DemocraShe: How Nepal is pushing gender equality in politics and policy

UjwalThapa Nepal

India must take lessons from its neighbour Nepal on gender equality. The Himalayan country has made some important decisions on female participation in policy and politics. Their new inclusive efforts include recognising LGBTQ, Dalit women and other demographic, regional, community and gender participation. Here’s the next edition of DemocraShe with Ujwal Thapa who is president of Bibek Sheel Nepal Party & founder of ‘Entrepreneurs 4 Nepal’ movement.

How would you assess the gender rights situation in Nepal? 

Things have dramatically improved in Nepal in the last decade resulting in a broader gender equality ensuring constitution on many fronts. Laws are being made to ensure gender equality and much progress on the even on the issues of LGBT. Nepal now recognises third gender in its citizenship and the constitution now protects against any form of gender discrimination. Nepali society do suffer from the hangover of gender violence that comes from a society that for centuries practiced a conservative patriarchy culture of the past. Still today, conservative male political leaders of major parities remain a thorn in ensuring speedier justice and sound gender friendly laws from being made / implemented. But we have made a start.

UjwalThapa Nepal

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Has reservation for women in different positions, including politics been a success story?

Yes the affirmative action (reservation) in political institutions has created an immense possibility specially after the new constitution of Nepal was made in 2015. There is a minimum 33% women representation in Nepal’s parliament and even 40% women participation (13,000 women including 6,000 Dalit women) in the 753 local governments (municipalities) of Nepal. One out of the 2 leaders of each municipalities has to be a women. This has led to participation of Nepali women in all aspects of decision making they were traditionally exempt from. Furthermore at least 33% representations of all political parties leadership should be women. In the last decade or so, the president of Nepal is now a woman, the ex-speaker and chief justice in the last 5 years has been women in the recent past.

How would you say is the women’s movement in Nepal and how are they bringing a bigger voice to the table?

Nearly a decade ago, a movement called “OccupyBaluwatar” cropped up where youth and activists from all walks of life marched to protest against gender based violence and lack of governmental actions and laws governing it. Similar movements have emerged when atrocities happen.

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Women’s movement in Nepal is currently being led by youth and various civil society organizations and the mainstream media is very vigilant on this issue. At times the activists even collaborate with international organizations to ensure that Nepal implement the internal and international  gender equality laws that she has signed up for. With the literacy level riding rapidly at 66 % and women now are increasingly breadwinners of their families and this has impacted the way society treats its women.

Things have dramatically improved in Nepal in the last decade resulting in a broader gender equality ensuring constitution on many fronts – Ujwal Thapa

How would you describe the economic status of women as they shoulder most of the burden in maintaining the day-to-day finances of their families?

One third of Nepal’s economy is through remittance by nearly 5 million Nepalis (more than 95% of them male). So the women back home bear the responsibility of running their homes and the money sent from abroad.

So in many families where men go out of the country to work, women are now the primary decision makers in rural villages, from education to health to running the households.

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Nepal has become infamous for trafficking of women, how is that being addressed within Nepal?

Increased awareness in women empowerment within families and broader society has ensured that now more girls go to school and the state has intervened to ensure they are given more opportunities to study. Anuradha Koirala, Chairperson of Maiti Nepal a famous organization that was effective against women trafficking, is the governor of the powerful province 3 of Nepal where much trafficking happened in the past. Because we have elected women representative from the top and at middle and bottom levels since the last 2 years, there is a lot of optimism. But still gender violence mitigation needs more awareness and speedier justice with more empowered women needed specially in the sector of bureaucracy, security and judiciary.

Pictures by Ujwal.