Gender-bender Jhakri roots for woman power

Kathmandu, October 4:

Ram Kumari Jhakri, who made history by getting elected as the first female president of the ANNFSU, had entered into politics when she was studying in Grade VI in a village in Gulmi. Born as the sixth child of the family with seven kids, Jhakri was born to a peasant’s family. Her father Ratna Bahadur had worked in India to eke out a living.

Jhakri chose not disclose her private life when asked about her boyfriend. “People had stopped making proposals for marriage 10 years ago,” she said. After completing school education from Prithvi Secondary School of Myal Pokhari VDC of Gulmi, Jhakri entered the Valley to pursue nursing education. But fate had something else for her and she joined Padma Kanya Multiple College from where she began her mainstream political journey.

Jhakri, who leads one of the nation’s largest unions of students, said the age-old concepts are gradually changing and now Nepalis have accepted that women can do anything that a man can do. “I have proved it,” she says.

A known face at almost every street protest and students movements Jhakri has played significant role in the last people’s movement. No standing committee leaders were spotted at the venue fixed for agitation. Most of the senior leaders had not believed that Nepal would become a republic so fast. “When I look back to those days of movement I remember the day when my head was filled with blood at Ratna Park,” she said. On the next day the debate for the significance of monarchy has begun.

Tribhuvan University, where she is studying masters’ degree in sociology and anthropology, is on the verge of collapse since it has not adopted the policy of merit. “If the university continues to go with the existing policy of sharing the posts among the political parties, it will take no time to collapse,” she said.

“ANNFSU never became a puppet of any government or the party politics. It has played the role of creating pressure and creating awareness among people,” she claims.

The process of socialisation in Nepal is wrong, she says, adding that the education is based on superstition rather than on truth. She says the education system always supported status quo.

She says reports of students turning to vandalism time and again were the results of the ‘wrong practice of socialisation’. “Instead of respecting the skills of candidates, TU positions are being shared among the political parties,” she regrets.

After getting elected to the president of ANNFSU, Jhakri said free and quality education for all and free education up to secondary level would be her major agenda. “I would stand for research-based education that will help the students to take up a profession of their choice,” she said.

She said the ANNFSU was in favour of separate universities in all federal states and subject-wise universities at the central level, and open universities. She slammed the government, of which UML is also a part,

for levying five per cent education tax on educational institutions, saying that it will further increase the commercialisation of education.

She has come up with 25-point programme following the conclusion of the 19th national conference of ANNFSU in Pokhara. “For the first time in the history of ANNFSU, we have the most inclusive central body with 33 per cent women elected in the 121-member body.”

Jhakri sounded supportive to the latest crackdown on late night entertainment business. “Earning through nude dance is not a good thing and that must be stopped,” she said. But she said the government should also think of providing alternative employment to those employed in the business. However, she sounded somewhat supportive of the beauty pageants. Despite being always against commodification of sex, beauty, womb and religion, she said stopping the pageant was not going to liberate any woman.

Being the first woman president of ANNFSU, she is aware of the problems she might face. But she says she is confident of playing her role responsibly. “Gone are the days of male domination,” she said.

She said she will prove her capabilities during her two-year term. “My ultimate aim is to create an equitable and prosperous society,” she said. But she is not free from the stigma. For a woman, she knows, it’s not easy as it would be with a male.

On lifestyle, she says, “I live jointly with my family members and relatives. I do not have to contribute to lodging and food costs. But I spend Rs 2,000 on mobile phone and Rs 3,000 as pocket money.”

Politics is a dirty game, many would say. She says she will try to convince the students that it (politics) is not a bad game but a choice to give life to the nation. She also said she would revamp her office and restructure the organisation in line with the federal structure of the country.