EDITORIAL: Empowering women

The most urgent task that lies ahead is to make sure that women are treated equally in all spheres of life

It has been more than a hundred years since Nepali women launched organized campaigns seeking rights at various levels.

Yogmaya Neupane is considered to be the first woman from Bhojpur who launched a campaign for women’s rights. She was imprisoned by the then Rana oligarchy for demanding that widows be allowed to get married; sati system, child marriage and polygamy be eliminated.

These were the most revolutionary steps she and her followers took. After being imprisoned for years she, along with her followers, ended their lives voluntarily drowning in the Arun River in Dhankuta in 1998 B.S. Rana rulers met some of her demands after she committed suicide.

But women in Nepal are still fighting for their rights, albeit in different ways. Since the fall of Rana regime, women have got voting rights like men but their representation in politics, administration, policy making, judiciary and other state organs have remained low.

It may be a coincidence that Nepal is proud of having first woman President, first Speaker and first Chief Justice after the new constitution was adopted. Millions of women in rural areas, however, are still lagging far behind their male counterparts in terms of education, health care and job opportunity.

The subsequent movements launched by Nepali people have ensured rights for women about their representation in politics, education, reproductive rights and the State has also taken a policy of “positive discrimination” to empower women, especially women from Dalits and marginalized communities.

The 1990 constitution had made mandatory the political parties to field five percent women candidacies in parliamentary elections. But the new constitution promulgated in September 2015 requires the parties to ensure representation of at least 33 percent in federal parliament; chief minister/deputy chief minister of a Pradesh, mayor/deputy mayor, chief/deputy chief of village council should be represented by man or woman.

This is a major stride in the field of women’s representation in politics, and the State has also kept aside a reservation of 33 percent of the 45 percent seats reserved for various listed groups for women.

While Nepali women are observing the 107th International Women’s Day on March 8 they still have a long way to go ahead to achieve the rights for women. Enhanced representation in politics, policy-making and job opportunity through reservation quota is not enough.

The most urgent task that lies ahead is to make sure that women are treated equally in all spheres of life. Equality, educational opportunity, equal right on parental property, right to reproductive health, dowry system in Tarai and various forms of domestic violence against women are the major women’s issues today.

Positive changes have taken place with regard to guaranteeing rights to women as compared to 100 years ago. The State and the political parties need to work in tandem to implement the constitutional rights.

The government has given importance to girl education and discouraged early marriage through legal instruments along with various incentives. But society cannot move forward if women’s status is not raised. To ensure gender equality, the State must invest more on education.

Bright prospects

The management of garbage has proved to be a colossal task in the capital city. A total of 450 tonnes of garbage is generated every day in the Kathmandu Valley.

The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has made attempts to manage the garbage. It has along with the European Union introduced a pilot Promoting Integrated Sustainable Solid Waste Management Project.

The project has been going on for more than five months after the installation of the waste-to-energy electricity generation plant. This currently recycles 20 tonnes of garbage collected every day. It has succeeded in generating electricity since late October of last year.

Considering that about 63 per cent of the garbage produced is bio-degradable, there are bright prospects for the use of this to produce energy.

Apart from generating electricity the KMC intends to produce daily 96 kg gas, 300 kg fertilizers and 13,500 litres of purified water from the garbage collected at the Teku transfer station. Thus, if the project shows positive results it could be further expanded, and it would prove useful in managing the garbage too.

This could help to a large extent in making optimum use of the waste that is being produced.