Ranjana is not just my best friend, but a woman I have always looked up to. While she has the best grades in our college, she is a fierce writer and dauntless speaker advocating for social equity and justice in every possible platform. I always believed that this girl would someday break all the stereotypes.
But what Ranjana told me recently got me shattered. “Listen Prativa, you know how much contempt I have for the dowry practice. But papa says, nobody agreed to marry without dowry. He has become ill due to the stress that I shall remain unmarried for the rest of my life. I have no option than to surrender. “I was so shocked and numbed to hear this that I could barely speak anything at that moment. But deep inside patriarchy hit me hard. Why should a capable woman like her, in fact, a doctor and moreover a topper, be submissive to a man? What worth does her years' long hard work and sacrifices carry if her family is forced to offer a car or a bungalow just to get her married?
While this is a reality I witnessed, I wonder how terrible the bigger picture is. And all this time, I believed that Nepal had largely strived against gender discrimination and misogyny no longer existed. I was happy about female literacy and job occupancy getting higher and females getting leadership position in the parliament. I took in pride of Miss Anuradha Koirala and Miss Pushpa Basnet becoming CNN heroes and Mira Rai and Gaurika Singh being the athlete icon. I was delighted to see Miss Nepal Anushka Shrestha taking one step at a time to change a village and eventually a country and Radha Poudel as a social fighter for Dignified Menstruation. And then, I was brought up in a family where I and my little brother shared equal love and opportunities whatsoever it be, that I had started thinking that gender bias is in the process of abatement. But then I realised that the status of women might have improved but is in no way up to par.
This is still the same country where culprits of heinous crimes like rape still wander around fearless but working women have to walk in dismay in the streets when the night gets darker. Women continue to be shut in the Chhaupadi huts during their periods, they continue to be burned for dowry and thrown acids on their face if they ever hurt male chauvinism. Despite so many learned women coming to the forefronts, they still continue to be a subject of objectification and sexualisation. An exhausted husband, when he comes home from work can rest on the sofa and sleep but when a woman comes home exhausted from her work, she in no ways can get away from her household chores. The March 8 Movement started as a protest for equal wages irrespective of gender but even after four decades of the movement, the disparity still continues. Females are always paid less than their male counterparts, be it a physical or a technical job.
A woman is always known for her compassion and sacrifice, but besides few days of a festival, her efforts are rarely celebrated. How many times have you thanked your mom for staying alongside you awake for the whole night because you were sick? Never right? I did not thank her too because we took her efforts for granted, as if she was meant to do so. In the context of recent corona outbreak, nurses shaved their heads so that their spread rates could be lowered but except for a few memes, they have barely been appreciated.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recently had his second renal transplantation successfully done. It is a matter of pride for the entire medical fraternity that the Prime Minister entrusted upon our own doctors for such a big surgery. While the media highlights are flooded with the applaud and gratitude to the team of doctors and anesthetists, the team of nurses is barely ever mentioned. Is the role of nursing staffs not equally paramount in his speedy recovery? Why do nurses have to work with minimum stipend and a rather minimal appreciation for their work? Is it because nurses are mostly women? Another side of the story is that in both of his transplants, it was a woman who donated her kidney to him. In fact, the truth is that in most of the transplants in the country, it is a female donating her organ to a male. While women can be so big hearted to donate their crucial organs, why are we so ungenerous even for words of appreciation? This definitely is a matter to ponder about.
The International Women’s Day lets us celebrate the sacrifices and achievements various women have made in our lives. As females constitute more than half our population, the country cannot prosper until women are harnessed with the chains of inequalities and restrictions. Let women not be subordinates to men, let two of them walk with hand in hands. I dream of the day when women reservations will not exist, because it will no longer be required. Happy International Women’s Day 2020!
(The author is a medical doctor)