Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nepalese Women at the Crossroads: Which Road to Choose?

Nepal is one of the smallest and least developed countries in the world yet rich in diversity in geography, culture and social system. Nepal has above 100 castes and ethnicities, over 90 languages, various cultures and traditions. This diversity has brought severe disparities between men and women. The geography of the country has restricted physical mobility of women within their locality. Today more than 80% of the total population live in rural areas, where 60% are women who undertake 66% of the agricultural labor and has contributed 40% of the total GDP. However, their work has neither been acknowledged nor recognized.

They have little access to the economic resources they generate. Although the agricultural sectors employs majority of the labor force, a part of the population in rural areas is unable to afford their basic needs itself, modern amenities arent anywhere close to available. In every society, men and women are considered as equals. However, this belief is far away when it comes to practice in Nepal. Nepalese society has created a distinct role for men and women since its formation. Men and women have different roles, norms and opportunities. Women especially in rural areas work more than 15 hours -From early in the morning till late night, theyre involved in domestic chores and agricultural work too. Still their work have not been acknowledged and recognized.

The girls are expected to help their mother from an early age and are detained to the 'inside world'- to learn the household drudgery to be a perfect 'home maker'- dutiful and loyal wife, loving mother, subservient and service provider; while boys are prepared to live in the 'outside world'- to involve in productive work- work that generates money in the form of salary, wages or income decision making etc. In many families this discrimination has been accepted as a culture of the family. Women especially in rural areas are forced to accept this strong and unjust social structure with silence. Since they are born, they are made to believe that these extreme prejudices are their fate and ensue from their „bad deeds in the previous life.

In Nepal, most of the parents still strongly prefer sons over daughters because the society recognizes sons only as their child and gives full rights only to sons to carry the family name, perform death rituals and rite. Likewise, sons are considered as insurance for parents in their old age. As a result, parents prefer to wait just to give birth to a son (dhilo paye, chhora paye) in the name of preserving traditional customs. It is widely believed in “traditional families” that the birth of a son paves their way to heaven (chhora paye swarga jaane), therein fosters the derogatory attitude towards daughters. This obligates many women to give birth until they have a son. In this case, their bodies are treated like child bearing machines. These disparities still prevail in Nepalese society regardless of the feminist movement and their efforts to challenge the Supreme Court to take initiative in eliminating gender based inequalities.

Socio-cultural preferences and poverty have also contributed to increase the death of rural women during the complication in pregnancy and child delivery. Most health care services are available in cities and towns and are beyond the accessibility and affordability of rural people. Alternatively, the local health centers which are accessible (generally located in distant places) even lack sufficient common medicines. Modern medical equipment and health experts in rural areas are far from the imagination of local people. As a result, rural people are forced to believe in/rely on local traditional healers.

Many families in rural areas still hold a negative attitude towards womens education that not only keep women in a lower status but also restricts them from greater participation in social, political and economic activities. A sons education is considered important, and even if daughters are sent to school, they are sent to government (public) schools where the tuition till secondary education is free and the exam fee is very minimal, considering daughters to be given away as a “gift” in marriages in the name of a traditional practice called kanyadaan. Therefore, investing in daughters education is seen as a disincentive for parents. Equally, other contributing factors for restricting women from attending school are: excessive workload of the households, poor economic conditions of parents, unaffordable education fees, lack of toilets, lack of female teachers and other facilities. Thus, girls are often left behind through socio-cultural practices from equal access to education.

This illiteracy has lagged women far behind men in access to material resources such as property including home and land ownership. The central bureau of statistics shows that only 10.84 women have access to land ownership compared to 89.16% of men. It also reveals that women consisting 50.04% of the total population barely has 5.51% of home ownership. Until 2002, women were not allowed to transfer citizenship to their children. Citizenship is one of the fundamental legal documents to buy land but rural people especially women are not even aware of its use and their rights. This lack of awareness has deprived their children from various social benefits that are provided by the states and agents.

Having born and brought up in this type of environment, the question that often comes to my mind is Who is responsible for this situation of women? Women who work more than 15 hours are often blamed for not doing anything and beaten by their partners. Their work is neither recognized nor acknowledged by the family and the society. And now, I finally believe, that we've reached the Crossroads.

The path now, is ours to choose. And we have to choose wisely, because every crossroad holds an unknown path, an adventure perhaps, or the road to hell….. But be forewarned, there is only One road to Heaven, and there are Nine to Hell!

A woman, in many places, is treated with respect and love, like a Goddess even. I wish that there comes a day when this comes true in Nepal too, then there will be bliss, Nepal will no more be blue.

This article was originally published in IU e-magazine ( in India on November 20, 2011. 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Role of International Community to Promote Human Rights in Syria

courtesy: Wikipedia
Syria uprising has been influenced by the concurrent protest and successful pro-democratic movement in the region especially in the Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. After the fall of Gadhaffi regime in Libya, the opposition ‘radical’ groups are calling for the resignation of the president Bashar al-Assad for the democratization in Syria. There are number of options open to international community to interferences in Syria such as military, economic and diplomatic. However, it is hard to say what can be the best option to promote human rights and justices in Syria because there are still the substantial numbers of populations who support the authorities and recently around 2 million people protest against western interferences. Before we provide the best solution to stop violence in Syria from my point of view, we need to go to the history and find out how the revolution or violence happened in Syria. It would be unfair just to take one stand either from government or opposing groups. Currently, there are debates on whether the external interferences would be the best option to stop human rights issues in Syria or not.

Supporters for Assad Regim @Courtesy Google
When the protests first erupted, the protesters clamored for the repeal of the emergency laws, democratic elections, presidential term limits, freedom of expression and an independent judiciary and equal rights for Kurds. It clearly shows that the problem started with political problems and the solution should also be found within the political framework. I firmly believe that problems emanate within Syria and the problem should be solved from inside. Interruption from outside may pose a greater damage and might escalate the problem.  Interruption also endangers more lives of civilians. Therefore, Syria unrest is the matter of “domestic affairs” and every country should respect the sovereignty of Syria. Syrian has right to self determination to decide about their country. This does not mean that I am supporting the Asad’s regime. States must respect the “peaceful” protest and the aspirations of their citizens, but it is also the states responsibility to protect those citizens when protestors involve in violent action. The violence in Syria is the conflict of political approaches so the solution should be found within the political framework rather than providing arms, weapons and any other support by international communities that can foster war and violence.

On, the other hand, the government is blaming foreign conspiracies for the situation because there have been several reports that after the fall of Gadhaffi regime, the “radical” opposing groups have been supported and are expecting foreign sponsors especially for supporting weapons to them, calling international community to declare “no fly zone” and acting outside the law. We need to understand that violence do not start from one side given the facts that the “radical” opposing groups are demanding for the death of the president by hanging and even killing numerous soldiers. This forces us to ponder, Is Syria the next Libya? Is President Al-Assad the nest Gadhaffi? We need to find out the legitimate actor to bring the violence and should be taken to the fair trial. Violence is unaccepted at any cost whoever the perpetrators are.

@courtesy Google

In September, the EU imposed an embargo on crude oil imports and banned EU firs from investment in Syria’s oil industry. US also declared an economic sanction against Syria. I personally do not think that economic sanctions (especially oil embargo, sanctions on banks and telecoms) against Syria will solve the promote human rights in the country rather should banned all the sale and support of weapons and purchase of arms to Syria not only to the authorities but also to protestors.  The economic sanction should be immediately withdraw against Syria because it might further exacerbate the situation. I am glad that the UN Security Council fails to adopt draft resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown because the history has clearly shows that any external interferences that starts with economic sanction either lead to the greater casualties of human lives or ended up with military interferences. For instance, in Iraq from 1990-2003 is one of the examples that shows economic sanctions directly and negatively affected innocent people rather than despotic leaders. Another example is also the North Korea where economic sanctions failed to collapse the leaders rather it has affected millions of people who are starve to death.
Human Rights groups reported that the death toll ranged above 3000 and over 10,000 people has been arrested by authorities and several armies have been killed by protestors. However there is no exact information about casualties and human rights violation by protestors and authorities. Most of the videos and reports are based on the protestor’s side. Therefore, the separate commission should immediately establish to inquiry, investigate all alleged violations of human rights law by the authorities and protestors.
@Courtesy Google
There is a fear that the collapse of the president might “provoke conflict, destabilize the region and create a destructive impact on the Middle East.” I even doubt if the resignation/collapse of president would bring any significant changes. Considering the situation of Syria, the best way out of the situation is to refuse a conflict and bring parties together to devise intra-Syrian political process. In doing so, Qatar and the Arab League can play the mediation activities in freeing detainees who haven’t committed crime, create an environment to foster peaceful dialogue with authorities and opposition groups and force the government to follow on reform and favor gradual change. On the other hand, the opposition groups should immediately give up armed insurrection and engage with authorities for peaceful dialogue. In this case, the international community can request opposite group to come forward for peace discussion.
This is the personal opinion of the author and is based on the debate during the class MAINS Global Human Rights. Author would like to thanks all the participants for their meaningful contribution.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review: Critical Approaches to International Security

K.M. Fierke republished the Critical Approaches to international Security in 2008 that contains 235 pages. There are total nine chapters which mostly challenge the traditional concept of security and its understanding in international studies. The purpose of the book is to analyze the debate about security in relation to “war on terrorism”. Critical security studies have been distinguished from longer traditional security studies by raising questions about historical location and their theory. Various range of concepts such as relationship between security and change, identity, the production of danger, trauma, human security, immanent critique and emancipation are discussed. Although some of the concept were very complex and even challenged my capacity on understanding of security, overall I like this book. It has been able to challenge the narrow military definition of security based on cold war and political manifestation.

 Chapter 1 “Definitions and Redefinitions” argued that the narrow traditional definitions of security are always political and contextually bound because it always define within political context. The traditional approaches tend to assumed that security is a property of objects in the world. It was understand as military as the threat and use of the force. However, other argues that the meaning change over time especially post 9/11. This chapter mostly highlighted that state as protectors of its population and at the same time, it can also be a source of threat. It also describes how a security of one state can be a threat of others.

Chapter 2 “The Proliferation of Concepts” mostly focuses on why post war security is ethnocentric? According to ethnocentric, it draws Europe and America as center and others as rest. This chapter argues that the need to an alternative approach based on analysis of security cluster. For instance, China as a security threat, Has China Military threatened to any other country to justify china as a security threat? However, one party system, internal oppression and Tibetan colonization all of these make us think that china is a security threat. It requires rethinking and mapping relationship that constitutes various threats to human life. The security can be diverse while localizing the own idea of security.

Chapter 3 “Change” explores the problem of change and emphasized how change comes out of interactions. This chapter mainly analyze between human nature as social construction. It examines the idea that war is a social construction especially gender construction which is mostly about famine and masculine. Then it questions about relationship between structure and agents through the analysis of conflict to dialogue and peace to war.  I totally agree with the notion of peace that “peace is not the absence of war but is the absence of violence.”

Chapter 4 “Identity” analyzed the several aspects of identity and its importance of discourse analysis in relation to security. The author challenged the notion of fix identity and argued that identities are constructed through the process of interactions and highlighted four dimensions which might overlap with each others. Alterity, fluidity, constructedness, and multiplicity are the dimension of identity. It also examines identity in relation to discourse, interest, dialogue and differences where the author mostly uses the examples of west versus Islam and particularly Iraq invasion. This chapter questions the scope of identity and how it has been threatened?

Chapter 5 “The Production of Danger” analysis how danger or threat or risks or insecurities are produced in particular concept of securitization. The formation of identities is the production of danger or threat. Critical approach sees threat as the product of political representation. The author raises the important questions related to protection such as:
1.      Who can legitimately claim the need for protection?
2.      Against which danger?
3.      Who is to do the protection?

Chapter 6 “Trauma” highlighted how it resulted from war and its effect to people and militaries. The author first highlights psychological experiences of individuals, securitization of trauma and therapy response. The therapy that was used to hide trauma was peaceful alternatives such as TRC, speaking publicly, listening, acknowledgement and intermediator. I totally agree with the author that who are traumatized today might be the perpetuator of tomorrow. Therefore, we need peaceful alternatives for therapy to avoid any future casualties from war.

Chapter 7 “Human Insecurity” examines human security as one of the increasing problem from war. The author ties the issues of human security with failed states and IMF and World Bank aid and neo-liberal structural adjustment programs as democracy promotion. The author see the need to raise the questions that “who has failed the failed states” because he understand it as consequences of colonial background.

Chapter 8 “Immanent Critique” is the expose of the current war on terrorism and the contradiction and the end of politicizing the historical and cultural fault lines. The securitization of terrorism emphasized on technology and militarization as the nest means to solve the problem however, critical approaches prove it as problem rather than solution. It gives power to those who are oppressed and marginalized.

Chapter 9 “Emancipation” starts with questioning and rethinking of what it means to be secured in the word. The chapter argues that emancipation is a process of freeing ourselves from the assumption of militarized understanding of security and have challenged all those traditional assumptions such as “weak versus strong state, state as a protector, military as a core of security and vulnerability must be avoided at all cost” and open a space for the weak to have a voice in defining alternative worlds. The another claim of the book is that protection has become a source of danger itself not only to those who suffer directly from the war in the name of protection people but also to those who suffer  indirectly due to the disproportionate allocation of resources to the military. The author highlighted how the superpower, USA failed to protect its certain groups of people during the Hurricane Katrina. The author also explained how emancipation is different from the understanding of liberty.

This is one of the best books; I have ever read about critical securities studies. It offers a wide range of comprehensive analysis and a good introduction of international security and international relations which includes the various dimensions of contemporary debates about security and security studies. The best part of this book that interests me is gendering of war, war on terrorism, securitization of Hurricane Katrina, trauma that reproduces insecurities and emancipation.  It’s a must read book if you want to deepen your knowledge in security studies. It has been able to address something that was not addressed previously.

However, some of the contents are missing in the text. In Chapter 6, author was unable to include some other alternatives therapies of trauma that are practiced in developing countries especially in south Asia such as poetry, song and story. In last chapter, the author talked emancipation as a struggle to be free from oppressions however; the author didn’t even touch upon how these vulnerability groups can be transformed? Every examples that were presented in the book were related with security either in Europe or USA and the issues of insecurity in Asia was fully neglected which is one of the weak point in this book. We should not forget that security of one sides create insecurity for others. For instance, how has the rise of military expenses in Europe and USA affected so-called developing countries, how has china rising creates threat to others?

The overall missing was the debate on who was legitimate actor to attack 9/11 because without going to the particular event, for some people it might be little uncomfortable to look into details and talk about aftermath of 9/11.  This uneasiness has to be address.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lester Russel Brown: Whether We Really Have the Future

October 11, 2011, I along with others MAINS students at Sungkonghoe University had the chance to participate in “The 3rd Year Anniversary: International Symposium” on climate change and global warming impacts in the world organized by Climate Change Center at Ewha Women High School, Seoul.

The center invited one of the great pioneer environmentalists, Lester Russel Brown, and various other local experts in the environment and feminism.  The center also invited politicians from the leading and opposition party but neither one showed up at the symposium.  Personally, I think the leaders not only ignored the invitation from the center but also show their negligence of environmental issues, which clearly legitimized the claim of one of the participants in the discussion  that “the government is a little behind when it comes to governmental efforts for environmental issues but the citizens are very  concerned about it.”
At the Stage, photo credit: Akhi

Brown, the founder of the Worldwatch Institute, and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, analyzed the impact of global warming, food shortages, water depletion and energy shortages. At the end of his speech, he also urged the government and individuals to take action that interests them. The talk was followed by comments from the stage and floor.

He highlighted that the extreme weather is having the affect of causing food scarcity in the future. According to Brown, food scarcity will result from four reasons.

Hunger Photo: Facebook

1.      Overpopulation:  The present annual population growth is 80 million people. Tonight, there will be 219,000 additional mouths to feed at the dinner table, and many of them will be greeted with empty plates. Another 219,000 will join us tomorrow night. At some point, this relentless growth begins to tax both the skills of farmers and the limits of the earth's land and water resources. Beyond population growth, there are now some 3 billion people moving up the food chain, eating greater quantities of grain-intensive livestock and poultry products.

2.      Water Supply: The food shortage has also been affected by the supply problem. The large-scale uses of mechanical pumps are exploiting the underground water. Today, half the world's people live in countries where water tables are falling as a result of over pumping. But sooner or later, falling water tables translate into rising food prices. As a result, irrigated areas are shrinking in China, India and notably in the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Over pumping may be a potential threat in the future although it will solve the current needs.

3.      Climate Change: Another emerging trend that threatens food security is climate change which has directly affected the existing agriculture and overall temperature of the earth. Of particular concern is the melting of mountain glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau.
4.      Lack of New Technologies: The agricultural production is shrinking overall resulting from lack of modern technology. The UK, France and Germany stopped growing wheat because they had no new technologies. On the other hand, some countries like Japan increased their production with the help of technologies.
Brown worried about the future and argued that “what we are doing today will not take us further” and urges everyone to follow the process below in order to sustain ourselves and our environment.
a.       Reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2020: Wind energy can be used as an alternative to fossil fuels such as coil, and oil. It is possible to reduce  carbon emissions through wind energy because of 10 reasons
1.        No trouble to anyone because wind energy scales up but does not scale down.
2.       It is carbon free
3.       There is no need for water
4.       No fuel Bail Out
5.       Less use of Oil compared to others
6.       Wind farms only occupy 1% of agricultural land
7.        Double cropping(the land can be used for wind energy and at the same time can be  use for agricultural production)

8.       Locally Available
9.       It can be brought online quickly.
10.   8000 megawatt is enough for the world population
b.      Eradicate Poverty
c.       Protect forests, ecology and the rain forest

Lester R. Brown Photo: Google

On the other hand, Brown also criticized the concept of security, which was interesting to me as a student of critical securities studies. He urges everyone including governments to redefine the concept of security. “Unless governments quickly redefine security and shift expenditures from military uses to investing in climate change mitigation, water efficiency, soil conservation, and population stabilization, the world will in all likelihood be facing a future with both more climate instability and food price volatility” asserts Brown. He inspired everyone and asked every individual to take an action at the end of this talk. “Take any issue that interests you and take action - that is how the change is going to happen” states Brown. Otherwise, he has doubts about the future and panics about the future by asking “whether we really have the future?”

Discussion Sessions:
Jang Pil Hwa, the only female discussant on the stage, emphasized the impact of climate change on women. She highlighted the fact that women and children suffer far more than men from hunger, malnutrition and famine. Therefore, there is the need to incorporate women in environmental issues.
One of the discussion members pointed out the need for public awareness so that individual efforts can also help to reduce at least 10% of carbon emission. The awareness should be the first priority of the state and its actors; however we should not wait for others. He argues that “most of the time we try to escape from issues saying that it’s not our responsibility” which I personally think is very relevant.

During the discussion, Brown also talked about food distribution and is said that there are two types of people in the world, those who are are “too hungry” and those who are “not hungry”. Too hungry is caused by poverty whereas not hungry is caused by obesity which is a big issues in America. he said that the same number of people are overweight as underweight  -the same number!!! It is crazy! For overweight I think he used the worl 'obese' – it means unhealthily overweight

At some points, Brown drew the audience's attention about the unhealthy sustainable economic growth of China. “China achieves rapid sustainable economic benefits at the expense of the environment. On the other hand, China leading cause of death is cancer, which will have a huge and tragic cost in the future”

Lester R. Brown, Photo: Google

One of the interesting ideas was of using real cost prices for carbon use. Brown said, if this were added up, the real cost of oil would be $12!  For example the market price of gasoline in the US might be just a few dollars. But in reality, the cost is much higher – the cost of US military in the oil-producing countries, the cost of medical treatment for people whose lungs are affected by car pollution, etc. He thinks that “If we used these 'real' prices, people would consider using their cars less and making other changes.”

Written By: Sunita Basnet
Edited By” Chloe Simson

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Statement by H.E. Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations at the 49 th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women

Madam Chairperson,  
Distinguished members of the committee,  
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed a privilege and honor for me and my delegation to take part in this dialogue on the fulfillment of our national obligations under the historic convention. Let me introduce my delegation. Hon minister could not attend the meeting because of some unavoidable circumstances.  

Madam Chairperson,

Preparing a national report on the state of implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was in itself a rewarding process of self-assessment. It provided us with an opportunity to reflect on what we, as a party to the Convention, promised to achieve, what we could achieve and where we lagged behind in realizing our aspirations for a discrimination-free and empowered society. We have already been through that broad-based exercise and the outcome thereof is presented to you. AS per the spirit of CEDAW, which looks at the issue related to women in a holistic manner, The Government of Nepal approved the National Action Plan on CEDAW in 2003. Prepared in consultation with all stakeholders, the action plan has formed the basis of our reform initiatives. The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare is co-coordinating its implementation.  
In its thirtieth session held in January 2004, the committee considered the Combined Second and Third Periodic Reports of Nepal. The observations of the Committee have since helped re-orient our efforts where necessary.  Without repeating much of what has already been said in the report and in our subsequent response to your concerns, I would like to take this opportunity to touch on the milestones that we have passed during the reporting period and afterwards, and the challenges we are making efforts to grapple with.  

Following the popular movement of April 2006, Nepal has undergone far-reaching political changes. At present, the Constituent Assembly is at the final stage of drawing up a new Constitution. We certainly did not wait until the period of transformation to press ahead with anti-discriminatory measures or affirmative actions under the comprehensive framework of the Convention. Indeed, decisive participation of women was deemed indispensable for successful completion of this unprecedented transformation, not least the peace process associated with it. Accordingly, the House of Representatives, in May 2006, adopted a resolution calling for 
guaranteeing at least 33 per cent representation of women in all parts of the state structure with 
the aim of achieving proportionate representation ultimately. 

In September the same year, the Act to Amend Some Nepal Acts to Maintain Gender Equality was promulgated with the effect of either amending  or repealing a total of 65 provisions in various Acts that were found discriminatory against women. The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 represents another major step forward. The obligations, directive principles and policies of the State as enshrined in the Constitution have explicitly provided for putting a stop to gender discrimination, for ensuring women’s participation in all parts of the state machinery on the basis of proportionate inclusion, and also for taking special measures in respect of education, health care and employment. The Constitution has for the first time stated women’s fundamental rights. Parliament has continued to pass new and important legislations with a view to advancing gender equality as well as prohibiting violence or discrimination against women, including the National Commission on Women Act, 2006, the Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act, 2007 and the Domestic Violence (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2009. Legislative moves are afoot to amend some 60 more discriminatory provisions in the law, to outlaw harmful social practices and to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The law has also enabled progressive interpretation thereof by the judiciary as reflected in a series of its verdicts of late. The directive orders of the Supreme Court of Nepal for necessary enactments or programmatic interventions issued in the light of the provisions of the Constitution and those of the Convention have been equally important. 

Madam Chairperson,

The principles of CEDAW have found expression in our development policy, too. Broadly speaking, Government of Nepal has pursued the policy of mainstreaming gender considerations in all sectors of development as well as encouraging women’s presence at all levels of authority. Women’s representation is valued not only in ownership terms but also in terms of making a difference in policy initiatives and their outcomes. Therefore we have taken a comprehensive approach to it. 

The 2006 Parliamentary Proclamation has created a wave of change in representation everywhere. The Constituent Assembly, which also functions as Legislative Parliament, was among the first to abide by the 33 per cent minimum rule. By doing so, the highest legislative body has provided an example for all other agencies to follow. Thus we see at least 33 per cent women in local peace committees, users’ groups and community-based organizations supported under various development projects. 

Earlier women’s representation would often mean one or two members; now it invariably means a minimum of the critical mass. This has given more voice to women, further encouraged gender-focused initiatives and completely changed the development landscape in the field. We intend to continue doing that in the days ahead. Women’s presence is visibly increasingly in the Civil Service, in the Nepal Police and in other institutions where it was rather obscure only a few years ago. Over 150 laws contain affirmative provisions facilitating women’s access to, or involvement in, various spheres of public activity. 

Maintaining the momentum of reform, the current Three-Year Plan (2010/11 – 2012/13) aims to eliminate discrimination and violence of all types  against women, envisages women’s representation in the state apparatus passing the 33 per cent mark, and lays emphasis on strengthening gender mainstreaming in all aspects of development, governance and service delivery. 

Continued advocacy of gender issues has its own impact. Within the government, ministries have taken the initiative in crafting sector-specific policies. The 2009 Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Policy of the Ministry of Local Development is a case in point. A new impetus to that process was provided in 2010 by elevating the level of gender focal points in ministries or other agencies. Now the chief of the Planning Division is designated as the gender focal point. Gender mainstreaming is ensured in decentralized planning and review as well. In districts the process is led by a broad-based mainstreaming committee chaired by the President of the District Development Committee and facilitated by the Women Development Officer. The district team has its own network of gender focal points in GOs and voluntarily listed NGOs. 

It has been increasingly realized that gender issues are the rights issues, that women’s participation makes all the difference everywhere, and that the superordinate goal of achieving gender equality calls for a comprehensive approach and concerted effort, widely shared ownership and reinforcement of linkages. The Ministry of Finance co-ordinates gender-responsive budgeting, the Ministry of General Administration takes the lead in affirmative reforms and the Ministries of Local Development, and Women, Children and Social Welfare have jointly executed a Gender Mainstreaming and Social Inclusion Project., Ministry of Law and Justice has initiated legal reform processes and Ministries of Education and Health lay particular emphasis on women’s empowerment through respective work programs. Similarly working together in close cooperation with the NGOs, CBOs and local groups, we intend to pursue our goal of making our society free from discrimination, together with women’s empowerment, a reality.

Madam Chairperson,          

It is in the context that translating policies into practical programs has been a priority of Government of Nepal. Various programs have been in  operation in the country with a view to addressing gender issues, expanding opportunities for women and bringing women’s agency to bear on the task of nation building. These programs include welcome-to-school campaigns, maternity incentive schemes, micro-credit services; cash transfer plans, policy-level consultations, and community-based access-to-justice initiatives.The Women Development Program is targeted for an estimated 3.9 million rural deprived women who have missed out schooling or other opportunities for development early on; this program is now extended to 3,448 of the country’s total 3,915 Village Development Committees. The Program has proved to be effective in creating  forums for participation, in forming social capital and in fostering women-led micro-enterprises. In village after village women’s groups have pulled together, fighting discrimination and violence, and creating a force for social change. Since 2003, with a separate component tailored to their needs, out-of-school adolescent girls have also been included in the target group of the program. 

In addition, a wide variety of programs is being carried out by NGOs. NGO activities are particularly effective in building public awareness, in organizing specifically marginalized groups and in giving care to those in need. Often government agencies and NGOs collaborate on such activities. Part of the strategy is to mobilize additional funding for focused programs by way of gender responsive budgeting. Initiated in 2007/08, the process has led to a gradual increase in allocations to programs that benefit women directly. Of the total budgeted expenditure for fiscal year 2011/12, that was presented a few days ago, 19 per cent will directly go to women related programs and 45 per cent is indirectly responsive to closing the gender gap. Similar steps have been taken to ensure women’s access to local government resources. The Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Policy 2009 stipulates that at least 10 per cent of the Village Development Grant should be spent on programs related to women directly. 

I would also like to put on record our gratitude to the United Nations agencies and other development partners for their continued support for the policy initiatives and implementation of various gender specific programs in Nepal.    
Madam Chairperson, 

The Government of Nepal has made efforts to confront violence against women on a priority basis.  More recently, we began a focused campaign  by declaring 2010 as the Year against Gender-related Violence. A specific National Action Plan was worked out with a vision to make Nepal free from violence against women and girls. Efforts have been intensified to raise awareness, institute referral mechanisms and extend services to the needy. A Gender-based Violence Complaint Management and Monitoring Unit has been set up in the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Women and Children Service Cells have been created in District Police Offices, and networks of community and district service centers with safe houses have also been established in 15 districts for women and children affected by domestic violence. This will be further expanded in the days ahead. An inter-ministerial committee chaired by the Chief Secretary has been formed to oversee the implementation of the action plan. An Advisory Committee comprising Members of Legislative 
Parliament, Chairperson of the National Commission  on Women and NGO representatives advises the inter-ministerial committee on its functions. Activities in districts are co-ordinated by a similar committee called ‘District Resource Group’ led by the Chief District Officer. Efforts have been intensified to raise awareness, institute referral mechanisms and extend services to the needy. A complain management monitoring unit has been set up in the office of the prime minister, women service cells have been created in district police offices. 

Anti-trafficking actions have been stepped up alongside. Just now consultations are taking place on revising the 2001 National Plan of Action with an added emphasis on law enforcement. Addressing domestic violence is part of the plan as it often increases vulnerability to trafficking. Life skills and livelihood support programs for out-of-school adolescent girls have been extended to remote rural areas, and rehabilitation centres for trafficking survivors have been established in eight districts of the country.  In this process a Five-Year National Action Plan on Implementing the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 has been approved in 2010. A high-level Steering Committee chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and  Minister for Foreign Affairs has been constituted to ensure that the resolutions are implemented effectively.    

Madam Chairperson,       

That actions are beginning to bear fruit is reflected in statistics. The proportion of people living below the national poverty line has been reduced from 42 in 1995/96 to 31 in 2003/04 and further to 25.4 in 2008/09.    
At the time of the 1991 census, Nepal was a rare case of men having a longer life expectancy than women. But that changed by the next census in  2001 and is estimated to have changed further now. Women today can expect to live 64.5 years – nearly a year more than men.  The GDI has increased from 0.452 in 2004 to 0.499 in 2009. The GEM has increased likewise – from 0.391 in 2004 to 0.496 in 2009. Considerable progress has been made in lowering the level of maternal mortality. The maternal mortality ratio has been reduced from 539 in 1996 to 281 in 2006 and further to 229 in 2009. The infant mortality rate has also registered a declining trend – from 79 in 1996 to 64.4 in 2001 and further to 48 in 2006. Within the five years of the last two DHS surveys, the TFR has been reduced by 1 – from 4.1 in 2001 to 3.1 in 2006.  

Gender parity has been achieved in primary education and gaps are closing, albeit slowly, in other areas, too. Literacy is an example. In 2001, the overall literacy rate was 53.7 per cent with a gap of 22.6 percentage points in male and female literacy rates. In 2010, the overall literacy rate has gone up to 63.7 per cent and the gap in male and female literacy rates has narrowed to 22.3 percentage points. The 2010 Progress Report indicates that Nepal is on course to achieve many of the MDG related targets, provided the global support is scaled up consistent with our national efforts. We are making our best efforts to grapple with trafficking in women and girls that takes place in various guise. There is also a growing concern for the safety of women in some cases in foreign employment, which we are making efforts to deal with.  

While there have been a number of improvements, gender disparities in development indicators are still a matter of concern. Factors often correlate and have a combined effect on disempowerment. Early marriage, for instance, frequently deprives a girl of schooling, takes its toll on her health and is also likely to weaken her say in the family.   Even with temporary special measures, women’s representation in the Civil Service stands at 13.29 per cent, indicating that much remains to be  done in meeting the target of 33 per cent representation in government agencies, private businesses and professional jobs. Similarly, we are making efforts to reach targeted programs to as many women as possible, but we face many constraints. Many are in need of specifically packaged programs, such as the Household Development Plan based on conditional cash transfer designed for conflict-affected single women and women of the  Badi community. Reaching out to all of them presents a challenge of its own, as does mobilizing extra resources for that purpose. 

Madam Chairperson,  

Government of Nepal remains committed to eliminating discrimination against women in all its forms and manifestations and empower them to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable development in the country. 
We have yet to achieve our goals, yet our achievements so far have been encouraging. If we could achieve gender parity in primary education, we certainly can do so in secondary education and, with additional efforts, in higher education in due course of time. And that will also enable proportionate representation of women everywhere, including the upper echelons of our organizations. This will have some spin off effects on many areas.

We have also learnt from experience that gains in empowerment can occur from any point on the scale. This means that the leverage lies in creating alternative opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of women who never went to school or dropped out after a few years. With gains in awareness, economic self-reliance and social influence, vulnerability will be reduced, harmful social practices will die out and discrimination will give way to equity. 

I would like to point out here that in many areas of our activities, human and financial resources have also come in the way of speedy progress towards elimination of discrimination against and empowerment of women. We all know that it is work in progress. And we believe that this dialogue will not only contribute to reviewing our  national progress and challenges, but also contribute to further encourage a scaled-up support and cooperation from the international community especially for those countries, where there is a dearth of human and financial capacity to fully and speedily implement its national objectives and obligations under CEDAW. 

Thank you for your attention

Official SourceOHCHR Website, Published Date and Place: July 20, 2011/ New York