Participation Of Nepali Women In Politics
Most of the scholars at present agree that women’s voice is still unheard in politics. The voice is normally low as the women enjoy less political power. Even then they are struggling to get meaningful space in politics across the world. It does not mean that women are too ambitious; but still the patriarchal mindset has for ages been maintaining a huge gap between the position of women and political power. The political structures of the state have kept women out of politics and they are within the marginal circle of central command of national politics.
By October 2017, only eleven women were holding the post of the Head of State and twelve women leaders were serving as the Head of the Government in the world. Similarly, in January 2017 only 18.3 per cent of government ministers were women. According to reports, most of them were commonly getting the portfolio of the ministers of environment, natural resources and energy commonly understood as low profile ministries. In 1995, only 11.3 per cent of women were the members of national parliament whereas in 2016 this figure increased up to 22.8 per cent of all national parliaments. If we talk about the present status of Rwandan women – they occupy the first position in world politics; in national parliament, they have occupied 61.3 per cent seats in the lower house. In the present case of Nepal, 32.7 per cent of Nepali women are in lower house and 37.3 per cent women are in the upper house. Nepali women occupy 37 per cent positions in the national politics.
The fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 discussed the issue of women and their vulnerability due to armed conflict. To women, it was really a global threat for equality, self-respect and dignity. Unlike this, it was not a topic of hot discussion in academic field in Nepal. Again, the reality was that Nepali women were deprived of getting meaningful positions in politics.
The then Communist Party of Nepal -Maoist raised the voice of women and backward groups from 1996 to 2006 which increased the level of awareness among the women of rural areas of Nepal. One issue of the then United People’s Front’s ( then the public face of the Maoists) forty-point demands submitted to the government before they initiated the people’s war was related to ending patriarchal exploitation against women. In reality, as long as the Maoists waged the armed rebellion against the state, the party encouraged Nepali women to follow the political line of Maoist which was only a political tool to expand women’s political mobilisation during the conflict.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 which was the result of Nepal’s peace process had ensured 33 per cent participation of women in the first CA (2008-2013) and it was the portrayal of women’s involvement in politics of post conflict Nepal. Similarly, 30 per cent representation of women in the second CA (2013-2015) was still a phenomenal figure for women’s representation in Nepali politics. The Constitution of Nepal (2015) has guaranteed 33 per cent women to be involved in all political sectors. The constitutional provision has given some political space for women to eliminate all sorts of discriminations including class, caste, sex, gender, etc. Now, every person has the rights to live a life of dignity. The constitutional space given to Nepalese women will definitely reduce women’s socio-economic and cultural vulnerability from the Nepali society.
The entry of women in politics through electoral process for implementing the constitution and the resultant we-can-do-it attitude of women that we can hear these days points to the empowered status of women. Women who had remained marginalised before the promulgation of the constitution in 2015 are expected to play more active role for prosperity and development of the country.
The position of Nepali women at present has played a landmark role in national politics. Still, Nepali women are not able to do much in this arena as they lack proper education, economic resources and political experiences at par with their male counterparts. In the post conflict Nepal, three leading women leaders have held prominent positions in the national affairs. Bidya Bhandari, Sushila Karki and Onsari Gharti have held the positions of Head of the State, Chief Justice and Speaker in the Parliament respectively. This reflects the struggle and success of Nepali women.
Without keeping any political biasness, it can be said that the level of women’s political consciousness is rising in Nepal. Still, in the global context, the position of women in the twenty first century is underrepresented. They have inadequate political power to enjoy equal political rights. Political participation rate for women is significantly low in the first as well as the third world countries.
The constitutional provision to reserve seats either in federal parliament, province or local levels has increased political participation of women in Nepal. At present, it is the most effective way to encourage women to get involved in politics and political parties. The major political parties and the advocacy groups for women’s political rights should focus on promoting women’s participation in politics as well as in decision and policy making levels. If it is done rightly in proper time, there will be a good chance for greater number of women to engage and rise in politics and ensure that women are represented in all sectors proportionally and a true inclusiveness is implemented.