Kathmandu: In a society like Nepal where patriarchy has been the norm for decades, people are still not used to seeing women in leadership positions.
Nepal’s constitution promulgated in 2015 mandated that during the elections, the parties should field at least 40.4 percent women of all nominees. Moreover, between mayor and deputy mayor, parties had to field at least one woman candidate.
During the local level elections of 2017, women comprised 94 percent of deputy mayor positions while only 2 percent of total mayors were women.
But despite the fact that 94 percent of deputy mayors are women, it has not guaranteed them of unbiased judgement from people, along with their mayor, who in majority are men, said the women deputy mayors Nepal Live Today talked with.
It is very important to understand that having women representatives is important in enhancing gender representation in governance. But that is only the first step.
Even with all these women in leadership positions, they are still not looked up to with respect, as compared to fellow men in their position, they say, echoing that this impartial behavior can be a huge hurdle when it comes to carrying out their administrative duties.
“The mayor in my municipality barely listens to my ideas,” says Kalpana Rai, deputy mayor of Solududhkunda Municipality in Solukhumbu district, “so much so that he is not happy at all when I am a part of any meetings, events, or decision-making process.”
Rai adds that her mayor wants to keep control of her work. “For instance, he wants me to prioritize his people while doing my work, which completely shows he wants to be in control,” she says.
‘Being a woman takes more effort in comparison to men, when it comes to convincing the society that they can work just as hard and as good as a fellow man’
So is the case with Prem Kumari Sunar, deputy mayor of Musikot Municipality, Rukum Paschim district. She says that it takes a lot of convincing and effort to make sure her ideas from the municipality are considered by the mayor.
Rai says that she does not only face this discrimination at the hands of the mayor, but also from the locals. They are usually not willing to reach her out with a problem, simply because they believe that her being a woman makes her incompetent.
Ram Devi Tamang, deputy mayor of Namobuddha Municipality, in Kavrepalanchok, also believes that people are more prone to discriminating and ill-speaking when it comes to a woman in leadership. She says that this does not just happen to deputy mayors but any female who is in leadership. “For example, president Bidya Devi Bhandari has gotten way more criticized, personally and professionally, than her male colleagues,” she says.
She further adds that being a woman takes more effort in comparison to men, when it comes to convincing society that they can work just as hard and as good as a fellow man in that very position.
Meanwhile, it is true and quite visible that women in politics or leadership have constantly been criticized, up to a personal level. Take, for instance, the sexist remark of Kishor Shrestha towards Komal Oli.
For this to change, just handing out positions to a woman is not enough. Some work must be done in order to change the patriarchal mindset of people of the country, Tamang says.
To do so, not just education but moral awareness should be spread among people about equality, say Tamang and Rai.
Moreover, Tamang believes that it is also necessary for women to be more assertive about their work and position. Women who reach positions of power must also work on making the situation better for other women who might be aspiring to reach that position someday, says Tamang. “Just holding a position is not enough,” Tamang adds. “One must attempt to bring change to the continuous pattern of discrimination towards women. One must challenge the status quo.”
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