Bridging The Gender Gap
Efforts at Promotion of Women
Writer: Dr. Meena Acharya
Published Date: December 2003
Published by: Tanka Prasad Acharya Memorial
Foundation and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
Price: Not mentioned, Pages:
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
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
"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
The size of the book is small but it
has tried to include the major issues related to women
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)