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FES Nepal and its work on Gender in 2008 & 2009

Prepared by Samira Paudel

The mandate for Nepal office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) for the year 2008 & 2009 was focused on two broad goals: Conflicts in Nepal are being tackled in a comprehensive & peaceful manner and Democratic knowledge & initiatives in Nepal are consolidated. They are also considered as the upper targets. Within these mandates, about 55 seminars and workshops are organized in the fields of media, academia and trade unions in achieving gender integration in all the activities. To be honest, we aim to achieve as much as gender integration as possible. In a way, it is an effort to seek an improvement in the quality and quantity of our works sensitive to the open-minded politics of gender equality. Gender, youth and dalits are our cross-cutting themes. There are exclusively women related projects run by women leadership.

FES Nepal itself and through its partner organization has already begun the journey to civic education claiming to modify the previous examples of youth socialization. This is our conscious effort to help change the Nepalese people into public, the object into a leader subject so that institutions and public life remain equally open to both women and men. Nepal's weak middle class, poor mediating agencies, feudal and patriarchic values and informal economy offer no escape from the brutal condition of underdevelopment and conflict. Creation of a framework of social justice, inclusion and ownership of women, Dalits, Madhesis, Janajatis and workers in the national initiatives and local economy is a must for their stake and participation in the polity. The complex problem of the nation involved us to take up multi-themes such as workers, women, Madhesis, Dalits, indigenous people, ethnic groups, youth, media and civic education, state-building, peace, security and regional cooperation. A combination of various approach for reflection, research and advocacy it has adopted helped it to avert "friction" with national actors and make its products and activities acceptable to all sides. Our product role of women in Constituent Assembly, efforts towards the promotion of women and gender are part of advocacy and educational materials used by all national institutions - the state, civil society and donors. There is also one chapter on women in civic education book FES prepared for 10+2 students and subscribed by schools which stresses on gender equality.

Comparison of Past and Present

The 1990 Constitution of Nepal committed at least 5% women in lower house and 3 seats were reserved for women in the 60 member upper house. The local bodies reserved 20% seats for women. The interim constitution aims for 33% representation of woman in all spheres. All major political parties have reserved 33% seats for women as a result we have 33% women CA members to write a new Constitution. We have around 200 women members among 601 CA members at present. The constitution of Nepal and Nepalese commitments to various human rights instruments predict the creation of open and democratic society based on freedom and social justice. These documents form a part of our political consciousness, which focuses more on the freedom of Nepalese women from the privatized life and opportunity to participate in pubic sphere. It refers to the inclusion of women, and the implementation of basic human rights by means of removing all barriers to their self-fulfillment. A shift from women's promotion to gender studies has now become a central concern in redefining gender and sex in various discussions and interactions which forecasts women's fulfillment.

Gender has been constructed differently in various historical periods. It virtually underwent social revolutions with the change in human awareness and the nature of power and political economy. The images of men and women in the mass media, schools and universities, carried during different periods of history, clear the fact that ideas and ideologies have also played key roles in socialization, cultural formation and voice and visibility. Any discussion on gender thus invites a global and national sense of responsibility towards addressing the complaints derived from exclusion, inequality and injustice. To make Nepalese politics more and more democratic, it requires the involvement of larger groups of people, including women and the other oppressed groups in public life for the realization of their constitutional and human rights and aspiration for emancipation. Nepalese women are, therefore, looking for a more conscious life, a life that puts the mind open to historical imagination and experience of their present condition, equal opportunity and equal outcome. The social movements of women in Nepal and their supporters, therefore, aim to seek transformation in structure and political culture. FES is intervening positively in policy debate and advocacy and encouraging partner organization to increase women's participation in their organizational structure.

Analyzing the activities

In the year 2008, our partners were non-government organizations, government think tank, university institutions, and trade unions. Since we are dealing with the policy makers it is very tough to maintain the gender balance due to lack of resources in every aspect. Especially on security, foreign policy, civil-military we have encouraged women to participate. In soft themes such as civic education and trade union we have maintained a balance in gender participation. In the year 2008, FES provided support to women communicators group on enhancing women's role in mediation, local conflict resolution and peace. FES every year supports Women for Human Rights (WHR) to work on rehabilitation of conflict-victim women, provide the organization network and empower them in political, social and economic participation. Another is Modern Multiple Girls Campus where our support is extended in organizing seminar on topical themes including women's role in peace building, health education, constitution making and leadership development.

Empowerment as an ultimate goal

How is gender equality achieved? One is redefining the concept of power in the real context, its use and beneficiaries especially women. All knowledge is rooted in power relations of inequality, including that knowledge, which shapes social life, institutionalizes patriarchy and legitimizes the cultural formation. The other is mutual understanding of roles by both male and female members of society. How power springs up and whom does it belong to depends very much on how its balance is changed for the benefits of both men and women. Because here power is regarded as a mean to the empowerment of male and female. And empowerment is related to various measures of capacity building to participate effectively in every aspect of life. In other words, capacity building means providing essential resources and power for development to those who need them the most. Gender clearly comes into the agenda of this discourse.

In our context, FES's policy to integrate the concept of gender in most of its activities, especially media, trade unions and democracy and development projects is a response to our national and global imperative. The foundation behind it is to make the future of women more and more open and predictable than letting the "backwardness of past determine their future". Without this, neither democracy can be achieved nor peace can be just and sustainable, not even real, durable and sustainable social contract is negotiated for a sustainable future.


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