Dorothy Khan (Nepal)

Dorothy Khan received her MS in Global Affairs from New York University, graduating with a concentration in Human Rights and International Law. She conducted field research on both registered and unregistered Rohingya women in the refugee camps of Bangladesh. During the summer of 2015, she traveled to Iraq to implement a self-designed project, aimed at empowering youth in the Duhok region of Iraq to become local community peace builders. In addition, she previously worked with urban refugees in South Africa, aiding them in navigating through difficult legal issues as they formally applied for refugee status. Her experience over the years in refugee rights, women's empowerment and human rights has imbued her with substantial experience working with disadvantaged populations throughout the world. Dorothy is also a recipient of a MA degree in Public Policy and and BA degree in Political Science from Stony Brook University. After her fellowship, Dorothy wrote: "Working with students in rural Nepal really changed me as a person and my outlook in life. Not only was this fellowship the most challenging experience I have ever had but it was rewarding and powerful, and I would do it again."

Were you born with black hair?

23 Jun


Before I even reached Gutu, Nepal, people from the village knew that an American was going to be staying there. They were expecting some white, blonde woman with blue eyes, instead what they got was me, a Bengali American.

People from different parts of the village came to talk to the “American” but they walked straight past me, mistaking me for a local Nepali woman. They can tell that I am foreigner by the way I walk and talk but I often asked the question “But where are you really from?” or “So, you are American  but why do you look local?”

Those are loaded questions that come with the cultural baggage for someone who immigrated to America.  I was even asked by two ladies on different occasions on whether or not I was born with black hair. I was not offended by their inquiries at all. They based their image of an American from what they saw in the media. It took endless explanations about how I was born in Bangladesh, and then moved to America for them to fully understand why I have dark skin, black hair and brown eyes.

What really did bother me was that when people heard that I was born in Bangladesh, they did not consider me to be American. Rather, they introduced me as Bengali to others. I guess it is a good thing that I look Nepali and can blend into the community easily, without having awkward stares or people pulling out their phones to take pictures of me.

It also feels good to be the representative of my country in Gutu, changing people’s perception of what an American can also look like.

Posted By Dorothy Khan (Nepal)

Posted Jun 23rd, 2016


  • Lauren Purnell

    July 1, 2016


    One interesting thing regarding looks, we had a man visiting from Los Angeles, with his two kids. He was from Nepal, but the kids had been raised in California. The staff at CONCERN thought it was really odd, that these two kids couldn’t speak Nepali (although they could understand some). I tried to explain that their parents maybe didn’t have time to teach them Nepali, but they men were like “but they look Nepali.” As if looking Nepali would mean they would learn their parents native language through genetics, it was an interesting exchange.

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