Sharu Joshi Shrestha, Programme Specialist for UN Women Nepal, has been working in the sector for a quite a long time. Shrestha answered to Lara Suykerbuyk.
Nepal is one of the biggest receiver of financial aid in South Asia. Is the funding working for women?
Financial resource is one of the sectors which contribute to bring change in women and girls life. From the fourth Global Women’s Conference, finance has been considered as an issue for women’s development. In Paris Meeting, donor community has realized that there is a gap. In Nepal, an initiative of classification of Gender Responsive Budget and gender analysis by Ministry of Finance (MOF) and Gender Budget Audit by Ministry of Local development has been initiated. Some ministries already have initiated Gender Auditing. To assess Aid Effectiveness for women’s issue UN Women has done a review of 8 donor agencies, and the major finding is financial aid is not sufficient for gender equality and women's empowerment. Therefore, MOF has started mapping funding to make donor accountable. MOF has established Aid Management Information System (AMIS), where one of the components is to report in the gender marker by the development partners (DPs), which is making DPs and government more accountable for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
What are the main problems you encounter in empowering women in Nepal?
Previously Nepal concentrated on fulfilling the basic needs of women which is food, shelter and clothing. But for empowerment, we have to address their strategic needs like dignity, opportunity and status to make them equal to men. I think we have to take two major approaches; one is building their capacity, second is economic empowerment. I think we have focused mostly on awareness raising and now our Nepali women want to be economically independent. Now aggressive intervention on economic empowerment is required. Women need non-traditional trainings, soft loans, new schemes, which is yet to be done. Also we have done a lot to ensure.
Has live changed for rural woman?
Awareness level is very positive change we see on rural women, it is very encouraging. Now rural women are not as backward as we people think. Having said that situation of rural women of different geographical region, religion, cast and ethnicity are not similar. Women in far west may suffer from HIV & AIDS’s more than tarai rural women. Micro finance has reached toward many women, it has mobilized women, now they are united but it is yet only MICRO. Our rural women have yet remained in small initiatives, which will put them in the periphery of¬ poverty, but frankly saying it has not helped women to come out from the poverty and change their life in real sense. In fact due to foreign labour migration, men are not in the rural arears and it has further burdened ----rural women with additional responsibilities.
Why are women in the rural areas still less educated as in the urban areas like Kathmandu?
Poverty, early marriage, terms of reference used to the girls that they need to go to others household, or she is responsibility of in-laws. Many still think that investment on girls is not as effective as on boys. Such prevalence of patriarchal norms establishes a concept that she would not be the bread winner of the household so, it is not necessary to educate daughters. But we have move from that traditional feelings towards a more positive scenario, however, retaining women in higher education is still a challenge.
Why is there such a gap between rural and urban women?
I guess globalization, changes and interventions of the many programmes, access to schools in nearby areas are few reasons. In rural areas, distance also makes lots of difference. In urban setting, people are aware, they have seen educated women doing good in all sectors. They are also shouldering the financial burden of the household. Also, there is fear of naming and shaming of the families which do not send their daughters to school and colleges. In fact, in urban areas, even if women earn, it is still difficult to run the families, so it has become mandatory.
The UN theme of the International Women’s Day 2012 is ‘Connecting Girls, inspiring futures.’ What needs to be done in Nepal to connect girls? What message/advice do you want to give to girls for their future?
The 2011 Population and Housing census projected that women constitute 54 %, to make women empowered or productive human resource, we have to invest in girls. If girls get secured life they become confident human being. And confident citizen not only make their life happy and successful but also contribute to the nation development. So for the development of the country, short cut formula is to invest in girls. So making a theme of International Women’s Day as connecting girls for their inspiring future is a wise vision of the global community.
There are many acts that protect women in Nepal, why is there still discrimination?
If we see policies and laws, Nepal leads in South Asia. But when it comes to implementation, it is not effective. We have budgets at every VDC’s, but it is not used for real cause. Government allocated 19% budget exclusively for women. We have equality in principle, in laws but in real sense, there is yet problem in substance, in result. I mean due to all laws and policies, there is equality in opportunity but not in real life results. We just say women and men are equal to be politically correct but in reality we again maintain the same patriarchal rituals. Without addressing women’s role at home, violence, their access and control over resources, decision making and justice, making wonderful law will not work. For some period of time we need conscious effort to support women in all sectors. But having said that there are many positive changes in Nepal from the perspective of gender therefore, it needs to be acknowledged. I think now we need to focus our strength on the implementation of policies and laws to sustain the gains we achieve.