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Bridging The Gender Gap

Efforts at Promotion of Women in Nepal

Writer: Dr. Meena Acharya
Published Date: December 2003
Published by: Tanka Prasad Acharya Memorial Foundation and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Price: Not mentioned, Pages: 64

ISBN No: 99933-899-4-3


With the breakdown of matriarchal society centuries ago, patriarchal ideology and culture have been dominating all spheres of human life. The great thinker Aristotle had formed the idea that 'the female is by virtue of a certain lack of qualities.' Till the 18th century, men regarded their sperm as the active seeds which give form to the waiting ovum which lacks identity till it receives the male's impress. But in the 20th century, many champions advocating for women freedom took challenged the patriarchal ideology. Although the women folks established themselves at par with their male counterparts at various levels of life, there are still oppressive cultures and social values in various forms impeding their overall development.

Nepalese women have been able to make their voice heard since 1950s with the country witnessing political and social changes. They have been calling for equality through different forums ranging from academic to politics and NGOs, INGOs to pressure groups.

Against this backdrop, noted economist and women author Dr. Meena Acharya has brought out 'Efforts at promotion of Women in Nepal' that scrutinizes how gender biases have been rooted in the social, economic and cultural fabric of the society. The book has attempted to minutely observe the development initiatives carried out from the government and private levels in Nepal, from gender perspective.

Divided into five parts, the first section dwells on the different periods in history when the issues of women received due attention in the development process. In the beginning, the well-being of women were considered necessary because they were mothers and companions to men but this notion gradually changed since 1975 when they were considered as burning development issue and their direct role in production started to be recognised.
Dr. Acharya writes: "Although women started to be seen as producers, they were still viewed as a group left behind by the capitalistic production system, somehow outside the system. It was assumed that giving a push to women while keeping the patriarchal structures and ideology intact will change their status."

The notions like women in Development (WID), and Women and Development (WAD) came into vogue highlighting their role in development. The Beijing Platform for Action - 1995 reviewed the earlier achievements of women and proposed a 12-point agenda stressing on multi-dimensional approach for their empowerment.

According to the author, in Nepal, the move to WID, WAD and Gender approach to development (GAD) has not been uniform in the all sectors and the various institutions of the civil society.

In 'Understanding the Gender Concepts: A Framework for Analysis', she differentiates between women and females. "While women as physical beings are universally the same with the exclusive responsibility of giving continuity to their progeny, as cultural beings 'females' are context-specific, changing with time and context.''

This section talks about various forms of oppressive gender relations and stresses on adopting gender approach in development to increase women's access to political and economic power by raising awareness, increasing their participation and employment opportunities.

In 'Development plans and policies (1980/81-2002/3) in Nepal' she has referred to the past efforts that were geared towards addressing the issue of gender disparity. The Sixth Five-Year plan, for the first time, included women in the development efforts. But the Ninth and Tenth plan are vocal to end gender disparity. A separate ministry for women was formed and a number of programmes were introduced to bring women to the mainstream.

The book also highlights the successful stories of women empowerment. In "Changing Gender Status - Achievement and Challenges,'' the author has said that in the last two decades, women have scored significant achievements in health, education, politics and the economic sectors.

"Despite the socio-economic constraints, many women representatives have effectively participated in local governments' affairs and have been able to influence the decision-making process,'' she notes.

One of the key points, the author often repeats is the lack of gender sensitivity among the people who have been taking the onus of implementing the programmes and policies aimed at uplifting women. "The basic challenge therefore is how to change the existing patriarchal structure.

The size of the book is small but it has tried to include the major issues related to women equality.

She examines all efforts aimed at promoting women through the gender lens. In many places, she repeats the term patriachal structure but it seems this repetition leads her to forget the genuine contributions of the male members for the cause of the women folks. To sum up, the book is worth reading and provides inputs on the issues of women dogging the Nepalese society.

Source: The Rising Nepal, Friday Supplement (12 March 2004)

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