INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Economic empowerment is the key to bringing about meaningful changes in the lives of women<br>MANISH GAUTAM

March 13, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 04 No.- 18 Mar.11-2011 (Falgun 27,2067)<BR>

For a March evening, at 6:30, this one was a bit cold and dark. People were rushing to catch tempos and microbuses in front of the Kathmandu Mall. Headlights from a stream of vehicles running on the road lighted up the station here irrespective of the city’s 14-hour daily power outage.


A lady Safa Tempo driver was preparing for her last trip. As she waited for passengers to fill the seats of her tempo, she looked worried.


“I’m getting late for home,” Namita said, moving her hands on the steering. “My son is back from school and is waiting for me.”


That was her routine. It was different until a few years back. Her husband drank and regularly beat her. When it was too much, she abandoned him. Her friend took her to an institute where she learnt to drive the tempo.


She now earns Rs. 8,500 per month, plus some extra cash daily, after paying the rental to sahuji, which was Rs. 290 for each trip. She makes eight trips daily.


"I earn for myself and is proud for that," she said.


Many women in Nepal faced similar difficulties, but only a few were as lucky as Namita to become self-reliant. A study showed many women had work overloads, and suffered harassment in and outside the working place.


The UNIFEM/NIDS study on women migrant workers found one third of the respondents saying that they had to go abroad for work due to family problems. The harassment meted out against the migrant women workers was often intolerable and their payment was low.


Sunita Shrestha of Satungal went abroad as a domestic help, lured by the promise of a handsome salary. On receiving her first month’s remuneration, she realized she was cheated. "Whatever I got was finished for my food and lodging," she said, "so I returned home."


She said she now had a tailoring shop and earned a good sum. POURAKHI, a non-government organization operated by women migrant workers, helped her.


The Ministry of Labour and Transport estimated approximately 3 million documented and undocumented Nepalese were working in various labour destinations.  Women comprised 10 to 15 percent of the total. And, out of the total remittance received from the migrant workers in 2010, women's share was 11 percent.


The more interesting fact of the study done by UNIFEM/NIDS is the use of remittance by women. Most of the women invested in their children’s education and in buying daily necessities. This data explains a wise and a fruitful use of the money.


The number of women in non-agricultural work force has increased from 20.2 per cent in 1991 to 34 per cent in 2001 (CBS, 2001). Still, women are concentrated in low income and low capital intensive jobs.


Moreover, many women in the rural areas work for non-paid jobs, such as household chores and farm works. Neither do they have their say in the sale and purchase of the cattle they take care of. Though the Census of 2058 has termed household chores as "extended economic activities", there are still many things needing to be done for the cause of women.  


The fact that only 5.5% of the households reported ownership of the house in women's name, 7.6% of the livestock and 10.8% land were owned by women (Population and Housing census 2001) is a testimony to this. This data further shows men's domination over women.


Law has provided that sons and daughters shall have equal rights to ancestral property (Art. 20.4). But the right is less often claimed by the daughters. Even if they did, they had to go through a lengthy court procedure.

The government has allocated various quotas for women in most of the working fields. The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 has a better provision for woman's right. According to Article 21, women have the right to participate in the state institutions on the basis of the principle of proportional inclusion. Likewise, the article 35 Clause, 8 reads that "the state shall pursue a policy to encourage maximum participation of women in national development by making provisions for their education, health and employment". Moreover, women can be candidates for government jobs up to 40 years of age (35 years for men) and 6 months of probation period in the government jobs for women (1 yrs for men

Education plays a vital role for uplifting the economic standard of women. Nepal's literacy rate has increased in recent years, but the percentage of literate women is far behind that of men. The overall literacy rate of Nepal is 52.74 percent but the female literacy rate is only 42.49 percent (CBS, 2001). So, with fewer literate women, the quota government has allocated to them sometimes has to be given to poorly qualified candidates as well. This worsens the overall system in the long run. Thus, priority should be accorded to educating and empowering the women.


Member of National Women's Commission Dhan Kumari Sunar stresses empowerment of women to improve the overall conditions of Nepalese women.

With a slogan of "Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women," the International Women's Day was marked worldwide. "Decent work" is still farfetched idea in our context. The decade-long Maoists insurgency worsened the overall economic system of the country. And now it is on the verge of recuperation.

Education plays a vital role for uplifting the economic standard of women. Nepal's literacy rate has increased in recent years, but the percentage of literate women is far behind that of men. The overall literacy rate of Nepal is 52.74 percent but the female literacy rate is only 42.49 percent (CBS, 2001). So, with fewer literate women, the quota government has allocated to them sometimes has to be given to poorly qualified candidates as well. This worsens the overall system in the long run. Thus, priority should be accorded to educating and empowering the women.


Member of National Women's Commission Dhan Kumari Sunar stresses empowerment of women to improve the overall conditions of Nepalese women.

With a slogan of "Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women," the International Women's Day was marked worldwide. "Decent work" is still farfetched idea in our context. The decade-long Maoists insurgency worsened the overall economic system of the country. And now it is on the verge of recuperation.

It may sound trite, but the budget allocated for women's empowerment needs to be spent properly. A number of NGO's and INGO's working for the wellbeing of the women have to decentralize their work to achieve women's empowerment in practical terms. If the International Women's Day has any meaning other than being a ritual celebration, something concrete should be done so that all women will get an opportunity to enjoy the fruits equally.

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