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For Gender Activists’ Attention

pkharel1A thought-provoking letter by Pooja K.C., carried in the Nepal Samacharpatra daily recently, caught my eyes and attention, with its main theme amply sounded by the heading “violence against women by women”. It is a taboo to pick up this angle especially by women but nevertheless I find it an interesting side to gender issues and activity in Nepal on the occasion of the International Women’s Day today.
For more than a decade, I have tried in vain persuading at least half a dozen women to write comprehensive books on some of the key aspects of gender issues in Nepal, with special reference to some of the case studies and reports that are found most relevant to this country. The convincing part did not appear difficult but all five could not be persuaded to actually unsheath their pens and gent down to the brasstacks of writing such a book.
In fact, they do not bother to even write regular newspaper articles. Meanwhile, they do circulate as gender activists and, in the process, have made a regular profession out of the campaign. They believe more in oral communication than actually penning them for larger audiences and deeper posterity.
‘UNAPPEALING’: Gender activists do little or nothing to accord higher priority to promoting educated women from outside Kathmandu Valley for gender-related programmes abroad. But this does not seem to appeal gender “leaders”, based in Kathmandu Valley. The numerous foreign missions and INGOs tend to promote those who they hobnob with frequently than perhaps better educated ones living in the provinces with little or no opportunities for actively engaging in organised programmes.
Gender activists should leave stone unturned to draw the best available experts on the issues they champion for, even if this means the latter are from outside the Kathmandu Valley or belong to other political parties. Related programmes should invite enough women for the seats on the dais instead of filling most of the seats with men.
Daring to bare the names of individuals and institutions that prove stumbling blocks in taking initiatives would be welcomed. Activists need to work with the energy and thoroughness they merit, given the lofty manner government officials and party leaders offer lofty obeisance to gender issues in public but fail miserably when tranmslating the same into concrete action incprivate.
There is no denying that women in general are a suppressed lot, both by females and especially by males. Most women in Nepal do most of the household chores and contribute significantly by way of work in the farms. But in their zeal for their perception of gender equality, women activists tend to overlook the male burden of mandatorily having to play the role of bread earner.
In a country where arranged marriage is the general rule, parents from the girl’s side have as their first query the curiosity as to what work the boy under their attention does. The next query is about whether he has a house and his other property details. How many members are there in his family? House husband is a rarity in most countries and societies. So is the case in Nepal. In societies with a high degree of unemployment/underemployment, regular salary earning women are very few. Their enormous contrubutions in completing the daunting domestic chores are, however, breathtaking.
When will the publicity departments of political parties be headed by women? Many women journalists are attached to one party or the other. Whenever there are vacancies in National Women’s Commission, Press Council Nepal and the like, they can be seen courting political leaders of their parties to press for nomination.
DAUNTING TASK: The Geneva-based World Economic Forum’s reports that the estimated time needed to ensure full equality in the workplace is 170 years. This means, it will perhaps take a longer time for gender equality in this country to be achieved. Inclusion of the most talented and deverving women for any programme and initiative will deliver the desired result at a fater pace than we have been recording so far.
Less than five per cent of INGO money actually reaches the target group. This is the conclusion by various cfedible sureveys undertaken in developing countries over the past four decades. In Nepal, too, the situation might be so or even worse. Mere tag of an NGO does not result in results of positive substance. Most Nepalis are sceptical about the functioning of NGOs and their funding agencies, which is indicative of the low credibility these agencies have in the public perception.
Equality is an essential element in a democracy. Gender equality naturally deserves special attention and efforts from all, including politival parties and elected representatives. It is high time that the state undertook a serious study of the prevailing situation and what are the factors that cripple impressive progress on this score.To reiterate, meanwhile, those committed to gender equality better focus on the most talented and competent among women for public positions, acadenmic fellowships and job opportunities.

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