Women can bring about transformative change in society if they are given opportunities to initiate their own enterprises
Women continue to lag behind men when it comes to starting their own enterprises or businesses. There are several factors that prevent Nepali women from starting their own enterprises. Illiteracy, lack of financial support from the family, limited access to financial institutions, stereotypical role assigned to women and lack of confidence due to absence of skills in particular areas are the major hindrances for women to initiate their own business. It is not that women have not engaged in businesses on their own in Nepal, but their number is very low. Those who have created their space in the business world are mostly from affluent families or from the business community. The government’s policies to encourage women in independent enterprises are also inconsistent. In 2015, the government came up with a policy to encourage women to start Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with a provision of financial support of a half-a-million rupees at a lower interest rate if they come up with viable business plans. But it was discontinued afterwards. This year’s fiscal budget does not talk about any such plan.
A three-day International Women Entrepreneurs’ Summit, which concluded in the Capital on Wednesday, laid emphasis on evidence-based policy formulation and developing congenial environment to motivate women to embrace entrepreneurship. The summit has noted that women entrepreneurs in the SAARC region face common problems. Creating conducive policy environment, enhancing the capacity and skills, access to credit and support from family members and community are critical for women to start and upscale their businesses. The summit also called on women to organise themselves to lead other women and create opportunities for them.
Women can bring about transformative change in society if they are given opportunities to initiate their own enterprises. But they need family support to start any kind of business. Women can be economically independent; they can give their children better education and healthcare, and can also develop leadership skills in society if they are supported by the government through various policy interventions such as collateral free loans on group basis at lower interest rates and easy access of market to their products. The government policy must support women who come up with innovative ideas, creating more job opportunities in rural and urban areas. SMEs and cottage industries are the most potential areas where women can excel. Studies in South East Asia have shown women have become successful in areas where they have worked collectively. Currently, around 20,000 women are engaged in SMEs and around 100,000 in the cottage industry, according to Pramila Rijal, president of South Asian Women Development Forum. This is an encouraging development. But the government needs to act proactively to attract more women in enterprising sectors that can create more job opportunities within the country. Economic empowerment of women is a must to ensure gender equality and poverty eradication, which are central to the realisation of inclusive and sustainable development.
Nepal Police’s role has come into question of late, especially when it comes to cases of rape and violence against women (VAW). In a recent case, Nepal Police has botched its investigation into rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Kanchanrpur 40 days ago. According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in many cases police have failed to carry out duty in a prompt and effective way. A recent monitoring by the NHRC found that security personnel were involved in reconciling the victims with perpetrators in some cases, which is against the law.
In this context, NHRC’s plan to launch a drive, in association with Nepal Police, against rape and VAW is praiseworthy. The campaign named “Accountability of Nepal Police in Reduction of Violence Against Women and Protection of Human Rights” was much needed. While police’s role is enforcing law, there is also a need to make it accountable. Not only some botched investigations, some of the police actions have in recent past met with fierce criticism from several quarters. A culture of accountability in laws enforcement helps build trust between the police and community, which ultimately sets the ground for creating a just society.
A version of this article appears in print on September 07, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.