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Civic Education and Women Rights

One-day seminar organised by Modern Kanya Multiple College and FES

19 March 2016, Kathmandu

Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi


With Nepal entering the phase of constitution implementation, the significance of civic education has further increased. The constitutional enlightenment is the key to translating the promising provisions of the new statute into action. Informed, educated and open minded citizens can contribute to the application of statute to the real life. Civic education converts the people into awakened citizens. It liberates them from all kinds of tutelage, bondage and illusion. It enhances socialization, volunteerism and opens the possibility for cooperative action. According to a political scientist, it helps Nepali citizens and leaders to open different social experiences of life and synthesize them into a single holistic national vision and know their ties with community, society and the state. As civic education leads the people to the path of ideal citizen, it is also instrumental to promote women rights in the society. It opens up their horizon and make aware of their rights and duties in the society. It highlights the gender role and calls for ensuring gender parity and emancipation. Women make up over half of the population. If the women become educated and conscious of their right and responsibility, the country will make strides in the political, social and economic arenas. Realizing this common knowledge, Modern Kanya Multiple College and FES, Nepal office jointly organized a seminar 'Civic Education and Women Rights' in Kathmandu. It was attended the students of the college, and the people from different walks of life.

Divided into two parts- inaugural and discussion of working papers, the one-day seminar saw the government spokesman and Minister for Information and Communications Sherdhan Rai spoke on the contemporary issues. He asked the women to batten down the hatches to implement the pro-women contents in the national charter. FES Nepal office head Dev Raj Dahal offered insights into civic education and its importance in the resilient nation-building campaign. EC Commissioner Ila Sharma called upon the women to enter politics to remove the negative stereotype that politics is a dirty game. Lawmaker Min Bishwokarma insisted on taking development and justice side by side. The following are excerpts of the seminar:

Sherdhan Rai, Minister for Information and Communications

The phase of struggles, sacrifices and hardships of women is over. Women's rights have well been documented in the new statute and now they should assert their role by invoking the provisions of the national charter that has ensured the identity, access and representation of all classes, castes and communities. It has settled the dispute of ansa (parental property) and bansa (descent). It has ownership of the people and guaranteed the 33 per cent representation of women in all state organs; therefore, they should neither hold any grudges nor develop the inferiority complex. From now onward, the women should roll up their sleeves to implement the statute to ensure their place at the decision-making level.

With the promulgation of the new statute, the nation had braced up for attaining prosperity and good governance. It is not time to fuss about but to implement the statute in letter and spirit. Civic education plays a vital role to generate awareness among the people about their rights and duty. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's visit to India helped clear misunderstandings besetting the two nations while his China visit would take Nepal-China relations to new heights. Nepal will play neither Chinese nor Indian card while expanding its ties with its neighbours. The government is going to hold talks with the Nepali Congress in a bid to muster its support to the nation building drive.

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES office Nepal

The gap between knowledge and wisdom in Nepal had widened, fuelling tension in human life. In this context, civic education as a teleological (purposive) subject seeks to bridge this gap for the promotion of good citizen not through rigorous scheduled educational courses but by enabling them to carry on democratic deliberation. It provides citizens greater capacity for systemic, critical thinking about the enlightenment and reveals innate abilities and special psychic power of atma gyan (inner vigilance), which is essential for the character building of Nepali citizens. Personal autonomy of individual citizen has an ultimate value for resilience. It cannot be reduced to group interest, creed, political party, ethnicity or other units. Civic education is also praxis for linking democratic values, and institutions to practical activities to help resolve the problems of everyday life of society, to do away with social evils and irrationalities, maintain clean and green environment and enable citizens and leaders to become capable of taking independent decisions. Praxis in this context means an act of engaging citizens in applying, exercising, realizing or practicing democratic rights, ideas and institutions for the promotion of public goods. It goes beyond 'schooling' of text-based and rote-learning curriculum to contextual, conversational and interactive 'learning'. Increasing political consciousness of one's own human condition is a lynchpin for decreasing powerlessness and increasing active civic participation.

The practice of civic education increases human longing to innovate, broadens perspectives, transforms pre-national identities of Nepali people into national identity of citizens, enable them to exercise constitutional rights and duties and learn civic skills and disposition to peacefully participate in knowing, opinion formation, public policy making and public affairs. Civic education liberates citizens from all kinds of tutelage, promotes political socialization from childhood to adult acculturation, fosters trust and volunteerism and opens the possibility for cooperative action across the nation's heterogeneous population. Civic education detribalizes society and helps promote constitutional behaviors of leaders and citizens. It helps Nepali citizens and leaders to open different social experiences of life and synthesize them into a single holistic national vision, know their ties with community, society and the state and their responsibilities within them and across the national borders and living species. Without civic virtues, they will be addicted to self-interest, families, lineage groups, friends and client-oriented interest groups and fortified by subtle exclusion of other groups.

Ila Sharma, Election Commissioner

Civic education should be first imparted to the political leaders. Economic and political rights are key to uplifting the position of women in the society. I urge women to be either conscious voters or not to be used/abused by the politicians. They must not detach themselves from politics. They should give candidacy in the election. Civic education needed to be promoted to generate awareness among the people.

Min Bishwokarma, NC leader/ lawmaker

There is the need for setting standards to define merit, and linking rights with duty. Equality, freedom and dignity are necessary for human beings and civic education is one of a viable means to attain them.

Ram Prasad Dahal, Chairman of Modern Kanya Multiple College

Education is the key to attaining all sorts of rights of women. Since the nation has taken a political direction, it is time to focus on gaining economic prosperity.


College principal Sabin Pokharel said that despite relentless struggle, the women had not reached top position of leadership.

Working Paper Presentation

Professor Dr Gitabhakta Joshi, National Planning Commission member, presented his working paper entitled 'Gender Equality and Women Empowerment'. The gist of his paper is as follows:

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) - 2016-2030 has set 17 goals. Of them, five are related to the women empowerment that include eliminating gender disparities at all levels of education by 2031, particularly in tertiary level; abolishing the wage disparity and sexual violence, harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage; increasing the proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament to 40 per cent and women's share in public service decision making positions to at least 28 per cent.

The government's efforts to ameliorate the condition of women have borne some fruit. For example, women's participation in the civil service has reached 16.9 per cent, literacy rate 57.4 per cent and labour participation rate 54.04 per cent. Likewise, the gender disparity index is 0.489, women's human development index 0.521, and their participation in the parliament is 29.91 per cent. In order to promote gender equality in the government-run programmes, it has allocated 22.27 per cent gender budget. The laws relating to curbing sexual abuses and witchcraft charges against women have already come into effect. Under the 13th Periodic Planning, the government has set up short-term shelters for the victims of women violence in 17 districts and 104 community service centres. The courts have followed fast track process to settle the cases related the violence against women. Likewise, the government has set up Mangala Sahana Rehabilitation Centre for the victims of domestic and sexual violence. The 14th periodic planning (2017-2075) has envisaged and launched an array of programmes for the women empowerment. If its goals are realized, the women will be empowered economically, socially and politically with the drastic decreases in the cases of violence against them. This will also help Nepal to fulfill its commitment made with many international organizations.

Rudra Devi Sharma, under secretary at the Ministry of Communications and Information presented her working paper 'Civic Education, Gender Equality and Women Development problem and Solution.'

The gist of her paper is as follows:

Women empowerment contains various elements- goal, growth, morals, power, access, learning and positive thinking. The Forbes has suggested five ways to empower women and girls- purchasing power, portfolio power, philanthropic power, political power and entrepreneur power. Civic education is about the development of knowledge and skill, ability and capacity needed for a sovereign citizen to attain rights from state and become aware of their duty for the nation. It makes every citizen civilized, able, moral and responsible. It is an incessant means of socialization. It increases people's participation in the affairs of the state and impels the government to make its activities transparent and accountable. It informs the women about the prevalent policies, laws, acts and regulations devised to mainstream women, ensure their access to equal and fast justice.

Women's participation in development is necessary to build an inclusive, just and Loktantrik society, end all forms of violence and discrimination and make women's contribution to national economy visible, among others. The new constitution has guaranteed the fundamental rights of women. It has stipulated that there will be no discrimination between man and women for equal work, and ensure their access to education, health, employment and social security on the basis of positive discrimination. It has guaranteed their right to safe maternity and reproductive health. It has special provision for the empowerment of socially and culturally marginalized women. There are sectoral laws and constitutional arrangement and commissions meant to increase the women's participation in politics, parliament and civil service.

Despite the implementation of women-friendly laws and programmes, problems and challenges still persist. In addition to the effective application of laws and regulations, reforms should start from family to reduce violence against women. A credible mechanism should be set up at the local level to deal with the cases of violence against women and gender-friendly budget should be increased gradually. Women living in different regions and districts face different problems so they require separate strategies to solve their problems. Women rights movement does not target men. It is against violence and discrimination. The women's participation in development and for equality has taken a backseat when sons are seen as asset and daughter as liability. Although men and women are equal, they are biologically different. Therefore, their practical and strategic requirements also vary. It is the need of the day to end impunity by adopting zero tolerance on violence and discrimination against women; adopting different strategies for women's meaningful participation in every level and process of development and ensuring the proportional distribution of wealth.

Ram Prasad Dahal, chairman of Modern Kanya Multiple College, presented his working paper 'Civic education and college's students'. The gist of the paper is as follows:

The civil society is a rational unit of people committed to the public welfare. It selflessly devotes to make the state dutiful for the public benefit. It inspires for consensus and co-work to bind the people to mutual relation. Education is the foundation of the advanced society. Education consists of philosophy and thoughts developed by human beings. A welfare state is marked by education, happiness, peace, prosperity and progress. As the civil society is promoting social justice, freedom, equality and unity, the importance of education is increasing day by day. Society is an open university of education. It is difficult to achieve goal just by studying the bookish knowledge and crude theories. It is necessary to make education practical and useful for life. This requires that policy makers identify the need of society and frame the education system so that its affordable and accessible to all.

Education is being commercialized. Human resources are produced, not for the purpose of generating knowledge but for meeting the need for post and money for the business houses. It does not impart on Nepal's history and society. Politics and economy are not in prioritized subjects. Education sector is marred by the politics of divide and share. Universities are leader- and cadre-oriented while the unions have become the place of poisoning venal politics in the minds of young people. Teachers indoctrinate the pupils with their spiteful political ideology. In essence, the present education system does not teach the students to feel and experience. Education has been divided for two separate classes- the haves and the have-nots. The expensive colleges produce students, whose meritocracy is based on rote-learning and who work for the foreign purpose. On the other hand, the public schools, which are for the offspring of the people living from hand to mouth, are in dilapidated condition. But, the poor students are forced to drop out for financial reason and end up in the farm field. The presence of women, who make up half of the population, in the education sector is not satisfactory. The number of female students at bachelor and master's level is negligible. Even the educated women are confined to household chores. Their access to executive, judiciary, and education, health and finance is not up to the mark. If a woman is educated, the entire family becomes enlightened. The girl students should build their capacity to change the society. They need to identify their goals and priorities before setting their feet in the college. Education is the property of women. They can be agent of change with positive attitude, strong will power, assiduousness, honesty, curiosity and passion.

Comments from the floor

Anita Acharya- Despite the pro-women provisions in the statute, the women had been continually harassed, raped and killed. The Internet and social networking sites have been abused and egged the perpetrators on to commit crimes against women. According to a study, 70 per cent of conflicts occur owing to the economic and social factors while the remaining 30 per cent for the natural resources and territory.

Shivani Thapa Basnet- There was a time when the girls had to take permission to go to schools and colleges. Today education is the right of all. Education empowers the people to exercise their rights and make aware of their duty for the nation. Although we have one of the best statutes in the world, we have been unable to make strides in the socio-economic fields.

Concluding the seminar, economist Govinda Thapa said that imparting quality education to the children has been taken for granted in the 21st century. "It opens the door to boundless opportunities that are simply unavailable for an uneducated person. There is no limit of progress and prosperity that a competent and education person achieves in his/her life."


Conclusion

1. Respect each other (men and women).
2. Embrace Loktantrik system and make it dynamic.
3. Forge unity among the women.
4. Try to be a good citizen.
5. Embrace and propagate civic education.
6. Be committed to nation and nationalism.

 
Copyright©2001. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Office
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