From media trainee to trainer and mentor
TV Executive Producer and Non-formal education trainer
Mandira Raut Thapa, or Mandira to colleagues, is currently the Executive Producer of television talk show: Youth in Entrepreneurship. She is also a Board Member to the IAWRT International Board in December 2020.
Starting out in media
She got her first taste of professional media in 2003 when she was selected by her school to attend the “School Representative Media Training”, a yearlong media training program run by the Leadership Academy (then Today’s Youth Asia). She was only 17 then, aspiring to become a media personality.
“The media training opened different avenues for me. It was through the training, I got to meet other like-minded young individuals, and also produce a youth magazine in the following years. Together we would collect articles and report on issues that needed attention but hardly got the limelight in other forms of media,” recalled Mandira of the time.
She volunteered for the organization. It was only in 2006, upon completing high school, that she joined Leadership Academy as an intern and was later promoted as Project Coordinator and Editorial Assistant for Today’s Youth Asia, a bi-weekly magazine with outreach in South Asia.
“We were a small team back then and naturally, one person took up various responsibilities. It was while juggling various hats that I got to hone my skills at work coordination and correspondence, data collection, writing and reporting, proof-reading, and the like,” she shared.
“My passion for journalism got stronger with each interview I took, the guests I met, and the collaboration with the photographers and graphic designers that introduced me to a wider world of media,” said Mandira.
When Today’s Youth Asia transitioned from a magazine to a TV Show called Youth TV Show in 2009, she became the producer of the show.
“I was shaped by the show in different ways,” Mandira recounted.
It was only after 2014 she ventured into freelancing by producing various radio and television programs independently.
“I started out in 2003, at a time when there was very little scope for media as a career for the youth. Even when media studies and media training institutes were extremely few, we had the vision to create a platform for the voices of the youth and increase their participation in democracy,” she shared her goals back then.
During the 10-year Civil War, her group was the first youth-led media outlet that gave the youth an opportunity to bring their voices to the forefront, in spite of the constant backlash, threat, and criticism they faced for being different and outspoken.
“We used media to engage in issues and ideas that were new and unique to the public. It wouldn’t be wrong to call ourselves trendsetters in Nepali media as we also introduced a culture of holding debates for the time in Nepali television on national and international issues,” shared Mandira.
“We gave the youth a chance to present their points of view on a national platform when such events were practiced only in a very few schools in Nepal. As the first Producer of a reality TV Show Nepal’s Top 7 Debaters 2012, I am happy to share this show holds World Record Setter as the first Debate Television Show,” said Mandira.
Current career and goals
She is currently working as Executive Producer of the television talk show “Youth in Entrepreneurship” where they interview and share stories of entrepreneurs, and attempt to understand the current scenario of entrepreneurial business in Nepal. The main objective of this show is to promote innovative ideas for the younger generation.
She is also running another motivational show “UTSAAH” where they feature mother’s stories and issues of working women while running small businesses and taking care of the housework. This show is a work in progress and will be launched when the pandemic situation gets stabilized.
Mandira, similar to how she started out in the media, also got into youth training.
“As a non-formal education trainer, my job is to train youth from 13 to 24 years old in collaboration with different educational institutions on areas of personal development, public speaking, and presentation skills,” she shared.
These trainings are wide-ranging and cover topics like youths anchoring, public speaking, leadership, confidence building, reporting and writing, and communication for personality development.
What are the things she is aspiring to accomplish in the near future? Still a lot, as she thinks she is only in the middle of her journey.
“I want to set up a media platform or station where young people always get to learn and experiment with their ideas. Further, I also wish to create an academic platform on the basis of ethics and principle-based learning to do both theory and practical work, innovate new ideas to bring positive change,” said Mandira.
Being an IAWRT member and elected to the International Board
She became an IAWRT Nepal member in December 2007 when I was invited as a Youth Guest Speaker at its IAWRT International Conference in Nepal. It was her first International Conference to speak about her work as a young media person.
“Then, I was handed an IAWRT membership form and later I received an email informing me that I had been accepted to become a member,” she recalled.
“IAWRT has helped me build my confidence and accelerated my learning through interactions and success stories of people around the world, who are fighting against injustice and who are continuing their work despite difficult situations,” said Mandira on how IAWRT has influenced her work and life.
She also has fond memories of the network of women in IAWRT.
“IAWRT members are a constant reminder that it is people and network that support each other during crisis in every aspect,” said Mandira.
While she served as IAWRT Nepal Secretary for four years, she was part of organizing conferences, workshops, trainings, and film festivals where she was able to experience knowing Nepalese media and media personality very closely. This experience, she said, “has given me a lot of confidence to do anything in my country.”
“It has taught me the secret of failure and success. I am very confident in my leadership role in the present and future,” said Mandira.
In the 2020 elections of IAWRT, Mandira was elected as one of three Board members to complete a 7-member International Board.
“As a member of the International board, I hope to support the current board to complete the projects we have launched and create a financial platform for long-term organizational sustainability,” said Mandira.
Mandira believes in the work of IAWRT just as she believes that women in media have the ability to bring sustainable change.
“We need more women in decision-making power all over the world. We need good leadership and risk-takers women in media. Women journalists all over the world need safe working space in media houses,” she said.
From a youth media trainee and budding journalist, Mandira is now an experienced media producer. She also now works to educate and influence the youth and inspire positive changes in her country through her work. It was a reversal of roles made possible through the passing of time, accumulation of experience and wisdom, and a heart that wants to give back or pay forward.
“Young people want quick results which are short-term. I request them to have patience in their profession and stick to their dreams and believe in them. One should always adapt to change with time and technology and educate with new knowledge,” is her advice to young aspiring journalists.