Being a social worker in Nepal

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"What are you studying? I have been asked many times. "What’s that?' would invariably be the next question to my answer: Bachelor of Arts in Social Work.

When I completed my intermediate in science from Birgunj, accidentally I came to study ‘Bachelor of Arts in Social Work’ in Kathmandu. I called it an accident because BASW was my ultimate option to avoid engineering. It was a tough job avoiding engineering. Trust me, it’s not an easy job to convince typical Madheshi parents about your career; where my parents wanted me to study engineering. And honestly, choosing BASW is one of the best things that happened to me.

“What’s that?” is the reaction I customarily get from my friends, relatives and strangers when I talk about my study. This is because social work hasn’t been recognized in Nepal as a profession, even though social works is sketched from centuries in Nepal. The concept of social work can be found in works such as ‘Daan’ (charity) and in the name of earning ‘Punya’ (good deeds). Similarly, practice of cultural and religious institutions like- ‘Guthi’ (a social administration), ‘Dhukuti’ (a trading practice), ‘Parma’ (a practice of agricultural labor exchange), ‘Dharma Bhakari’ (grain bank), ‘Bheja’ (a labor support), and many more can be found in history of social work in Nepal. But social work as an academic discipline formally started in 1996 with Bachelor in Social Work offered by Kathmandu University. Now, more than 50 colleges are running BASW courses under affiliation of Tribhuvan University only. Masters in Social Work courses are also run by Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University and Purbanchal University.

Nepal, going through political transition, is in dire needs of right and professional practices of social work to take the country on sustainable path. Social work professionals, practitioners and educators facilitate and work within communities to highlight and create actions to enhance and/or to protect the environment in which the communities live.

Social workers have been struggling to get recognition in Nepal. Granting legality to social workers by providing license, allowing them to compete in government jobs through special recognition by Public Service Commission of Nepal and institutionalizing National Association of Social Workers or similar organizations which could function as a registered union are needed in Nepal. This is necessary to initiate and respect social Workers, to ensure a social work student like myself does not have to respond to questions like ‘what’s that?’

Around 7,500 social work students from more than 75 colleges and four universities are celebrating “World Social Work Day 2017” with the theme- Promoting Community and Environment Sustainability at Smriti Bhawan, Tribhuvan University on March 21. Kindly join and encourage us. Happy World Social Work Day 2017!

Sah is BASW student at K&K International College.

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