A first-generation Nepali-American climate organizer and a lifelong advocate for the working class, Sarahana Shrestha is running for re-election to continue changing the culture of Albany and fight for the future Hudson Valley deserves.
Extreme poverty, systemic injustices, and the strength of collective action left a mark on Sarahana at an early age. She was nine years old when she witnessed a historical uprising in her hometown of Kathmandu, Nepal, demanding to reinstate multi-party democracy. Sarahana remembers being stuck on a school bus as violent clashes occurred outside, and later watching a euphoric parade go past her home when the centuries-old monarchy relinquished its rule. But gross inequalities remained in much of the country, fueling a civil war that would last 10 years and claim thousands of lives.
A professor co-signing her student loan made it possible for Sarahana to move to New York in the fall of 2001 to study Computer Graphics. It was difficult being in a big new country at a turbulent time, but she found her bearings among those who believed in the possibility of another world, one where a system of peace, sustainability, and camaraderie keep everyone safe and nourished. Outside of her day job as a Graphic Designer and Creative Technologist, Sarahana remained an active advocate of this belief, founding a literary online journal that published political writings, banned by Nepal’s new King who seized powers through a coup.
By 2018, now living in Esopus and having lived in New York for almost as long as she had lived in Nepal, Sarahana felt an increasing urgency to dedicate herself more seriously to organizing for healthcare rights and against climate change in Hudson Valley. She became an American citizen along with 50 other immigrants in 2019 at the Ulster County Courthouse in Kingston. A Daily Freeman reporter quoted her as saying, “So many people don’t have a voice in what happens to the world—who’s affected by war, by ecological disaster. As an American citizen, you can do a lot.” As the reporter pointed out, Ulster County Surrogate’s Court Judge Sara McGinty had reminded the new citizens much of the same.
Sarahana lives in Esopus with her husband, their dog Seaweed and several free-spirited chickens. Before being elected the New York State Assemblymember for District 103, she was the Ulster County co-chair for the Mid-Hudson Valley chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, helping to organize efforts for healthcare, housing, and the environment. Knowing what was at stake, she used her design and management skills to help run Phil Erner’s successful primary race, centered on housing rights, for County Legislator. Erner’s win in both the primary and the general election proves that a people-powered election is effective not just in big cities, but here in the Hudson Valley, too.
Sarahana was also a lead campaigner with the statewide Public Power NY coalition, where she organized to ensure that the inevitable green transition must be the kind that strengthens democracy and empowers communities instead of enriching private developers. In her first six months as Assemblymember, Sarahana worked with the coalition to pass the Build Public Renewables Act through New York’s budget process. Next, she will organize around the bill’s implementation to ensure that it is enforced to enact maximum benefits for New Yorkers.
Sarahana knows that we can build our own public renewable energy sector here in the Hudson Valley, bringing green jobs to our counties, empowering residents in the collective ownership of our energy system across the state, and making it affordable for everyone. Sarahana wants communities, not corporations, to have the more powerful say and directly benefit from public investments we make. Through her office, she hosted seven town halls in her district to empower constituent participation in the Central Hudson rate case and explore pathways to publicly-owned energy utility.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the following affordability crisis confirmed Sarahana’s belief that the investments of our future must be in social and care infrastructure. Lifelong residents witnessed neighborhoods change overnight due to the volatile housing market, working parents were left to juggle childcare and remote work, and essential workers had no option but to risk their lives. Sarahana recognizes that the reactive temporary measures put in place are not enough to protect us from the emergencies that will occur more frequently under climate change. That means we must invest in a society that guarantees stability to working families, infrastructure for the public good, and a robust response to the climate crisis.
The residents of Assembly District 103 know now is the critical time to build a government that works for everyone and is steps ahead of the crises we need to tackle. Sarahana is seeking re-election for a second term to continue working towards that vision.
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