towards government services: Under Secretary for MOFA (Law) Arati Shrestha

I missed my job more than my home when I was in Australia for my graduate degree. I enjoy all the responsibilities I am given with, because with every job, there is an abundance of learning opportunities.

Today interviewing an inspirational personality, who goes by the name of Arati Shrestha, and likes to call herself an “average” person.  Amazingly, this average person is a young woman who became an Under Secretary of the Ministry 0f Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in just 5 years of starting the government service. This does not stop here; she is a recipient of prestigious Australian Awards and one of the toppers in the competitive bar exam for lawyers.

Well! I would describe her as “an inspiration”. For young girls like me, she is a “role model” because these women leaders possess important power to influence at topmost-level of laws and policies. At her capacity, she represents the unheard voices of women and the underrepresented community that she cares about. Thus, there is just too much to take away from her “one of a kind experience”. It would be fair to say, anyone following this piece of article will leave being nothing but inspired.

We began by talking about her motivation towards applying for the government service. She laughs at first and starts, “Frankly speaking, government sector was never in one of my career priorities. In fact, not in my wildest dreams did I think I would come this far in this area. I cannot be entirely blamed for overlooking this profession because I did not know much about this area, to begin with. Nobody in my family or even distant relatives ever served for the government”. Shrestha further adds, “I still remember that day when one of my closest friends insisted to fill out the examination forms. Because I was enjoying my job in a firm then, I was not fully convinced about the idea. But eventually, we planned to give it a try.” Shrestha still recalls the infinite queue on the day of form submission. “The struggle of submitting the documents alone in the sunny day was my biggest motivation to work hard for the final examination”, she says followed by a hysterical laugh.

“Jokes apart but every work I am given with, I try my best to accomplish that quite passionately. From borrowing books from my seniors to making notes we did it all to prepare well for the final papers. Also, that year, I had taken examination for three sectors of law in government position. You can guess the pressure. Fortunately enough, I got accepted in one of them. So, I think these are the reasons which bring me here to give the interview today as an Under-Secretary.”

With the desire to understand her journey of becoming an Under-Secretary, I raised my query to which she responds, “When I started out, my first position was Section Officer Raj Partrankit Tritiya Shreni (Gazetted Third Class). It does sound funny when translated in English. (We both laugh). In the initial phase, I was in Raya Raj Patra Sakha (Legal Opinion and Gazette Section) of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. Working in this section allowed me to expand my networks within the government employee and beyond, as I had to contact and be in touch with different people during the process of work”, says Shrestha. “After few years, I was transferred to the Drafting Section of the same ministry. I would say, this change in section was advantageous for me because I got opportunity to be involved in core area of works of the ministry.  I also got an opportunity to serve for short time in the division of international laws and treaties among others.  “When the state under-went major changes because of adoption of federal system, the position for Under Secretary was called for an opening. Since, I meet the criteria for the position, I was promoted to it after 5 years of serving as Section Officer of the government. A month earlier, I was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where I am working currently in its law department”, she tells us.

As our conversation went deeper, my curiosity didn’t seem to find an end. I went on to asking her about her job responsibilities in different positions over the years. She explains, “Like I said, I initially handled Raya Rajpatra Sakha. Under this position, I was involved in writing legal responses to the writ application filed against the ministry, providing the legal opinion, and editing the legal documents before it went for publication in the Nepal Gazette, to point few of my major responsibilities. Later, when I worked for the Drafting Section, as the name suggests, I was mainly engaged in the work of drafting new laws and reviewing old ones. Moreover, I was also engaged as the desk officer of Mutual Legal Assistance and Anti-money laundering Department. Whereas, my current job at Ministry of Foreign Affairs is focused on international agreements, this involves frequent discussions and discourses on their legal aspects. Besides, I am still involved in drafting laws and providing legal opinion”, Shrestha tells excitedly.

Having heard people talk in negative light about the government employment, I was amazed to see the enthusiasm in this lady as she described her job. Before I could realize, a question popped out of my mouth. Do you enjoy doing this job? If yes, what parts of it do you like the most? Shrestha says, “I was hoping that you would ask this question. You would probably be surprised to hear, but I missed my job more than my home when I was in Australia for my graduate degree. I enjoy all the responsibilities I am given with, because with every job, there is an abundance of learning opportunities. I am known for my hard work and good research while writing legal opinion in my department and I have received excellent compliments from my seniors for the effort I put in it”. Shrestha continues, “Apart from important responsibilities, I also enjoy something as small as correcting grammars and spellings while editing the legal drafts. I feel like the hunger to learn and be better in what I do, keeps me going and helps me better my input. Some of my friends still tease me by saying, “you are only an exception who seems to be enjoying working in the bureaucracy”. I tell them more than bureaucracy in itself, I enjoy this job for the value it provides as a law profession. I genuinely believe that there is excellent opportunity to develop a legal career inside the bureaucracy as well.”

Furthermore, Shrestha says she couldn’t feel more proud when she gets to represent Nepal on the behalf of Government of Nepal in international platforms. An  official passport, the board imprinted with her name outside her office, special recognition in the public forums, official nomination in prestigious programmes,  are some of the instances that helps her to recall the importance of the position and the privileges that comes with it, she shares with us. Shrestha begins, “Moreover, except for the recognition, the most important aspect that I couldn’t be more honored is the appreciation for the effort I put. I said this in one of my interviews and will like to state that again. In this profession, I will eventually have the capacity and authority to intervene at policy level while making laws. If I find the need of change in any area, I can directly intervene in policy level by forwarding my opinion in the area of necessity. As Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs plays a major role in law making along with the parliamentarians, with the development of my position in this career, I can connect with people. It is because law plays a crucial role in day to day life of general people, I feel a closer connection in making progressive changes in life of people through this career”.

When asked, how we can bring more competent people on the government services, she says, “At the present, highly competent people have started joining this service. They have already started seeing the charm of this profession. I say this with extreme pride that the ratio of male and female employees in the Ministry of Law, as of today, is equal. However I do notice the gap in regard to the awareness of the existence of this profession among the students. I feel there is an urgent need to train the law aspirants and students in general about the work of the government sector as well. It’s high time we sufficiently familiarized and trained the law aspirants about the core functionality of the executive department and how to carry it out responsibly”. For this, she suggests, early grooming to the young people with correct information about the available vacancies in government services would be extremely useful. Additionally, she believes, there is a raising need to change the mindset in looking at the government employment and encourage competent people to come on board; this is to invite positive changes.

Ending our conversation with a final question, I ask her, what suggestions she would like to provide to an “average person” who is struggling to find their own identities. With delightful energy, she says, “Life always has better plans than you have for yourself. Believe in you and believe in your stars. Do your best in excelling at what comes on your plate”. She lastly puts, “Trust me, you will be fine.”

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