On January 11, 2021, Accountability Lab Nepal revealed the top 5 winners of Integrity Icon 2020. The live-streamed event on Facebook, hosted by former Miss Nepal, Sadichha Shrestha, began with a short interview with the CEO of Accountability Lab Nepal, Narayan Adhikari, and a Jury member of the 2020 campaign, Sucheta Pyakuryal. This was followed by the screening of the videos of 2020’s Integrity Icons. In the closed event conducted at the Open Gov Hub, Adhikari and Pyakuryal spoke about the need for integrity and for good-governance and shared their experience of searching for the Integrity Icon winners during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adhikari, who has been leading the campaign from its very first year, highlighted the significance of this movement, saying: “Integrity Icon is a unique campaign in itself. We all have by now realized that it is not possible to end corruption, irregularities, and ensure good governance with conventional ideas, thinking, and structures. We need new ideas and working patterns for these problems that have been deeply rooted in our society.” Adding to what this campaign is aiming to achieve, he said: “Integrity Icon is a search for hope amidst uncertainty – positivity among the chaos, good out of the bad – and unearths honest role models among the corrupt ones. We cannot afford to forget the good and honest civil servants while talking about the bad and corrupt ones. We need to continue this positive initiative as only the people with honesty can make our system smooth and transparent. We can’t afford to just sit and observe.”

The campaign, which would ordinarily engage the public in both offline and online platforms, had to shift to a new working style in the wake of a pandemic. But the ideals of the campaign remained the same. Speaking of how the Icons were chosen, jury member Pyakuryal shared: “We look into categories including efficiency, effectiveness, innovations, integrity, and honesty; and other requirements that bureaucrats should have while judging from the nominations. Besides, other traits such as how socially-equitable the candidate is, how he/she provides services, how the public perceives them, how they use their intellect during challenging times, etc are also observed. We try to be as holistic as we can while selecting the Icons.”

Pyakuryal, who joined the jury this year, also shared her observation about the campaign, saying that using the same indicators to judge men and women in a patriarchal society could be very challenging. “We need to keep that in mind while we evaluate the nominations,” she said. She concluded: “Corruption is also very pervasive in Nepal because it does not cause a hindrance for growth. Lately, research has shown that a positive approach is more effective than a punishment-oriented approach in eradicating social problems. Therefore also we can say that Integrity Icon is a very ecessary and timely campaign.”

The Integrity Icons for 2020 are Aarati Tharu, Dipak Jnawali, Hem Bahadur Ale, Manju Mahat and Dr. Nawin Bandhu Pahadi.

Aarati Tharu
Public Health Incharge, Nepalgunj Health Post, Muktipur, Banke

Aarati Tharu has shown incredible commitment, especially towards pregnant women in Pyuthan’s remote areas. She understood the value of taking health services directly to the public when she was working on the frontlines during the pandemic. She wants to build on this and make plans to take health-care services directly to citizens’ doorsteps, wherever feasible, and build trust among them.

Dipak Jnawali
Division Head, Ministry of Tourism, Industry, Forest and Environment, Lumbini Province, Butwal

Dipak ensures that government offices are always accessible to the public and also creates high levels of trust by encouraging door-to-door visits by his officers to listen to community concerns. He wants to establish forests as a source of livelihood for local people by specializing and focusing on particular vegetation based on the location and environment. He’s also trying to ingrain this idea in communities to ensure the sustainable protection of forests while helping them generate new sources of income.

Hem Bahadur Ale
Crop Protection Officer, Agriculture Resource Centre, Okhaldhunga

Hem has played a remarkable role in providing long-term, rigorous training for more than 300 farmers at local farm-schools. He wants to create a platform where farmers can easily learn agricultural techniques and technologies through practical demos, apply for government loans, learn about commercial agriculture methods, and receive other government support and services.

Manju Mahat
Officer, Women, Children, and Senior Citizen Section, Mangalsen Municipality

Manju has played a significant role in decreasing domestic violence, eliminating Chhaupadi (or menstrual taboos), and enhancing children’s leadership skills in the region. She has created a detailed process for how to eradicate gender-based violence and confront taboos in her locality. She intends to take a step-by-step approach to transform the negative incidents of gender disparity and ensure rights and justice to all the people who are deprived of them.

Dr. Nawin Bandhu Pahadi
Teacher, Neelakantha School/Campus, Dhading

Dr Nawin has worked hard to ensure education for Dalit and marginalized communities in the area by playing a leadership role in building schools and also upgrading them with national and international collaborations. Nawin wants to see adolescent males continue their education. The majority of young males in his district are either in foreign employment or otherwise fully occupied in income-generating activities to support their families. He wants to create a supportive environment for them through training and vocational counselling, and support them to start local businesses in a way that allows them to continue their education.