By Arpana Adhikari
Kathmandu, Oct. 3: As the annual Dashain holidays approach, people are eagerly preparing to celebrate the festival with their near and dear ones. From children to adults, all are busy making plans for the longest holidays – taking the Dashain as a time to rejuvenate, relax, drink, play cards, fly kites and hang out with friends and family members.
The vacation mood has already gripped the minds of people, as the festival of Dashain is among a very few occasions, in which the people can actually leave their daily work behind and come together to immerse themselves in merry making.
But there is one group of people, who don’t get a break even during the Dashain. In fact, they are supposed to work even harder during the festivals. They are women; mother, daughter, wife and daughter-in-law.
Many women in Nepali society have been claiming that they get trapped in the household chores for long hours during the festivals, preparing varieties of meals, cleaning dishes, doing laundry, decorating household, shopping, making arrangement for Dashain celebration, greeting guests and so on.
Many male members of the family often feel free to hang out with family members and friends, eating, drinking, playing cards and relaxing. There are some men today, who do share household chores and help raise children. But this practice exists only in a small portion of society, said culture expert Prof. Dr. Beena Poudyal.
For Salina Thapa, a banker of Baneshwor, Dashain used to be a rejuvenating and joyous festival.
“Since I got married, my Dashain starts and ends with the household chores. When my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and I have to spend our vacation in household chores, our male members keep eating, drinking, playing cards and hanging out with friends,” she added.
More frustrating is the fact that almost every day they call their friends and other relatives to play cards. They don’t understand that this would burden their female members to arrange food and tea for a jumbo team, she added.
“I am not against such social gatherings. I love meeting people and this is what Dashain is all about. But at least our male members could share some work so that we could get some time to enjoy this vibrant festival together,” said Thapa.
Men increasingly say they want an equal marriage. But even though men today spend much more time helping out at home than previous generation, women still take on the bulk of household duties, said Merina Sapkota, a local of Gulmi.
Sapkota, 27, who is currently staying at Gongabu with her husband, said, “My husband usually helps me in all household chores when we are alone. But surprisingly, he hesitates to help me out when his parents and relatives are around.”
As they celebrate Dashain in Gulmi with their in-laws, there might be piles of work waiting for her, said Sapkota, adding, “Alike every year, me and my mother-in-law will be trapped in kitchen. I love cooking but spending hours in kitchen and household chores is quite frustrating, while other male members of the family keep enjoying their vacation to the fullest.”
“Because my father is an eldest one in the family, we have to arrange lunch for almost 60 people on the day of Bijaya Dashami. My mother, sister-in-law and I have to work since early morning to make all the arrangements,” said Sabina Adhikari of Thankot.
When it comes to Dashain and other festivals, workloads double up for women, who are compelled to work from dawn to dusk, said Adhikari.
The story of Salina, Merina and Sabina are not exceptions. Many women in Nepali society have similar tales to share.
Women have come a long way in terms of progress and equality. Women these days gleefully shoulder the house-hold economic burden jointly with men, said Dr. Poudyal, adding that, however, housework doesn’t seem to be following the same trends as in other fronts in the struggle of equality.
"It is difficult to see how women will ever have the same opportunities in the labour market if equality at home is not achieved. Shared household work will help women focus on their professional life and, in the long term, it will help the country’s prosperity,” said Poudyal.
Gender inequalities in all areas are rooted in social structures but also in attitudes, said Poudyal, adding that children don’t see their fathers doing household tasks as their mothers do their invisible work quietly and without call for recognition.
Parents must educate boys to do household chores right from a young age so that when they grow up and get married, they don’t feel shy or embarrassed to help the wife in the kitchen, she added.
If menfolk would contribute to looking after the home during the festivals, then
women would have managed some time to rejoice the festival, said Rakesh Sharma, a man from Chandol said.
Stating that since childhood he has been sharing household work with his mother, he said, adding, after all, festivals are means of rejoicing with your loved ones, and that cannot be achieved without giving equal time for every single member, added Sharma.
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