By SANGEETA RIJAL
Published November 25th 2006 in ekantipur.com
KATHMANDU, Nov 25 - Several women political leaders encircled the Nepali Congress (Democratic) office on June 22 under their phasewise pressure campaign to make the government implement a House of Representatives resolution on 33 per cent women's participation. Strangely, none of the 10 parliamentary committees formed that very day had any woman member.
Bharat Mahon Adhikari, standing committee member of CPN-UML, who was chairperson of the Parliamentary Hearings Special Committee formed that day, announced his resignation and remarked, "There was not a single woman despite the House resolution. So my morals did not allow me to occupy the post."
After the House resolution on women's 33 per cent participation at all levels was passed, several committees and commissions were formed. The majority of them either don't have women's representation or failed to have the percentage of women stipulated in the resolution passed by the House on May 30. Six months later, there is still lack of commitment to ensuring 33 per cent women's participation despite the fact that they deserve nothing less than proportional representation. Neither does the government have a strategy to make it work nor do the political parties have any commitment to it.
"Major reason behind this is the lack of women in leading positions within the party structure," said Bidhya Bhandari, central committee member of CPN-UML and chairperson of All Nepal Women's Association.
She said that the political party leaders also do not trust women's leadership. Due to male domination, males are prioritized when it comes to positions of power. "They think only they can take the right decisions," she added.
It is also because of internal reasons like power balance as well as the likes and dislikes of individuals within the party structure, she added. The House resolution is to be implemented from the grassroots, but there is still lack of commitment among the leaders and their mentality remains unchanged.
Sushil Ghimire, spokesperson of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW), said that there is no law yet to implement the provision.
However, Minister Urmila Aryal expressed helplessness saying that her ministry can't draft law. "Our ministry alone can't do anything, other than lobbying and advocacy, which we are doing," she said. There should be initiatives from all sectors like education, civil service, police and army, she added.
The country marks the 16th International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women with the theme: Advance Human Rights; End Violence Against Women.
"But the rights of Nepali women, be they at the grassroots level or in decision-making positions, are denied on one or another pretext," said Kamala Pant, member of parliament. "There is still the hangover that women can't perform."
This is not to say that things aren't improving. The House passing the resolution unanimously is the biggest indication that the mindset of the politicians is changing gradually. The problem is that they do not feel implementation of the resolution is mandatory. Therefore, there should be a constitutional provision for the 33 per cent approach, Pant argued.
Political parties too have a great role in implementing the resolution by giving 33 per cent of seats in the Constituent Assembly to women. "But we women have to exert a lot of pressure for progressive change," she added.