International Women's Day and women's status in Nepal

2018-03-08

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2018-03-08, Stuti Khadka

Women, the counterpart of the human race in their long struggle to enjoy their equal share in the world with the other half called men have continued to struggle for proving themselves worth.

International women’s day that falls on March 08 has a backdrop of struggle,war  and turn of events that led to the this day. The beginning of the 20th century saw the rise in women fighting for their rights and position in society. In 1917, the Russian women in the backdrop of repercussions of the first world war and the resulting scarcity and hunger were protesting for the food and security of their children and family. They were also fighting for their right to vote. The revolution was called “Bread and Peace”. A grand protest rose on the day that fell on 8th of March. United Nations later celebrated 1975 as the International Women’s Year and commemorating the Russian women protest for rights and security designated 8th of March as the International Women’s Day.


The present status of the women in Nepal is somewhere in between. Compared to the condition we had a decade ago, there is much improvement. Back in 1992 the women literacy rate in Nepal was13% compared to the 38% of men. The Nepal Living Standards Survey of 2010-11 revealed that there was a huge gap between the literacy rates of men and women in Nepal. While male literacy was 71.6%, women literacy rate had been only 44.5% at that time. Although a lot of could have happened in 7 years, seeing from the frequent incidents of abuse and exploitation of females, a lot is still to be achieved. The ratio of higher secondary level education of women to men has increased from 0.32 in 1990 to 0.72 in 2013. Similarly, The ratio of literate women aged 15 to 24 years of age with the men of the same age group has risen up to 0.84 in 2013 which is a great achievement. We can also analyze from our observation that  girls students are significantly rising in our society and periphery.


When it comes to the involvement of women in the law making process, its hopeful as well. The constitution of Nepal promulgated in 2015 replacing the interim constitution of 2007 reserves 33% of the seats for women in all of state positions including the legislature. Nepal has higher percentage of women in house of representatives (29%) which is higher than India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. That makes Nepal as the leading nation in South Asia in representation of women.

Stiil facts like the overall literacy rate of Karnali region being about 22% with female being only 6.8% literate and male 37% literate  are to be worked on. Similarly the literacy rate of Mugu is reported to be 48%. In this region, 60% of male are literate while only 28% of the females can read and write.


These are only the figures of being able to read and write whereas the lack of awareness and the tradition of patriarchial thinking is to be considered as well.

This leads us to thinking that if the representation in paliament  and increased ratio of literacy rate are really to settle for. There are still areas to really improve such as the situation of women in rural places like Jumla and Jajarkot. Supersitition and evil traditions such as chhaupadi and girl child marriage still are strongly rooted in the remote areas of the country.

The government has the law in the constitution banning chhaupadi but the hardest part is the implementation. When the implementation becomes the matter, education and awareness become the priority. Still, thousands of women in the rural areas are forced to suffocate and suffer in the dark, damp sheds while they are going through the physiological misery of menstruating.

What is really needed is the assurance of at least secondary level of education to every girl of the country and literacy programs and empowerment for women. When girls and women get educated with the empowerment, they can spread the awareness and stand up for their own.

Hence, the target of the country should be to  ensure at least secondary level education for each girl child and then increase the number of female participation in the executive level and legislative positions of the state.

Men play as equally important role for the gender equality. The change of attitude and efforts should be made from their side to make other men and women aware for the ensurance of women’s education and rights.

It is a day to recall on what progress is made and what still needs to be done for the rights of women. Only when we achieve a state of equitable rights for both men and women, I reckon there would not be the need of any women's day. American author Yuval Noah Harari has written in his brilliant book about evolution of man Sapiens that God created the two genders each assigned to their roles and then the civilization started the battle of who is superior and who is better at what  or who should dominate?

Nonetheless, girl empowerment should initiate from each household. We should have a change in our attitudes that our daughters, sisters and mothers are not to be confined to the kitchen and household premises. We should let their potential come out. The women of Nepal have begun the road to enjoy their full share of rights and everybody including a normal citizen of the country to the people in authority need to work on it.