Six months after graduating with her degree in sociology, Kavyaa Rizal ’17 returned home to Nepal to contribute to the country’s social development. She landed a job as a program officer for Women Development Advocacy Center (WDAC), a nonprofit dedicated to helping young women secure sustainable livelihoods. The job means she now spends her time putting the sociology theory she learned at Colby-Sawyer into practice. Her most recent accomplishment? Raising nearly $6,000 in one month to support education in an impoverished area of Nepal.

The WDAC runs two active programs: CareerPrep Fellowship provides professional development to women, while Madhesh Education Initiative improves the quality of education in Dhanushadham. Rizal assists in running CareerPrep through partnership development and engagement, fundraising and promotion.

An aspiring social enterprise composed of a small team, WDAC offers an immense amount of space for experimentation. Rizal thrives off that energy, and sees her growth tied to that of WDAC’s programs.

Group of young women who work together at nonprofit organization.

“WDAC always prioritizes two core values: continuously learning and building relationships within the team as well as with our stakeholders,” Rizal said.

Growing up in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu, Rizal saw how demographic variables dramatically influence an individual’s opportunities. Before coming to Colby-Sawyer, she worked as a counselor and translator at a halfway house for women rescued from human trafficking in Nepal and India. That early exposure to injustice led to her major in sociology. Rizal also picked up minors in legal studies and political studies, which provided her with a big-picture framework to complement the specific social issues her major addressed.

During her required internship at Code for Nepal, Rizal pursued a cause she cares about by launching the #IWalkFreely campaign to combat street harassment. A second internship with a county jail in New Hampshire gave her direct experience working with inmates through rehabilitation programming.

Kavyaa Rizal presenting on stage.

Rizal also made a big impact on the campus. During her first year, she and her friends ran a food drive that led to the creation of Feed the Freezer, an outreach program that helps feed area families in need. She participated in several other clubs that brought her to conferences where she met people doing incredible work and expanded her awareness of social movements across the world.

“What I enjoyed most about Colby-Sawyer was the small yet tight-knit community,” Rizal said. “There were a lot of opportunities to create change.”

That network has stayed intact. Recently, Rizal was the project leader for a WDAC fundraiser to provide salaries to seven additional primary teachers in Dhanushadham, and many in the Colby-Sawyer community contributed.

Kavyaa Rizal standing at a podium at a conference.

Even as she works to improve others’ futures, Rizal is nurturing her own, too. She plans to finish a master’s degree in international cooperation and development. Her graduate program is based in Nepal, and it focuses on humanitarian response within the country while also maintaining an international perspective. After living outside Nepal, Rizal’s graduate education will contextualize her knowledge while advancing her work with WDAC.

“WDAC is always focused on experimenting and learning, “ Rizal said. “The future holds lots of new ideas and avenues for growth. I’m excited to see where we go.”