Many years ago, in the attempt to establish a separate identity without ‘men’, the word ‘womyn’ was suggested as an alternative! It didn’t catch on. A recent post in FB stated, ‘Why does one need to get married when one can get sperm from the sperm bank!’ Times have changed. In former days people in our part of the world said that men and women were like the two wheels of a chariot that needed to work together to go forward. Now, women no longer want to be the gentler sex but yearn to be acknowledged as go-getters and so my title.
One is told tales of the super Amazonian women in Greek mythology. In matrilineal societies, women were the bosses and men obeyed. Examples in our settings are the Thakali women who run their houses and the Tharu tribe where the where the woman of the house eats first and then pushes the thali with her foot, towards her husband to eat therefrom! In certain parts of South India, it is the boy who goes and lives with his wife in his mother-in-law's house. Even in our Nepali society, we speak of Matribhumi or motherland in deference to the Vaterland of the Germans.
In Nepali, there are Kumaris and Kumarithans in many places and people pay homage to them as per their culture. In many other places, female deities like Durga, Bhagbati, Bhawani and Tara are revered. Women are perhaps held in high esteem here because of our gentle Goddesses like Luxmi, Parbati, and Saraswati. Of course, Durga, with a scimitar in her hand and wearing a mala of skulls, is an exception and strikes terror in many male minds. Therefore, as per tradition should we not put our women on a pedestal too? Even our cultural heritage which has stories of Nala & Damayanti, Mira Bai is proof of that. Then there are also the tales of romance of couples e.g. Laila Majnu and Soni Mahiwal to compare with that of Romeo and Juliet.
We in Nepal have a lady President and have had female Chief Justice plus a Speaker of the House to show the world that we don’t have a bias against giving prominence to women. Though our five times prime-minister had announced once that Nepal would shortly have a woman PM, it did not happen because of the Hand of Fate. Is the ‘Gathbandan’ now poised to bring that about?
New Zealand was the first country to give voting rights to women in 1893. From historical times men have tended to lord over women, especially with regard to property and rights. Suffragette movements took place all over the world as an opposing force. Women were not expected to come to the forefront. Even in the matter of learning, Mary Ann Evans had to write her books under the pseudonym George Eliot. Emmeline Pankhurst and her two daughters were in the forefront of the movement in England where voting rights were given only in 1918 to women aged 30. This was lowered to 21 ten years later. Women in Switzerland were allowed to vote only after a referendum in 1971.
Queen Boadicea of Celtic Icenic tribe at the time of Roman Britain was perhaps the first female to fight for the rights of her people. From this point it is perhaps significant that two long reigning monarch belong to that land. Queen Victoria of England reigned for 63 years and Queen Elizabeth II, still reigning for 70 years celebrated her Platinum Jubilee.
During World War II as men were fighting in the front, the women at home did the tasks men had been doing and showed that they could perform just as well. As a result of this demonstration the attitude towards women working changed completely. A big change occurred after the war ended in 1945.
A similar situation now exists in Nepal in that as many male Nepalis are in countries abroad, the women have to do work done by them. Of course Nepali women, buharis have had to do domestic and agricultural work for ages, especially in Western Nepal. The story goes that whilst the women labored, the men spent the time playing cards! Now women are even working as jyamis and masons, and are being paid the same as men. Against this trend however that is when both men and women have the same educational degrees then why are the women paid less. This is general trend even in developed countries. Why? Are they second class citizens? Surprisingly the trend in Nepal till some years ago was that preference for the male child was rampant and they would be sent to boarding schools whilst their sisters went to local schools, sometimes even taking their younger siblings along as there was no one to look for them at home!
After mid-1940s when the former colonies of the British Empire became independent, a wind of change took place and some women came to the seats of power in the former colonies and in other countries.
Shrimavavo Bandranaika. First female PM in 1961. Later also from 1994-2000 when her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga was President.
Indira Gandhi – The third PM of India who first took the post in 1966 and served two terms of 11 and 5 years until she was assassinated in Oct. 1984.
Golda Meir, fourth PM and first woman Head of State of Israel from 1969 to 1974.
Corazona Aquino – Eleventh President of the Philippines for six years from 1986-1992.
Mary Robinson – Seventh & first woman president of Eire for six years from 1990.
Kamala Harris – Elected in 2020 as the as the first female Vice-President of the USA.
There have been changes in our country too, but it is not enough so far. We need at least 33% of women in Parliament. Most parties, rather than making women as contesting candidates, have them in the proportional representation list, made up of wives, daughters or hangers on of elected members. Better alternative would be to make some constituencies solely for women so that only female candidates of calibre are fielded by the parties? This will insure getting one third competent female members in our House of Representatives.
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd