What of the US Presidential elections to a Nepalese woman? Forget, the influence of US as the Super Power for the time being. Most Nepalese women, would barely know of all the economic diplomacy the country is credited for. US, is but America, to them ( they don’t know of North and South America though) where young people go to study these days. And any guy back from “America” would be the most secure option for their daughters. Still, that would be a minuscule of the entire woman population of Nepal. If most of them could communicate in “slangy” American-English I bet they would say “What the F*** is US presidential elections?” That’s the woman scenario.
We, the Women of Nepal.
The men are a different breed altogether ,aren’t they? Reminds me of a woman journalist who was sharing the problems of a being a one in Nepal. She wakes up to prepare food for the children, the family, ready them for school. Then there is work. Back from work, the domestic chore has to continue. “The men gather for tea after /before work” she said. “Discuss politics, current affairs.” When does a woman have time for all that “caucusing”? That contributes to their lagging behind at times too. So, if that’s a woman journo has to say you can pretty much picturize the situation of the rest. Yah, you could make an “attempt” to make a point by stating “why can’t she look at the news rather than the Hindi-soap operas?” . But I got a good reply for that too, so keep that nuisance to yourself!
Two women sharing the water load on the steps of Gorkha Durbar while I was journeying to the palace in my “leisure”.
In spite of it all, there is a privileged class of women too, I can’t deny the fact that I am one of them( at least in this context). But caucusing about politics is not my cup of tea, caucusing about anything really for that matter. ( Could be an outcome of not being able to sell myself too). Let me keep that part aside for now and stick to writing which is Indeed my Cuppa Tea 🙂 . So, what of the US presidential elections to me? Keeping aside the US Superpower reality and the Obama Charm so they say, it’s the “Female” thing. An English Man Very Much Politics Interested , friend of mine was telling me how “cunning” ( if I am not mistaken) the Clintons are. ( Correct me, if I got it wrong). But I know nothing of that( I admit my ignorance). Hillary’s all forgiving nature, in the Monica-Lewinsky affair has never inspired me either. But if she won the candidacy and eventually became the First Lady I would undoubtedly celebrate the Victory of A Woman.
The US President, however needs to be a lot more than a woman, I know. Whatever the results, the best thing, Hilary has done by giving running for the elections would have to be the amount of “gender” instigated in the global media. I was going through an article in the Newsweek by Kathleen Deveny and can’t help quoting this para there:
It’s the people I know and respect who have convinced me. It’s the people who have no qualms about making sexist comments and jokes about Hillary—Those cankles! Her pantsuits! Iron my shirt!—who’ve convinced me that, in America, we still do not like our women powerful. It’s the people who have told me confidentially that “someone they know” just can’t bring himself/herself to vote for a woman. It’s the office jokes about Hillary’s scary, ball-busting, quick-cross-your-legs nature that have scared me. Can you imagine if I said that I find ambitious black men scary? What if I joked in a meeting that the Obamas seem “uppity”? Call HR!
I see the ‘universal’ perception about women written all over it. It’s the same in Nepal, isn’t it? So much hue and cry about 33% women participation in every “sector”, public service to politics but the attitude is the same. Give us a 100% but nothing is going to change until there is social acceptability of the “confident” status of women. I often notice this in my Nepal Yatayat rides, the buses are crowded and the men make jokes about “ how Nepal Yatayat functions, stuffing people like Gundruk…blah blah.” Ah, the men and their “opinions”, nothing new, that’s the way it’s “supposed” to be. But if a woman makes the same remarks, in her high pitch voice( So what?) men start chuckling giving the notion that it’s “ridiculous” for a woman to say the same. Every time it happens, I am reminded of the male Chauvinist saying in Nepali which goes “ Pothi baseko ramro hoina.”( It isn’t good for a hen to )
Given such societal realities, I don’t think much will change even if women hold top-notch decision making positions, still it is a better scenario , no doubt about that. And this 33% has become such a joke! Why wouldn’t it, there is no commitment at all! To start with, 16 districts, 67 constituencies have no woman candidates in them. The problem could be lack of woman in politics or unwillingness of the political Men to do so. There could be a lack of capable women too. I agree, one can’t vote Mr. Kamal Prasad Adhikari’s( he was shot dead after giving his candidacy for the CA polls) widow, just because her husband was a politician either. The article by Khagendra Sangraula(March 19,2008) , does make a point. So, what is it really needed for Women to BE Empowered?
India’s had Indira Gandhi as the PM, Sri-Lanka has a “woman in politics” to boast of, but are the women any better? It’s an issue of debate.
The solution to all the gender disparities all over the globe, I think could be “EDUCATION”. Women in no developing nation have political, social, economic rights equal to that of men stated the World Bank Policy Report “Engendering Development” in 2000. Eight years have gone by and the changes have been immense . If right to education and right to choose one’s partners are to be taken as the two most significant gains for women then what has changed for a twenty-something girl in Nepal is this:
You can study as much as you want to Everyone tells her.
Reality: The moment an “eligible” bachelor comes along, your opinion is least likely to be taken into account. Doesn’t even matter if you are the Straight A scorer really.
In case you get to fall in love and find the “open-minded” guy for yourself.
Here’s what, even the “broad-minded” NGO biggie will state: “ Fashion garnu vaneko udanginu hoina” ( Fashion doesn’t mean exposing) in a simple conversation about wearing “skirt” after marriage!( Give ME A BREAK!) ( This conversation took place in front of me)
A hoarding board of a tele-serial titled “Sindoor” ( the red powder used by married hindu women) in Bijulibazar. It states Sindoor: A symbol of a sense of belonging
And the third scenario would be, the girl is a graduate, has some working experience and a fine educated fellow for a boyfriend too. The boy talks of marriage only when HIS income is stable and education is complete. But it doesn’t matter that the Girl’s income and education doesn’t meet Her own expectations!! Oh come on, baby, my self-owned business is your business; my scholarship is Your Scholarship!!! ( Hell, it’s NOT!)
A little understanding on the part of the men could help.
A little bit of courage to take a stance, on the side of the women would make all the difference. ( for her and the generations to come)
The solution to it all could be: increasing the investment in Women’s education . Cause That’s Smart Economics. Women empowerment is not a one-time tire burner issue on the road and the petroleum prices go down. It isn’t painting the bus walls with “Women Seats” and they “get” to sit. It isn’t 33% everywhere as there need to be women to fill in the 33% first.
It is a slow revolution .
It’s poor women who save money to educate their daughters that is the first step. It’s women my age, who can make a standpoint in spite of the easy life by their boyfriends offer which is the second.
Paridhi’s Dolls 🙂
Then it is again women my generation (my sister) telling kids like Dilasha ( my 5 year old cousin) to be a an air-force pilot dismantling all gender roles assigned to her sex which is the third. ( Nepal has no air-force though 🙂 )
A long walk to freedom…………
What of the men then? There are everywhere beside the women, realizing their contribution in this slow revolution. For the women have long ago realized the faults of WID 🙂 , it’s a reciprocal process, behind every man there is a woman, and behind every woman there is a man too!
Thanks Hillary! ( I just couldn’t Stop myself from writing, in a long-long time!)