“She is water, soft enough to offer life, tough enough to drown it away”
It is no surprise that where men were just granted the allowance to work, women had to earn their place by facing infinite obstacles. Women's Day is widely celebrated all over the world to cherish the grace and dignity of every woman on March 8th. This day is a token of appreciation towards women who have paved their way through social injustices and falsified stereotypes. Like many other countries, Nepal too celebrates the women’s day blissfully, but unlike most, I believe that Nepal has a long way to go before expelling the entrenched inequality from our society so that women live up to their full potential.
One prime factor contributing to gender imbalance is the lack of proper education. The male literacy rate in Nepal goes up to 71.6% whereas for women it is 44.5%. Even though the female literacy rate has exponentially increased over the years, women are still lagging by a whopping 27 percentage points. The lack of knowledge is a serious matter as it limits prospects, income and as a whole reduces the advancement of the entire country. Female education creates awareness within the young girls, notifying that they might be at risk of trafficking and exploitation. It helps them to cope with such situation that in turn increases safety. Hence, female education is a must.
In the urban areas, young women have the privilege of education but when it comes to rural areas the situation is quite different. The rural literacy rate of females is 36.5 percent while it is 61.5 percent in the urban area of Nepal. The access to education is what inspires these young girls to take initiatives and encourages them to make a difference out there. On the contrary, hardship still prevails in the rural areas where women have to battle against shackles imposed by patriarchy. Considerable amount of women are oblivious to the opportunities and rights that they have due to the disparity of edification.
The root cause of not educating young women, especially in the rural areas, is because in our community women are considered as ‘parayo dhan’. Parents treat their daughter as a liability since birth and believe that ultimately their daughter will go off to another house after marriage, so educating her is pointless. The young generation is the future of our country; if they are not nourished properly, the consequences are imaginable.
There are many ways in which ubiquity of sexism among our society is blatant. Criminal cases involve stealing or secretly replacing female with male babies. We openly tend to empathize the mother who just had a daughter but celebrate when it is a son. Being a part of the 21st century, sometimes conflicts arise between young and the elderly. Their orthodox thoughts often do not match with our goals, which affect the growth of an individual. Women entrepreneurs face family pressures because women till date are thought to stay at home and nourish the family. When a young girl finally combats such problems and does manage to find a job, they are again made to step down. The most obvious problem I can think over the top of my head is women do not get as much wage as their male counterparts do.
Undoubtedly, the constraints created for women in our society have faded over the years, but they still exist. Even though there is no law that states discrimination against women in any way, social discrimination is a prime matter in this regard. Women who belong to the lower class are treated differently. These disempowered women are the ones who often have to go through rape, sexual harassment, molestation, eve-teasing, forced prostitution and, due to lack of knowledge, they do not get the justice that is rightfully theirs. Despite the stringent laws, crime graph against young women is increasing at an alarming rate.
I believe that our country is in the transition phase where women are contributing but not to their full potential. In our somewhat male dominant society, women still need to be free from many traditional clutches. Even so, the numbers of women contributing in every sector has strikingly increased.
In 1996, the Nepal Health Survey estimated maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to be 539 per 100,000 live births, which was the highest among the South-Asian countries at that time. The 2006 reports show that the number has decreased by 50%.The importance of women in our country is inexplicable. Swami Vivekananda has rightly remarked, “It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing.”
I reckon that the young generation has an advantage over the last one. My mother once told me that as a child, there were not many professional women she could look up to in our society. At that instance, I thought that maybe I would have a similar experience. But I did not. We have reached a point where the number of female role models is increasing day by day. Victoria Secret showcased ethnic Nepalese accessories designed by Arpana Rayamajhi that inspired many. A 21-year-old, Phupu Lhamu Khatri, received Nepal’s second Gold Medal in female judo in the 2016 South Asian games. A former child soldier, Mira Rai today is an internationally-renowned runner. Performing arts, sports, fashion, politics or science, women participate in all sectors.
Today my heart is filled with pride and joy when I say that Nepalese women have come a long way. Empirical data presents that the number of women entrepreneurs have increased dramatically over the course of time. The modern day women are deft and self-sufficient. Let alone the substantial economic and political contribution, women have advanced in all fields. The living proof for this is the honor women like Pushpa Basnet, Pasang LahmuSherpa, Shanti Mishra and Anuradha Koirala bring to our country.
The position of women in Nepal is indeed complicated due to paradoxical comments and social bias. Whilst the social problems still exist, I want to name that our progress is enormous. This Women’s Day, let us celebrate the nobility and integrity of our daughters and sisters. Let us look back at time and realize how Nepalese women have come so far. Let the warm feeling of pride soak deep in our hearts and let us reminisce their sacrifices, devotion, and hard work, not just for one day but throughout the year.