SNV in Nepal’s District Coordinator in Sarlahi, Ambika Yadav, is a community leader and advocate for Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI). She serves as a role model for women and girls, particularly those from the conservative Madeshi society to which she belongs. Her strength and success lie in her leadership style of coordinating and creating linkages between various government, non-government, and private sector organisations, as well as in fostering trust among community members, underscoring her ability to influence change at multiple scales.
Through her 25-year long career, Ambika has been able to achieve impressive outcomes, contributing to the delivery of services and support for people from vulnerable and marginalised groups. The COVID-19 pandemic was no exception.
Ambika played a bold and pivotal role to ensure the continuation of WASH services in the community, taking the risk to go out into the communities to provide services during the peak of the pandemic. Her team conducted a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector gap analysis with the local government to identify the vulnerable groups whose access to sanitation and handwashing facilities was impacted by COVID-19. This gap analysis resulted in the installation of GESI friendly contactless (foot-operated) handwashing stations in public places and quarantine centres. In turn, these efforts led to significant improvements in hygiene behaviours among women, children, people with disability, elderly people, and members of marginalised communities.
Ambika was proactive in mobilising her team to spread awareness about the importance of physical distancing and handwashing with soap through mobile messaging, particularly among people with disabilities. This resonates with her belief in creating an enabling environment for people with disabilities and empowering them in every way.
FGD with key WASH and COVID-19 prevention stakeholders
Household visits in progress
Ambika has relentlessly worked for the betterment of her community and is an inspiring example of a gender transformative leader. She has reached this position by challenging social norms, which restricted her access to education and to work outside the home when she was younger. She continues to advocate for equal participation of women and marginalised groups in society, including in the Rural Municipal WASH Coordination Committees, and has collaborated with various rights-holder organisations.
‘Twenty-five years of my professional journey have taught me that trust is the strong bone of leadership. Clear determination, dissemination of information in the right manner, and regular communication has helped to build trust with stakeholders in the community and has supported me in influencing them.’
Authors: Avni Kumar and Diana Gonzalez Botero from ISF-UTS, with input from Aastha Chhetri, M&E Advisor, SNV in Nepal
Photos: Meeting Point for SNV
 Ambika Yadav is one of 19 leaders interviewed for the ‘Gender transformative leadership in WASH during the COVID-19 pandemic’ research project led by SNV and ISF-UTS. The project is funded by the Australian government's Water for Women Fund. Key findings of the research are presented in this learning brief.
 This blog was produced as part of SNV in Nepal's Inclusive and sustainable rural water services in Nepal.
 Additional stories of leadership here: H.E. Dechen Wangmo, Minister of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan | Toumkam Phetsalath, Deputy Head of the Champhone District Health Office in Lao PDR | Chomsy Ngamvilay, Deputy Head of the Atsaphone District Health Office in Lao PDR | Namgay Pelden, Gup (local leader) in a sub-district in Bhutan | Rajesh Sahani, Member of Disabled People's Organisation in Nepal
 To learn more about SNV's rural WASH work in Asia, contact Gabrielle Halcrow, Multi-country programme manage, by email.