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Efforts at promotion of women

By Dr. Shreedhar Gautam

Women should continue to write about what drives them most furiously. Today’s readers surely seek to know not just the fact that women are fighting, but they can win the battle too. Meena Acharya’s book “Efforts at Promotion of women in Nepal” is an attempt to show that women are equally capable of taking their case vigorously .The author argues that democracy cannot be sustainable if women are discriminated against in the development process. Women can participate in public affairs only when the mass realise their potential and vital role, says Acharya.

Our constitution and political parties have acknowledged the need of integrating women in socio-political forces. However, many women are not aware of their role and potential to utilise the growing awareness of gender equality. Unless the women, half of the nation’s total population, exercise their power in development and decision-making mechanism, democracy cannot be a viable system, says the writer. She has shown the prevailing status of women in Nepal and the ways to make them powerful and responsible. The book will certainly help everyone interested in the study of Nepali women’s improving status and their growing participation. The introductory part sheds light on how since 1975, women have been declared as an issue in development. The author opines that the conceptual change about women has brought a turning point in the history of nation as a whole.

For the first time, women are taken seriously as an equal partner in development process, in all fields, including education and health. Women in Development (WID) concept received a boost with the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) that proposed a 12-point programme, says the writer. The book shows how the Beijing Platform encouraged Nepali women to attack and expose the multi dimensional nature of women’s subordinations. The Second Chapter “Understanding the Gender Concepts, A Framework for Analysis,” reveals how gender relations are the result of socially constructed unequal power relations and are context specific. It rightly says it is the culture, which establishes the ideology of male supremacy and female subordination.

The author argues that unequal gender relations must recede along with all other inequalities. She urges for all-round efforts to liberate women from the oppressing gender relation that exists in Nepali society. Women cannot feel equal unless the issue of power relation is settled by brining change in all structures of power, says Acharya. She states that Gender Approach for Development (GAD) means all kinds of oppression and inequalities must be addressed together. The writer further says that women’s needs and problems cannot be addressed properly only through an individual programmeme, and so emphasizes the need of mainstreaming approach.

The third chapter titled “Development Plans and Policies” focuses on the government policies that have moved along with the international thinking. The author particularly makes a point how the Ninth Plan (1997-2002) adopted mainstreaming, eliminating gender inequality, and empowerment of women. The chapter shows that the Tenth Plan (2002-2007) continues giving emphasis on mainstreaming, equality, and empowerment while trying to address the major problems related to internalization of these strategies in sector policies and programmemes. It has given specific examples to prove why the Ministry of Local Development (MID) is the most gender sensitive ministry in terms of its policies and programmes. It throws light also on the role of NGO/INGO and the Trade Unions that contribute in raising women’s status. Similarly, it dwells upon the role of media and research institution, which can contribute to generating public awareness regarding gender equality. The writer thinks that research institutions should give up the conventional thinking of economic development and consider women as an integral part of development process.

The fourth chapter titled “Changing gender Status: Achievement and challenges” shows considerable improvement in government and nongovernmental attempts to enhance the dignity of women. It shows significant achievement in health and education sectors in terms of the benefits enjoyed by women. It further describes women’s participation in formally defined labour force during1981-2001. The write up shows how the major export industries, such as carpet, garment and woollen goods, have opened new avenues of formal employment for women. However, in the political sector, the author regrets that political parties have not been able to put up more than the required mandatory five percent female candidates. She complains that most of the constituencies allocated to women candidate have often been those, which are considered too difficult to win for the concerned parties. The writer, however, feels that female representation in government administration is improving. She is happy that a large number of underprivileged class women are taking part in local governments.

The author sums up her thesis with the conviction that most of the problems encountered in the course of women’s advancement are related to patriarchal ideology and structure. She feels the government’s relatively positive and pro-women policies are not producing the desired efforts due to the inadequate gender sensitivity of the implementing machinery. She believes patriarchal ideas and behaviour can be minimized only with multi-dimensional and concerted efforts, after re-examining our value system.

Overall, it is a well-written book with considerable emphasis on the ways of bridging the gap between male and female in all occupations. The book, though short in volume, is rich and analytical. This book is certainly a valuable addition to the growing literature related to women’s concerns and issues. Though the book leaves out many vital question related to women’s emancipation from the clutches of patriarchal set-up, it has provided a glimpse of the efforts initiated to make the women more and more alert about their rights and responsibilities. It gives a strong message that women have to do more to raise their status. The foreword by a noted scholar Dev Raj Dahal has enriched the quality of the book. Dahal rightly initiates the discourse that without equal rights to both men and women democracy cannot flourish.

Source: The Kathmandu Post (9 May 2004)

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