Thursday, 6 May, 2021

Democracy Empowers Women


Renuka Dhakal


Women’s participation in crucial decision-making bodies is the key to their empowerment. Nepali women have made strides in different sectors of life over the years, elevating their status in society. Still, they are forced to compromise with their freedom in one or another form in the name of religion, culture and tradition due mainly to the entrenched patriarchal mindset and existing social norms. Women have also become the target of heinous crimes - ranging from domestic violence to rape, acid attack and more. Though many Nepali women are educated, efficient and aware of their rights and status, they are unable to move forward on par with their male counterparts as the existing structural obstacles stop them from realising their full potential.

Constitutional provisions
With the establishment of democracy in 2007 BS, women started to show their presence in political, social and academic spheres. As the country saw the light of democracy for the first time, it brought greater awareness of the rights and duties of people. The 1990 constitution had guaranteed fundamental rights to all citizens without discrimination based on ethnicity, caste, religion or gender. The charter was important to promote women empowerment. The subsequent political changes and national charters further expanded the women’s rights and powers. In 2006, the reinstated interim parliament had passed a resolution for women’s 33 per cent representation in every state organ.
The 2015 constitution has ensured 31 fundamental rights of citizens. It has contained many progressive provisions to enhance women participation in politics and decision-making platforms. It has stressed ending all forms of discrimination and oppression created by the feudalistic, autocratic, centralised, unitary system of government. It has further stated that the nation and all governments must create an egalitarian society by strictly adhering to the inclusive and participatory principle in order to ensure economic equality, prosperity and social justice by eliminating discrimination based on class, caste, region, language, religion and gender.
At one point, women had become heads of the judiciary, legislature and office of president. This attests to the fact that women can perform their task with excellence and can lead the nation as ably as men can. In the 21st century, women are talented, active, dynamic and capable of accomplishing any task and able to lead the decision-making bodies. Over time, society is changing radically. We have come to an age where people can connect in a fraction of seconds through technology, but still, patriarchal beliefs pose challenges to the emancipation and advancement of women although the constitution has provided space for them to their overall empowerment.
The women participation in politics is increasing but the major political parties such as the ruling Nepal Communist Party and opposition Nepali Congress have failed to abide by the inclusive provision related to women’s representation in their organisational structures. Their participation in the crucial party’s committees is not impressive. Nonetheless, following the three-tier polls of 2017-18, women have occupied around 41.8 per cent of political positions across the country largely owing to the favourable electoral provisions. The local elections catapulted more than 40,000 women to the leadership rung at the local bodies, which is a milestone in the field of women empowerment.
Education is the foundation of development and plays a pivotal role in the advancement and development of the nation. Women education is a significant part of the national education campaign for realising good governance and prosperity. According to UNESCO, Nepal has an adult literacy rate of 67.91 per cent, while the male literacy rate is 78.59 per cent and female’s literacy rate 59.72 per cent. Judging by these facts, there is not much difference between the literacy rate of women and men. However, women's representation in top positions is quite low.
Democracy creates a level playing field for both men and women so it greatly helps achieve the goal of gender equality. The constitution has spelt out the provisions ensuring women’s participation in decision-making bodies. When women participate in social, political, economic and cultural processes, it takes no time in building a fair and equal society.

Economic empowerment
For the economic empowerment of women, they have been provided training to be tailors, beauticians, cooks and handicraft makers. Economic empowerment of women is essential to achieve the nation’s full social and economic potential. Many Nepali women are involved in the informal sector related to agriculture, domestic work, manual labour and childcare. However, they should not confine themselves only to these activities.
In today's age of globalisation, all-out development of women is essential. The behavioural discrimination and condescending attitude towards women must come to an end. Even though women are equally educated and capable compared to their male counterparts, the average woman's income for the same job is lower than that of men. Women have to face the stereotypes from an early age, which emphasises their physical appearance or ability to play traditional roles such as caregivers and housewives. They need to push their frontiers to ensure their equal rights in society.

(Dhakal is a TRN journalist)