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The Political Role of Nepalese Women

Kamala Sarup, January 29, 2010

Young Nepalese women from the Newar ethnic community participate in a parade held to mark the declaration of the Newar Autonomous Region in Kathmandu on Dec. 26. (Photo: Prakash Mathema/ AFP-Getty Images)

Nepalese women are playing a greater role in politics and economics these days, but their participation in politics is far from the 50 percent that would represent equal and fair representation. More than 95 percent of Nepalese women have been affected by the violence. Since the conflict started, rape and kidnappings have increased. Prostitution has increased. Kidnappings and torture still take place. The forced recruitment of young women into the criminal forces is another serious issue.

During the 1980s, participation of women in Nepal's political and economic sectors was very low. The United Nations' declaration of an International Women's Decade (1975-1985) started discussion and debate on women's rights. Yet the role played by women in the development of the country remained insignificant. The nation has yet to realize the importance of eradicating discrimination against women. Most women, especially in rural areas, are incapable of fighting for their rights.

Democratic reforms in 1990 provided an opportunity for some women to become active. Women's organizations arose and offered support to women who wanted to share their problems and experiences, but after a few years they disappeared. Nowadays women's organizations are satisfied with carrying out small programs for women, but they are not bringing any real change in the status of women in Nepal.

Women's organizations nowadays encourage women to participate in political affairs, but they are still held back by the parochial culture, particularly in the villages. It is a positive sign that women are being recruited for the army and other posts, but still women's participation in politics remains nominal. This applies to both urban and rural areas. Most women simply avoid politics.

Millions of Nepalese women live below the poverty line and must struggle from day to day to make ends meet. Despite their suffering, in most cases they provide the stability to hold the family together.

Nepal's leaders have consistently said that they would undertake the effort to improve women's status. But the leaders in Nepal are adept at changing their colors and goals. In the current Cabinet, their hands are tied and their mouths are sealed. Misunderstandings, misconceptions and mistrust abound in the absence of capable leadership.

The empowerment of women is critical to the country's social and economic development. A good educational program to educate women in how to manage their finances and maintain fiscal discipline would be welcome. Women play a key role in shaping and safeguarding Nepalese culture and society.

Good economic programs and opportunities are needed to help increase the income of women and help reduce poverty. It is the consensus of Nepalese women that a stable government must be established for all-around development and freedom of opportunity, both in rights and duties. Nepalese women are searching for a dynamic new leader.

Kamala Sarup an editor for Mediaforfreedom.com. She reports and writes on issues related to peace, women's issues, terrorism, democracy and development. She is the author of several works on women's issues as well as two story collections.

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