While the political leaders are engaged in infighting to acquire seats for the upcoming elections, numerous examples of Nepali women leadership at home, office, nation and the world were showcased by Nari, a woman magazine, via their one-day conference entitled Nirvik Nari, meaning fearless women, in Kathmandu the other day. Many women leaders, who have proven their leadership qualities as Deputy Mayors and Vice Chairpersons during their current terms, are at present struggling to get party tickets to contest for Mayors and Chairpersons’ seats. The general lack of networking with the more powerful male leaders, the inability to spend large amounts of cash during elections, and the prevalent mindset that women cannot perform are the major hindrances to women candidates’ easy access to party tickets even if they are the best candidates.
Whether strategically or not, Nirvik Nari was organised at such a time that it has been able to show that there should be no reasons for anyone to say that women cannot perform. There were a number of elder generation women speakers who have become excellent examples of supporting the overall progress in the country’s democratic struggle both as party cadres and pillars at home to support the male leaders and their children. An equal number of such women have been involved in setting up strong and quality educational institutions from where now young generation is getting quality education inside the country itself. The combination of experiences from homemaker women of substance and professional leaders in medicine, business and technology together with judiciary and politics including both elite and rural women shows that Nepal now has ample number of women in all wakes of life who can lead their families, communities, nation and the world, too.
Inspiring women The sharing of experiences of young Nepali women like Anchal Kunwar, Managing Director of Daraj Nepal, who had made it big in the USA with Amazon but has decided to come back to Nepal and work here; Shailaja Acharya who commenced her business in Nepal when she was 20 and now owns a number of companies and manages it as Managing Director of ICE Group speaks volumes of how Nepali women have made their mark at both national and international levels and have contributed to the economic and educational growth. Kamala Thapa, on the other hand, comes from Butwal and has made a mark as agency manager with Citizen Life Insurance. She proudly shared that due to early marriage and economic conditions of her home, she had to shelve her study. However no matter how much jeering she got, she completed grades 10, 11 and 12 in her early 40s and is now inspiring women to study no matter how late it is. She is actually preparing women to work in the insurance sector but for that she is also initiating a process for them to complete till grade 12.
Life experiences and achievements of women like Judge Sapana Malla Pradhan; Dr Rita Gurung, CEO of Tilganga Eye Hospital; Shristi KC of Blind Rockes and Professor Durga Rizal of Apex College, among others, are examples that can be given to people who says there are no women that we can field. These are just some women. There are thousands all over the country.
Starting from the First Lady Dr Arzu Rana Deuba to Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepali woman mountaineer, there were 25 speakers at Nirvik Nari out of them only three were men. All these speakers showed that sex of a person is not an obstacle in achieving any goal human sets. It’s the gender perspective that the society, culture, tradition, religion and politics that discriminates people to achieve what they can. The conference lacked in one aspect as they missed the opportunity to get a transgender speaker as Nepal has recognised them as equal citizens of the country and there are several individuals from their community and LGBTQI community who have been raising voices for their respect and identity in the society.
Equal opportunity With the long history of Nepal’s struggle for democracy and the establishment of a federal democratic republic, there have been several changes in the constitution, laws and systems of the country. There have been several changes in the faces of leaders in several sectors including the stock market, finance, industry, science and technology. The time has now come to recognise this and accept it as a fact so the society moves ahead where there does not need to be quotas for female and disadvantaged groups. It should be an automatic process where all citizens of Nepal get equal opportunity to excel in any sector they have the capability of engaging their energy. Obstructing citizens from excelling in their field is actually obstructing the country from progressing.
South Asia as a region has similar social, cultural, religious and traditional practices which prevent their citizens in engaging equally in the progress of their nation by utilising their full potential without discrimination. In all South Asian countries, women and people from disadvantaged communities have showed that they are capable of being leaders in all areas. However, the political scenario is still dominant by people who exercise power in the basis of their muscles and mafia where women, transgender and people from minority communities fall behind. This is why Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan are now immersed in never ending political instability while the people are struggling to march ahead by stabilising their livelihoods. Even their powerful neighbour India cannot boast of a stable development for all her citizens.
Until the time comes where automatically all citizens of a country can participate in whichever sector they can excel in specific movements, programmes like Nirvik Nari needs to be continued.
(Namrata Sharma is a journalist and women rights advocate. email@example.comTwitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)