Highlighting Social Sustainability
Pragatee Dhakal is unlike many prototypical college students of today, with heads buried deep in their books while frequently losing sight of the world’s major conflicts. Pragatee’s heightened global awareness has been shaped by her unique story. Growing up in Katmandu, Nepal, Pragatee’s priorities developed differently than most folks in the United States. Amidst the westernization of her culture, ongoing civil war, and the countless other hardships that persisted during her adolescence, Pragatee realized that social justice issues were an inseparable part of her soon-to-be academic pursuits.
“Growing up in a third-world country and seeing that struggle every day — that’s what made me passionate about social justice … even when you hear about bombings in other countries in the news, it’s still so distant. It’s hard to see how it really impacts people. But when it happens right outside your door, you have to do something to make it better,” she explained. “The political instability of my country changed the way I see the world a lot.” Wanting to serve as a force of positive change in her home country, Pragatee wanted to see, and learn from, more of the world.
It all started with the unlikely collision of rural Vermont and urban Nepal. Pragatee heard about GMC from a college-matching website and jumped at the chance to experience the United States outside of its stereotypical image of big, bustling cities and fast-paced social life. “It was a big shock when I first came here,” she said. “The fact that the College had a farm was one the biggest appeals to me.”
The college’s curricular environmental edge also gave her some added insights into the interconnectivity of global conflicts. “In Nepal, no one is talking about the environment. When people are dying in your country, you have to focus on social justice issues,” she explained. As time went on, Pragatee realized that many of the problems associated with social justice coexisted with the environmental conflicts she was learning about at GMC. “I’ve realized that a lot of social justice issues are environmentally-based. I don’t think social justice issues and environmental issues should be two different issues at all,” she said.
Two years ago, Pragatee started a chapter of Amnesty International here on campus. Amnesty International is a major human rights organization with 2.8 million supporters in over 150 countries. Since its birth, the club has been active in collecting donations for various causes, showing films, and attending conferences, such as the Northeastern Amnesty International Conference last November. Pragatee's continued work with this notable non-profit eventually landed her an internship, which she completed last summer, contributing to a five-year campaign on accountability, poverty, and maternal health.
At the end of the semester, Pragatee will graduate with a degree in psychology. Since mental health is a social taboo in Nepal, Pragatee hopes to make strides in dismantling attitudinal barriers against improving individual well-being. But to make significant progress, Pragatee is convinced that it takes a systemic change. That is why she has decided to pursue a career in international law. “I think, at times, you have to break the system — especially after it’s been shown that it’s not working. But in order to go against something, you have to know what you’re going against. I want to study law so I know how to challenge it — so that I’m not out in the streets protesting something that I know nothing about,” she said.
By Chad Skiles ‘12