CONVICTION, COMMITMENT AND CHANGE: JOLLY AMATYA
When we look at people who make a difference in the world, they don’t go about trying to transform the world all at once. They are satisfied in feeding one stomach, excited over placing a smile in one’s face, refining one mind, relieving one soul. They hold the unwavering faith that each individual’s life is important, that every life matters. They are satisfied with small changes. Over time though, these small changes add up to changing mentalities, cities, nations and eventually the world. One such person is Ms. Jolly Amatya, Chair of the Youth Assembly at the United Nations. She is the youngest and the first Nepali to ever get to this position in the history of the United Nations. Hailing from Lalitpur, and now based in Manhattan, New York; her conviction can be seen when she does what she loves and hopes to inspire more people to do the same. We had an online interview with her, and we got to know about her past, future and everything in between. Also, we got to know her more, as we went beyond just knowing about her professional career. She is a gem of a person, inside and out.
HOW DID YOU START OUT AND FIGURE OUT THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO?
Since my childhood, I always knew that I wanted to make a positive difference in my community, big or small. My upbringing, good schooling, and early involvement with nonprofit organizations led me to engage meaningfully. Through my travels, as I explored the pressing challenges across the globe, I developed a clearer grasp of the contribution and impact I could make. This helped me figure out my true calling, passion, and purpose in life.
Today, I work with UN entities, civil society, private sector, and member states to elevate the voices of young people in international dialogues, mobilize youth as agents of impactful change, and advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment. I love what I do and unearthing this wasn’t an easy task, nor was it something that I could figure out within a certain time frame. I pause, reflect, reevaluate regularly, and concentrate my attention and energy on the journey of exploration and discovery of mistakes and learning. It’s about the journey, not the destination.
YOU HAVE BEEN AN INSPIRATION FOR YOUTHS AROUND THE WORLD. YOU HAVE GIVEN SPEECHES THAT HAS GRABBED HEADLINES, GOTTEN PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, I WOULD LIKE TO GUESS, DO WHAT YOU LOVE. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO THE GIRL FROM NEPAL?
As a young woman born and raised in Nepal, I always take immense pride in being able to represent our country in the international stage and contribute in shaping dialogues that matter. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed that I have the opportunity to do what I love through my work. But more than achievements, honors, accolades, and recognition, I find the biggest joy and sense of fulfillment when I see young people get inspired by my work and push themselves towards finding their passion and unleashing their potential.
Despite significant progress, a lot of challenges still do exist pertaining to the status of women in Nepal in terms of education, health, social security, employment, property rights, active participation and representation in politics, and leadership roles. And, being a girl from Nepal, I feel that I unequivocally owe certain responsibility to women and girls who look up to me. I see myself in all the young girls -– in their drive, in their resilience, perseverance, in their strong desire to rise above their circumstances and to reach for something more and to dream bigger in life, I hope that I can continue to inspire them to be assertive, recognize their inner strengths, take charge of their own lives, and lead by example.
They say who you are cannot be separated from where you came from. I will never forget my roots because it is what has made me who I am today.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN YOUR CAREER? WHAT MEASURES DO YOU TAKE TO OVERCOME THEM?
Taking over various leadership positions have not been easy. The fundamental biases and stereotypes towards a young person and a woman in power are still profound today. The success of my performance at work demanded unwavering commitment, self-discipline, and sacrifices, and it was painful and uncomfortable at times. I had to put in hours of relentless toll, countless efforts, sleepless nights, and personal sacrifices; but over time, I developed the courage and patience I needed to pursue my goals with vigor, passion, and zest. I also never limited myself. I strongly believe that you can go as far as your mind lets you. Perseverance, resilience, and tenacity are key.
WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR FIRST NOTEWORTHY ACHIEVEMENT IN YOUR CAREER; OR IS THERE A MOMENT THAT YOU CONSIDER TO BE A MILESTONE?
There are many events in my life that have shaped the journey of my career since my childhood. One thing has led to the other and I value all my experiences. But yes, being appointed as the Chair of the “Youth Assembly at the United Nations” was definitely a milestone in my career. Under my leadership, I got the opportunity to bring together more than 5000 youth delegates from more than 100 countries at the biannual conference at the UNHQ; develop ove 100 high level panels, workshops, and interactive sessions on the role of youth in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals; facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogues, actions and resource mobilization between youth, civil society, the private sector, member states and the United Nations. I’ve had the privilege to work with exceptional youths from all across the globe and help them engage as beneficiaries, stakeholders, and leaders in the global movement for inclusive and sustainable development.
WHAT LIFE LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED IN THE LAST 5 YEARS?
Through my experiences in life, I’ve learnt that if we don’t believe in ourselves, nobody will. Also, it is necessary to fail because without failure, we’d be less capable of compassion, empathy, kindness, and great achievement. We need to use that as leverage to not only recuperate from it, but to help push us forward in the future and grow more.
TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR SUCCESS?
To a great extent, towards my parents, family, mentors, friends, and well-wishers. And in my personal case, my ambition, drive, determination, guts, integrity, hard work, and right timing.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO TODAY’S YOUTH WHO ARE ASPIRING AND WORKING TOWARDS THEIR CAREER, IN NEPAL AND ABROAD?
We, young people, are a part of the largest generation of youth in history. I would like to urge every young person reading this to go out there and be the protagonist of your own movements, be the strongest advocates for justice and equality, seek solutions that have never been sought before, initiate a systemic change, and proceed with gumption and an unapologetic enthusiasm to offer your passion in the form of service to others.
Dare to be different, be willing to take chances, don’t be afraid to challenge the norm, take ownership, and never let the fear of failure stop you. Be a lifelong student, throw your soul into your passion, lift others up and help them rise. You all are unique and have abundance of potential within you and only you can bring it out to fruition. Follow your dreams unapologetically and be grateful and appreciate of the life and people who love you.
IF NOT THIS, WHAT DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING? WHY?
It is hard to imagine my life not doing what I do. But if not this, I see myself as a singer, a chef, or a media personality.
WHAT ELSE YOU DO LIKE DOING? ANY INTERESTING PASTIMES OR HOBBIES?
I love singing, listening to music, meditating, reading, playing pool, and travelling. Focusing on my wellness has also stirred up my fondness for hiking and has brought me closer to nature which is absolutely therapeutic. I always find time to volunteer with different organizations, speak at public forums, and mentor young aspiring leaders.
NAME 3 PET PEEVES THAT ABSOLUTELY DRIVE YOU NUTS?
Lack of empathy and compassion, arrogance, and chronic negativity.
WHERE DO YOU USUALLY HANGOUT WHEN YOU COME TO NEPAL? ANY PLACE THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO VISIT WHEN YOU COME HERE?
I love trying new places to hangout every time I visit. But I absolutely cannot miss hanging out in Mangalbazaar with my school friends. I grew up around the area and have the fondest of memories of my childhood and school years. Also, a Pokhara visit is a must; one of my favorite places, and also the birthplace of my mother.
Interviewed By: Shreya Sangroula