Seminar Report on Initiative
for State-building and Constitutional Dynamics :Gender perspective
by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
(21-22 July) Mahendranagar (23-24 July)
Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal office
recently organised two day seminar in Kanchanpur (21- 22nd July) and Dhangadi
Kailali (23-24th July) on state-building from gender perspectives and constitutional
dynamics in Nepal. It also debated on the principles and practices of civic education.
There were around 136 participants in Kanchanpur and 166 in Kailali district respectively.
In both the districts, the programme was attended by the leaders of all political
parties, members of civil society, civil servants, lawyers, lecturers, teachers,
students, journalists, security personnel and other stake-holders of the society.
Acting Chief District Officer (CDO) of Kanchanpur Keshab Datta Joshi also actively
participated in two-day seminar while Khem Raj Regmi, Judge of the Kanchanpur
district chaired the inaugural session. Likewise in Kailali Narayan Prasad Bidari,
Chief District Officer of Kailali, former lawmaker Sunil Bhandari and others expressed
their views during the inaugural session while Narayan Prasad Dhital district
judge of Kailali chaired the two-day session.
The overarching aim of this
seminar was increase women's participation in the institutional life of the state
and societyas they have fallen behind in every aspect of state affairs and the
need of the hour is to increase their participation so that Nepal can have equitable
and harmonious state-society relations which alone will contribute towards their
equal empowerment. This can, however, only be achieved when the patriarchal issues
that have historically blocked women's active participation are explored at the
first place. Equally important is to bridge the gender gap which is serious in
the Far-Western Development Region (FWDR) of Nepal. The discrimination against
Dalit women is still worst. Therefore in both the programme majority of the participants
(more than 50 percent) were women as the whole idea was to boost women's confidence
by familiarizing them with their gender, constitutional and human rights and elicit
their meaningful participation in the process of state-building in Nepal.
in the programme Kanchanpur District Court Judge Regmi said that our culture is
based on good governance wherein women's rights were duly incorporated. But in
the name of change and modernity, we have been dismantling the rational aspects
of our culture, without analysing what is good and what is bad, our old values
and practices which, otherwise, were important factors to maintain social cohesion
and peace. We should remove only outdated practices that stand as a barrier to
women's development. He made an important point that the judicial freedom is all
about restoring the rights of the people and the time has come to restore the
rights of the women that were bestowed on them by our Vedic culture.
in the inaugural session, and setting the scene for discussion, Chandra D Bhatta,
Programme Officer of FES said that state didn't collapse in Nepal, however, there
has certainly been some sort of erosion in its legitimacy which is primarily because
state's legitimacy has been shifted to political parties and their sister organizations,
non-state armed actors and to some extent even to the individual leaders who play
prominent role in national politics but failed to provide political stability.
As a result, Nepali state's authority has been diluted and is on the verge of
losing Weberian legitimacy in all spheres. The classic example of this crisis
in legitimacy can be manifested from the gradual withdral by Village Development
Secretaries (VDCs) from their location citing security reasons. In addition to
this, he further said that, there have intermittent political changes in the country
but it was only cosmetic in nature this is also primarily due to the fact that
the agenda of change propelled by the masses has been hijacked by the elites from
the political parties and their leader who, in turn, later co-opted with the former.
So unless and until we do not restore the legitimacy of the state (people's confidence
on state institutions) and translate people's agendas of social, political and
economic transformation into action justice cannot be ensured and under these
circumstances Nepal is bound to face another political crisis. We really need
to establish democracy that is more substantive than procedural, as substantive
democracy can uplift the status of women and other marginalised groups of society
said Bhatta. This is particularly important because of late Nepali state has failed
to create authority primarily because it failed to win the confidence of societal
elements such as women, dalit, madhesis, janjatis and alike, provide them equal
citizenship rights beyond rhetoric. Thus integration of all the societal elements
in the realm of the state is crucial to further the agenda of state-building in
However, what is not specifically clear is that what would be the
role of women in private and public sphere. How do we deal with the violence committed
against women at private (domestic violence) and at the public sphere at large
(including the state)? There is no doubt that we cannot move ahead if we failed
to upgrade the status of women but for this, equally challenging is, how do we
uplift the status of women without hurting positive aspects ofour cultural, religious
and other customary values and values related to national identity. This generates
some fundamental questions which need to be answered, for example, how we resolve
what is personal and what is private, should state regulate the private affairs
of the individual. In fact state has entered into some personal and private issues
but does that mean that separation of public and private is essential for social
order or is it that personal has become political.
Speaking in the inaugural
session, former lawmaker, Sunil Bhandari said that, in the context of Nepal, there
is an urgent need to strike a balance between population growth and developmental
momentum. He further said that we should engage women in political, economic,
social and other activities both at home and outside so that we can strike a balance
between freedom and justice and create equal level playing field for all and equal
outcome of development and democratic opportunities.
were four papers, presented by Television Journalist Aarati Chataut on the role
of women in state-building, Senior Journalist Yuba Raj Ghimire on the state and
current political dynamics, Constitutional Expert Kashi Raj Dahal on Constitution
and Chandra D Bhatta on Democracy and its elements. Presenting her paper, Aarati
Chataut, at the outset, provided overall situation of women in Nepal and underlined
the need of uplifting their status as an endeavour to establish an egalitarian
society. She said that provisions should be made for the empowerment of women
in the upcoming constitution until their status is not elevated at par with men
folk. She further underlined the need of having special provisions for the women
of far-western development region as they are left behind in every aspect compared
to the women of other regions. Commenting on the current representation of women
in the CA, Chataut said that although there has been numerical increase in women's
participation (citing women's representation in the CA) in the polity but it has
not been effective primarily because they are less competent compared to the male
folk in decision making and collective action. She also talked about gender-power-relation.
Therefore the need of the hour is to increase the capacity of the women so that
they can play the equal role as their male counterpart in every aspect of human
life including state-building and post-conflict peace initiatives. We should also
inculcate the culture of sharing and caring each other.
Yuba Raj Ghimire
said that political change should serve the interest of nation and its people
including women living in the rural areas like those living in the far western
development region rather than serving the interest of few individuals. Political
parties have become organizations with special political rights and they can do
whatever they like. This tendency has resulted in the anti-political feeling in
Nepali society. He further said that when it comes to the point of women's role
in state-building or in political process for that matter, it appears that, looking
at the historical facts, they have played crucial role in the war of Nalapani
and in recent years their involvement in the Maoist insurgency for social/political/economic
change in society. But state has failed to tap this opportunity as it has failed
to create its own authority and it looks like "disowned state". Restoring
the core functions of the state and effective civic education can transform unequal
gender relations into equal citizens.
Presenting his paper constitutional
expert Kashi Raj Dahal said that the upcoming constitution should address the
issues of the women. He also explained about the different models of constitution
and emphasised that we need to develop the model that serves our interest most.
Likewise Chandra D Bhatta explained about the components of democracy, civil society
and other issues.
Rajmati Joshi said that though
women wanted to do the job that have been historically done by the male folk (such
as farming) but they still face opposition from the society. She asked how can
economic empowerment is then possible which is important for civic competence.
Laxmi Bohara said that women of Kanchanpur district are helping their partners
in different ways. They even bring various stuffs/items from nearby Indian border
in the cycle and sale in the local market. But the control is resources are uneven.
Advocate Punam Chand said that women cannot make substantial decision within the
house due to the patriarchic culture and now the time has come to change this
culture without dismantling our cultural religious and other customary values.
DSP Bahadur Lama enquired what we want women to be in our society and where
we want them to go, we have to be clear about this if we really wanted to bring
change in our society. He blamed that women's are playing crucial role in making
their husbands corrupt. He further raised the point that why Dr. Arju Debua should
represent FWDR, why cann't we have someone from the region only. Parvati Dulal
said that women, to some extent, wanted to live behind some traditions that have
stood as obstacles for their development but there is a great deal of lack of
leadership within the women's movement to bring about desired changes in society.
Perhaps we need to bring some fundamental changes in our education system for
resocialisation and develop special provisions for the development of women opined
Dulal. Bhawana KC said that due to lack of confidence a among women themselves
change is not taking place in society. Conscientization is important factor as
it reflects the local context and allows to seek the solution of structural injustices.
Meena Bagale said that women are also part and parcel to instigate domestic
violence in society. The violence comes either form mother in laws, sister in
laws and alike. We, ourselves, have to be clear about our role in changing the
society said Bagale. The need of the hour is that both men and women should work
collectively to address gender related violence in society. Gender equality requires
collective efforts from both sides.
Nav Raj Dahal enquired how we can establish
gender identity. He further enquired what is the medium equality or equity to
strike a gender balance. He further said that there has been erosion in the economic
authority of the state after it became member of WTO and the only way to restore
authority of the state is by improving our own competitive advantages. He further
said that we have to manage the educated youth by creating jobs within the state
otherwise it will lose further loyalty of its people. He also enquired how social
market economy can be made possible in Nepali context. Is it true that non-stake-holding
class doe not contribute to the nation-building process?
Bhat said that we have been providing trainings/opportunities to the same women
and this practice has produced more losers than winners. There is a lack of synergy.
The need of the hour is to produce more winners (bother winners when it comes
to the point of gender) which ultimately address the causes of conflict in Nepali
society. Anand Pant asked how we could make Nepali bureaucracy more effective
it has been seen problematique for the development. He also asked how can we bridge
the class gap in society so that democracy creates equal opportunity for social
integration and system integration.
Bhanumati Khadayat said that women's
of the FWR have been suffering both at private and public sphere. Journalist Lokendra
Lamsal enquired about the fiscal management of federal states and distribution
of power within the federal states.
Samira Paudel raised an important point
that despite so many progressive laws and by laws and significant representation
of women in the CA, the situation of women at large has not improved? Why is that?
Perhaps this could be the reason, among others, due to non-implementation of laws
or implementation without understanding sentiment of people, which ultimately
are blocking the social change in Nepali society. For instance the law on rewarding
the remarriage of single women could have brought lot of negative impacts in the
society. So proposing such laws without considering the impacts is also a reason
Lal Babu Chaudhary asked about the need of protecting rights
of the ethnic communities. Bhagwai Hamal said that state should provide all sorts
of facilities (education, health, employment) to the single women. Advocate Janaki
Tuladhar said that social justice should be available to everyone including women.
We also have to bear in mind that there is a great deal of gap in the status of
women living in other parts of the country and FWDR. She further said that state
has failed to provide security to the people and becoming remote from their hope.
A virtuous state is needed to improve its ties with society and play a role to
bring women into national sphere.
Surya Subedi of United Communist Party
of Nepal (Maoist) demanded for the abolition of corruption in society and need
for taking initiatives to bridge the class gaps. He strongly opposed private education
and health system that is being promoted in the recent years in Nepal. Many participants
in Dhangadi said that civil society and intellectuals should play crucial role
in to take forward peace-process in the country. Jhankar Rawal enquired who can
we balance our foreign policy in the changed political context when geopolitical
challenges are increasingly becoming complex. He also highlighted the need of
having fixed borders between India and Nepal so that the movement of unwanted
elements can be checked. He further said that federal states should be carved
out on the basis of economic viability of the states. On the empowerment of women,
Rawal said that women can only be empowered and social anomalies can only be ameliorated
when women are engaged in economic activities. The culture of impunity that exists
in Nepali society needs to be abolished completely if we really wanted to experience
change opined Rawal.
Ms Bimala Ale said that each and every political party
should provide opportunities to the women so that they can make the decisions
that can contribute to the state-building in the long run. She further said that
society wants change but parties are blocking it due to protracted deadlock of
national politics. We have to reflect why capable women of FWDR are not getting
opportunity. Why defeated persons are getting opportunity again and again in national
governance? Does not it undermine the spirit of representative democracy?.
conclusion of these two seminars generates some important question, that is, how
do we change the society made social conditions equally favorable to women? People
want change but the "politics" that we are practicing is blocking the
real change to take place. Take an example, after 1990s there have been mushroom
growth of women's organisations in Nepal but the status of the women have not
improved at par with. Albeit, those who have floated the agenda of women's rights
and empowerment have become prosperous, they have established recognition in society.
But what does it mean for the women who are still toiling in Darchula or Taplejung
in rural mountainous areas and fighting with nature just for survival. So the
real question is do we want change or more of the same again and again. If we
want change, changing gender relation and increasing women's engagement initiatives
is a must.