Kathmandu: For Nepali women, a change in government means little in terms of their participation in governance.
Consecutive governments in Nepal leave little hope for women leaders who are hoping for better representation of women in the cabinet. The fifth term of Sher Bahadur Deuba as the prime minister, many predict, will be no exception.
When it comes to the country’s executive, even if women are included, they have been largely excluded from powerful ministries such as finance, defense, and home. It is inevitable then that the whole process of portfolio allocation should also be reformed.
The KP Oli government had less than the required percentage–33 percent–of women representatives in the cabinet as ministers. The cabinet was reshuffled a few times but none of the reshuffles could ensure the desired scale of women’s participation.
Women’s representation in Oli’s cabinet at a glance
(The numbers also include state ministers)
What do women leaders expect?
The exclusion of women in Nepal’s cabinet is a harsh truth. “One of the major reasons for this exclusion is the selection process, which sees a hegemony of men,” says Uma Regmi, a leader of Nepal Congress. Women have been deprived of a fair selection process because the concepts of traditional gender roles remain rooted in the minds of men in the cabinet, Regmi further adds.
According to article 76 (9) of the Constitution, cabinet formation should follow the principle of inclusiveness, but it is not followed to its core.
“It should be mandatory to include 33 % women in cabinet,” says Amrita Thapa Magar from the CPN (Maoist Centre). “The traditional notions of gender roles have influenced all sectors of our society. Many people still think women should only carry out household work.”
Bimala B.K., an MP from CPN UML, also thinks that the 33 percent inclusion criteria should be made mandatory, an opinion with which both Magar and Regmi also agree.
“Though the fight for more representatives is ongoing, it is not yet enough to make the cabinet more inclusive,” Regmi adds. To ensure more representation of women in the cabinet, all three women leaders have been keeping moral pressure in the government and submitting memorandums for the inclusion of more women as the ministers.
Regmi believes that there are many qualified women in politics who deserve to be ministers. But just holding a position is not enough, she notes. “The person must be willing to work to ensure the necessary inclusion of women in the parliament and government,” Regmi said. “Only then will we get a step closer towards the proper inclusion of women in the halls of power.”