Awakening Urgency For Nepali Females

 Prem Khatry

 

This scribe chooses to start this particular write-up with a good news – the Government of Nepal has decided to open a ‘female-only commercial bank’ in town. And, this is due shortly, according to the news. When this is taken as a very good news, and an excellent gesture of the governent toward realising empowerment moves for women especially in financial sector, the question arises -  Why was the need felt at this time of overall transformation of the society where women are still marginalised in terms of decision making authority in financial issues at home, in office and job and at national level programmes and policies? 

In any case, this kind of financial institution was long over due in order to enhance the capacity of women in Nepal further.  Now that even ADB is supporting the government in the ‘go ahead’ process, it is likely that the news has strong base and is trustworthy. In a country where women cover and claim more than half of the country’s sky, such a planning will have positive effect on the enhancement of their leadership through active management of institutions. It is also in line with few other examples where the nation has its President, the House Speaker and, until few months back, the Chief Justice of the country.

One can consider this scribe’s remarks as ‘sweeping and shallow’ but the fact of the matter is that females are still struggling to come up with sound agenda for change and for the prosperity of the fair sex beyond the kitchen, the footpath vending, the farm and the factories. Their struggle is valid and worth their time they invest now and for a long time to come. We know urgent, pertinent and timely issues in Nepal move rather slow facing one hurdle here and another there.

In fact, after schools, financial sector is one where one finds relatively strong presence of women in Nepal. In  fact, banking sector, along with the proposed bank and several commercial banks put together, could be the second largest employer of females in Nepal. One can fondly remember how once upon a time the Agricultural Development Bank had deputed females to run its branch at Tripureshwar.  It was somethng new for the customers and they liked it because they ran the branch efficiently. In later years, an increasing number of females were recruited in nearly all banks but ‘all female’ team was nowhere to be seen.

Except the few glorious examples mentioned above, many other sectors remain less noteworthy and newsworthy for the promotion of women power in Nepal.  Aren’t we still cherising and adhering to the ancient later vedic, early historic and medieval patriarchal supremacy theory? There are  glaring examples that we are.

The constitution of Nepal gives fundamental rights to all Nepalese to enjoy it and transform life regardless of gender and other features. Women played a very significant role  during the anti-Rana struggle and established their claim in the ensuing democratic political and other structures. King Mahendra later gave small space for women in the national parliament through the Women’s Organisation in the Panchayat system. Several ministerial, ambassadorial and other positions were given and many females shone in the society.

Women’s role in the 1990 struggle, the decade long ‘People’s War’ and years that followed in the process of nationl building and transformation has not been documented at length but it is epoch-making.  Political parties born to rule the country in the democratic era that followed all these historic events have allocated spaces to women in their various structures. They have made compulsory provision of 33% participation of women in their inner structure. The same holds true for the election as well.

Unfortunately, though, their workbook says something different. And women inside their respective political parties still continue their hard effort to see such provisions in action. The battle for the just implementaiton of whatever is written in their party constitions, court decisions, varioius documents including commitment in public forum continues. Often times it appears to be strong and result-oriented, but it cools down gradually and women find themselves where they were long time back.    

It is a commonplace knowledge that every change starts at the strength of education – formal/degree oriented, or/and informal gained and increased through practices, socialisation and involvement in social transformation movements.  In terms of formal education, a large percentage of families in poor, remote and backward regions or in marginalised populations groups female education is virtually non- existent. Despite various motivation projects and efforts made by the government and non-government sectors, the literacy percentage for females remains unsatisfactory, to say the least. Therefore, the lesson learnt is that some other forms of mechanisms must be put in place to bring visible change in the present status. Such a system could involve role models’ action plan in the field, employment opportunity for the working and earning members of the family, strong informal education with efficient monitoring and evaluation system in place and formation of mothers’ groups to administer small literacy project packages deemed efficient for their communities.

The post earthquake scenario has offered a strong sense and experience of setback in the target areas. For example, in many Majhi villages along the Sunkoshi river zone beginning from Indrawati and ending at or continuing after Khurkot in Sindhuli and further down toward the Kamala river, houses and schools were destroyed.  Many school children were forced to pull out of schools. Since early childhood centers also lost buildings and were not reconstructed, parents had to forget labour work and take care of their children at home.  

Similar scenario works for several quake affected upper regions and districts.  Two monsoons and cold seasons on, the situation has not changed much. The government has lagged much behind the NGOs in terms of school construction. In such a situation girls are the first victims of school pull out action taken by the families.  The schools remain too far for them to make a long march, or their full time presence at home is considered economically viable.

Finally, concerned sectors such as the political parties, the government and the local authorities must realise and put effective plans in place in order to avoid danger in future leadership programmes for women. In the proposed new structure, women’s qualified and creative participation at the local level development process is essential. The ground realities as one sees must be changed as soon as possible. There is urgency in creating and promoting awakening in the world of Nepali women.

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