Dr. Byanjana Sharma
The other day, one of my male colleagues asked aggressively, “Why do women need reservation everywhere? If you go to bus, there are ladies seats and in politics also there is special consideration for women. I don’t understand, why?” Yes, his question looks genuine; on the one hand we are advocating for gender equality and on the other, talking about reservation for women. These two concepts do not go together.
However, in the context of Nepal where there still exist so many cultural and family barriers for women to come out from their domestic role, women empowerment is as relevant as anything else.
The best platform to commence women empowerment is the education sector because without educating young girls, women empowerment will not be achieved even if there are many other means in practice.
Female teachers can play a key role in encouraging girls’ education. According to many research reports, female teachers are more important than male teachers for improving girls’ ability to go to school, stay in school, and learn effectively there. This is especially true in contexts where traditional gender norms make parents hesitant to send their daughters to school where they have to interact with male teachers.
The importance of female teachers in Nepali community schools was recognised as early as in the 1970s and different programmes were also put in place to increase their number at schools; but the problem was that even if their number increased they were reluctant to go to remote areas. As a result, with time there seemed to be oversupply of female teachers in the schools of urban areas and under-supply of the same in rural areas and this still has not changed much.
In relation to other levels, female teachers are demanded mostly at the primary level. It is believed that they are more loving and caring and they can play the role of a second mother figure in little ones’ lives. Their presence at schools helps children successfully complete their primary education. In addition, they can be role models to many girls.
While in countries like Nepal the argument revolves around increasing female teachers at schools the developed countries have a different issue. For instance, in his article “Male teachers needed in primary grades” Drew M. Mcweeney argues that many households in America are run by single mothers. Because of this the children of such parents lack a positive father figure and role model to whom they can relate. So, more male teachers are needed particularly at primary grades who can provide the positive role model of a father figure for students who come from single-parent families. It is obvious that the girls from such countries do not necessarily need female teachers to get through their schooling or get empowered because in Western societies, girls and boys are given more equal treatment and educating girls is not a major issue.
Nepali girls may also reach that point one day but before that they must come out from the boundary of preset limitations. For this, female teachers are encouraged at schools so that girls can feel safe and comfortable. Women are being given reservations in politics and other sectors, even in public transportation. Once gender equality is maintained, no woman needs any reservation. At that time my colleague may find another topic to grumble over.