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Sharing ideas for Gender Analysis with FES Partners

Organised by FES Nepal

28-29 October 2014, Daman


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal, organized a two-day program on "Sharing Ideas for Gender Analysis for FES Staffs, Partners and Resource Persons" in Daman in Makawanpur district on October 28-29. The two-day interaction program held at Everest Panorama Resort in an environment of utmost free and open discussions drew about 50 participants that included Constituent Assembly (CA) members, academicians, resource persons, representatives from FES-Nepal partner organizations, media persons as well as FES staffs. The main objective of the program was to receive feedback on the FES activities in the field of gender and suggestions to move ahead in the days ahead.

At the outset of the program, FES Gender Coordinator Samira Paudel thanked all participants for joining the program. She mentioned that although the program was originally planned to be held long ago various reasons caused a delay in organizing it. While mentioning that gender issues were not the issue of females alone but also both the gender, Paudel briefly introduced the program and mentioned the objectives of the program to identify the challenges partner organizations face as regards integrating the promotion of gender justice in their work and in their organization. She also asked what joint steps should be taken to overcome/address the challenges they face in their day to day life and also as regards implementing gender mainstreaming in the organisation and the society.

In his welcome address, FES-Nepal Head Dev Raj Dahal then highlighted various activities carried out by FES-Nepal office in the field of gender. While stating that all FES activities aim at promoting freedom, social justice, solidarity and peace, Dahal mentioned that the interaction program was organized with a view to review the FES programs on gender so far and receive feedback as well as suggestions from partner organizations and other stakeholders.

Although democracy promotes equality among all citizens irrespective of their gender, caste and creed, the instances of discrimination against women continue to exist in Nepal even after the restoration of democracy in 1990. It is against this context, Dahal said, FES Nepal had support to various partner organizations to promote women's meaningful participations in all activities in line with Nepal's endorsement of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other relevant policies of Nepalese government.

What followed next was the presentation of gender expert as well as senior officer at Nepal Television Aarati Chataut. She introduced the concept, history, importance and different perception of gender in order to better set the context of the program and trigger discussions and feedback from the participants. She traced the history as to how the concept of gender entered into development discourse, especially after 1980s. As Nepal is a party to various UN convention related to women, the concept of gender was assimilated even in Nepal. She briefly talked about the positive interventions made by the government on gender and challenges seen in the field of gender equality in Nepal. This session drew a huge discussions, questions and feedback from the participants.

In the second session, Chataut briefly introduced gender experience in Nepal and changeable roles in generation to analyze the political, social and economic situation of women from gender perspective. This session dwelt mainly on the discussion of gender in Nepal with focus on different elements like power, resources and structures. The interaction with FES partner organizations and other stakeholders ended on the next day with two separate sessions -- Analyzing gender based violence to create gender friendly environment at workplace and way forward and evaluation followed by a very live discussions from the floor. Dr Meena Acharya, who is a pioneer in Nepal's women's rights movement, had shared her critical insights in the course of discussions and questions and answers that followed each of the session.

Situation of Women in Nepal

The gender policy of Nepal have moved in tandem with the evolution of general global development approaches and evolving democratic norms such as sovereignty of people, principle of affected, social contract and the provision of constitutional and human rights. There has been a lot of change in defining terrain of gender discourse from welfare approach to Women in Development (WID), Women and Development (WAD), Gender and Development (GAD) to equal opportunity and equal outcomes. Although Nepali state has appeared to be liberal in terms of endorsing the resolutions of various women's conferences and in reforming its laws, practices and institutions to enable women to become 'equal and active citizens,' Nepalese women contest what they call 'unequal treatment of male and female in granting citizenship while marrying foreigners.

Nepal was declared secular, federal, democratic republic in 2006 after a decade-long armed insurgency and subsequent 19-day peaceful protest of political parties. A Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) signed in November 2006 between then rebel party, CPN-Maoist and the government promises, among other things, to end gender-based discrimination and ensure gender equity. By accepting key elements of human rights, ILO core conventions and gender rights and granting the rights to education, health, work, livelihood, social justice etc in the constitution political leadership in Nepal is aspiring to create a social welfare state. The 11th amendment of Civil Code has provided women with additional rights including the inheritance of equal property rights for sons and daughters until unmarried and equal rights in the property of husband once married.

There have been many positive changes in the lives of women in Nepal over the past few decades. While the female education has brought about positive impact in reducing birth rates and child mortality, this has also contributed to better education for children. Participation of women in labor markets and politics is in the increasing trend. The elections for the Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008 and 2013 have provided women with extra opportunity to redefine their interests increase their political clout for the negotiation of new social contract and exert control over the means of interpretation of laws although some behavioral and institutional factors continue to constrain these processes.

Nepali state has expanded women's rights in various areas to promote gender equity. Global awareness of gender equality has equally played a vital role to redefine women's relationship with the state, institutions of governance and political parties and build their capacity to be harbinger of social changes. These international frames have become standards for Nepalese women to move from the position of private spheres of household chores to public spheres of conscious political choice with ability to contest their marginalization and subordination and claim the rights to become equal participants in the public affairs.

Nevertheless, in the realm of law, employment, security, foreign policy and trade the liberal separation between the private spheres for women and public spheres for men continues requiring additional promotional measures. Gender equality based on economic model of functional specialization and comparative advantages is one side of the story. Political decision-making power about national affairs remains with a small circle of elites. The collective social movement of Nepalese women for access to power, resource, identity and their support for international efforts are transforming political practices in Nepal, narrowing down the historically existing gender gap in governance and development and engaging them in the state-building and peace building process.

The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 promulgated after the successful people's movement along with the end of decade-long Maoist conflict for changes has sought to legitimize equal power relations between men and women by accepting the collective rights of women. The Interim Constitution has also expanded the concept of citizen's rights from civil and political to social, economic, cultural and ecological domains although the institutional and economic capacity of the state has constrained the state to fully realize these rights. As the changing gender relations in Nepal will significantly determine the distribution of power and resources in the coming days, this is also expected to democratize public institutions, public policies and public action in line with gender-neutral state.

Activities of FES-Nepal and its partner organizations on gender

Right since its establishment in Nepal in 1995, FES-Nepal and its partner organizations are focusing on knowledge building in the key areas, ensuring enlargement of policy discourse among key stakeholders in order to make public aware of the impacts of public policies and articulate timely and inclusive social change. FES-Nepal partner organizations have been providing opportunity for both men and women in the field of coordination, moderation, paper writing, commentating, organizing events and publication of documents. Likewise, it has also been supporting major gender-sensitive activities such as extending support to trade unions to promote women's rights, providing opportunities for women to participate in trainings, seminars and workshops and ensuring coverage of women's issues in its publication and in public communication activities. These activities carried out with the help of various partner organizations have helped in contextual knowledge building in the field of gender and gender justice.

FES-Nepal has provided training to many journalists in India and Nepal and offered opportunities and exposure on media professionalism, code of conduct, rights to information, public role of media, gender sensitivity, conflict resolution, reporting women's issues from conflict zones and brought a number of publications to cater the needs of working journalists, students and teachers. It organized six residential week-long workshops on conflict sensitive journalism and peace with equal participation of men and women while consistently supporting Press Chautari-Nepal's initiatives in democratization in order to help foster gender balance. The FES-Nepal has also supported National Media Development Center for the training of vernacular journalists in various parts of the country and trained many of them on civic journalism with a primary focus on gender balance.

Apart from contextual knowledge building works, the FES-Nepal is also involved in various policy relevant activities in the field of gender such as in the development of policies, peace building and state building activities, cooperation with women's organizations. The FES-Nepal extended support to Municipal Association of Nepal (MUaN) to organize gender-sensitive municipal governance in all then existing 58 municipalities and SACEPS to prepare draft on Social Protection stressing on Migration, Women and Informal Sector. A 36-point Kathmandu Declaration adopted after the18th SAARC Summit has for the first time incorporated the issues concerning migration in line with the input provided together by the FES-Nepal and SACEPS. Support to The FES-Nepal has been organizing a high-level policy-relevant dialogue on political economy, constitutionalism and judiciary-administration relations on a regular basis. Likewise, Center for Legal Aid and Research with the help of FES-Nepal organizes a high level political dialogue on inner party democracy to help strengthen social representation in political power.

Above all, the FES-Nepal is also involved in supporting to the development of policies, peace building and state building activities. Although the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) reached between then rebel force and the government opened a greater space for women in various aspects of the peace process, the participation of women in all formal sectors remains still dismal. While acknowledging the fact that ensuring women's meaningful participation in all sectors is a must for sustainable peace building, FES-Nepal has been supporting its partner organizations in various activities such as extending help to rehabilitate and organize the conflict victim women, rehabilitate 16 conflict journalists including three women. Likewise, FES-Nepal partnered with various organizations including ASMITA publications, Women's Department of Padhma Kanya Multiple Campus, Women's Communicators Group, Legal Aid and Consultancy Service and Women for Human Rights to help promote the cause of women in Nepal. As change is possible only from alternative leadership, FES-Nepal has devoted its huge efforts and resources in promoting women leadership in Nepal.

Challenges faced by partner organizations

Representatives of all FES-Nepal partner organizations present in the two-day interaction lauded the role played by FES-Nepal in promoting gender justice in Nepal. Although the participation of women is gradually increasing in all spheres of public life in Nepal, the participants highlighted on the need to continue further on contextual knowledge building works, policy relevant activities and the development of alternative leadership to ensure meaningful participation of women in all sectors. They also called for further expansion of gender related activities across the country. As there is a visible lack of interests among women on national security, foreign policy and issues related to trade and regional cooperation, participants said additional international efforts were necessary to stimulate their interests in hard power and facilitate the transition from violence to peace.

It was realized that not all FES-Nepal partners were gender sensitive in their activities although majority of these partner organizations maintained that they have been giving special consideration to ensure gender justice and dignified participation of women within their organizations and in their field activities. Most partner organizations said that the program was eye opener to them to work towards promoting gender justice. One common problem all the partner organizations said they faced was lack of women resource persons in the course of seminar and in publication works. There was, however, unanimity among all partner organizations that changes have to start right from their organizations-something may partner organizations are found yet to bring into practice.

The interaction with the partner organizations showed that people are very sensitive towards religion and religious values they hold no matter how negative they may be towards women. As Chataut, who moderated the interaction, highlighted some instances of gender disparity seen among the male and female characters in Hindu religious scriptures, most participants in the program not only criticized her but also challenged her interpretation of those practices. As a result, the discussions was focused more on reaction to her views on those religious characters than on the specific challenges faced by partner organizations in regards to promoting gender justice in their work and in their organization. This showed that it is necessary to create awareness among people and provide them with civil education to help encourage people to give up gender-unequal practices existing in the society.

The FES-Nepal partners come from diverse backgrounds. Their level of understanding on the issues concerning gender also varies from each other. Partner organizations demanded that similar program be organized again to hold in-depth discussion to review the efforts made so far and work out new measures to ensure that their activities would be able to meet the set objectives of gender mainstreaming in their own organization and beyond. Since the existing societal norms, values and practices have dictated many of the things related to women in Nepal it was acknowledged during the interaction that there is a need to make constant efforts to bring changes in those areas.

Way forward to have a gender equal society

Creating a gender equal society is not an easy task in the context of Nepal. As changing people's attitude on gender issues takes a considerably long time, there is need to adopt multiple interventions in sustained manner for next several years. As Dr Meena Acharya, who is pioneer in Nepal's women movement, said during the interaction there is a need to make a deeper analysis of culture in Nepal first to work towards ensuring gender equal society. She called for changing socialization process of children and unequal power relations that exists between males and females in Nepal. "Politics exists even within a household. Our state has established the fact that women do not have control over their body. Women do not have say over properties even as they are directly involved in making income," she said.

Since it is not appropriate to see the issue of gender in an isolated manner, it is equally necessary to bring both males and females onboard the process as FES-Nepal makes its endeavors to create gender equal society through various positive interventions. Often it is found that women are also engaged in discriminating women in case they happen to come from different social and economic backgrounds. While seeking continued support from FES-Nepal in their endeavors, partner organizations maintained that a long term approach of women equality should be pursued through their empowerment.

All the stakeholders had unanimous conclusion that the issue of gender inequality in Nepal should be addressed through the following positive interventions.

  • Promoting civic education on gender issues
  • Changing social attitude through advocacy and awareness programs on gender at local level
  • Creating gender friendly environment in all workplaces
  • Ensuring political empowerment of women
  • Ensuring meaningful participation of women in all decision making levels
  • Encouraging changes in the socialization process of children from gender perspective
  • Ensuring legal protection to women through necessary changes in the existing discriminatory legislations
  • Promoting gender sensitive publications/publications in local languages
  • Encouraging people to give up gender discriminatory practices as mentioned in various religious scriptures
  • Ensuring equal participation of women resource persons in the activities of FES-Nepal and its partner organizations
  • Ensuring zero tolerance against Gender Based Violence (GBV) in all place including in workplaces and in homes
 
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