KATHMANDU, Aug 25:It was very displeasing when Bimala Rai had to go to bed hungry several nights when she got back home late. She expected her husband to prepare dinner for her, but he simply would not.
Rai, who understands that women shouldn´t be confined to household chores, opted to sleep hungry as she felt exhausted after a hectic day.
“My husband was waiting for me to come home and cook dinner one night. But I chose to sleep hungry instead of entering the kitchen — mindful of the fact that cooking is not just my duty,” says Rai, assertively.
She feels that it is extremely difficult to define and understand gender roles. “Even if people do, it is difficult to implement it in practical life because of our social construct.”
She, who is aware of the gender equality, says that men shouldn´t think that women are bound to domestic drudgery.
She also reckons that upbringing in one´s maternal house and self-awareness play very important role in shaping one´s life. “These days my husband cooks for the family and washes his clothes as he has realized that I won´t do everything for him. Also, I am glad to be part of every decision-making process in the family.”
Rai, 31, wishes to enter in politics some day. The mother of one is currently pursuing her Masters in Arts (MA) in English literature.
On the other hand, Bhawani Khanal feels that financial dependency on her spouse has barred her from enjoying equal rights.
She feels that patriarchal society is the main barrier for gender equality. “I wish to get more rights than my husband — but what to do? I am financially dependent upon my husband and have no choice than to follow his decisions,” she says, adding, “The perception of our society would change only if women start earning.”
She opines that massive awareness is necessary in the context of Nepal for acquiring gender equality. “Most of the families are not ready to openly talk or support their female members because our society values.”
Rai and Bhawana were among 399 female participants who gathered under a roof in Kathmandu to fight for gender equality. During the three-day national consultation on Beijing +20, organized by Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC) and National Network for Beijing-Review Nepal (NNBN), the participants unanimously passed a 20-piont declaration.
The conference with the slogan of ´Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it´ was held with an aim of reviewing the achievement and challenges in 20 years of the Beijing conference held in 1995.
The Beijing conference had issued ´Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action´ during the Fourth World Conference on Women.
Speaking at the concluding ceremony of the conference, Aasha B.K, a representative from the impoverished Far-Western region opined that child marriage should also be eradicated from our society to bring equality.
The participants, through the declaration, have asked the government to incorporate fully the essence and spirit of all 12 areas of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in the upcoming constitution by addressing the issues of education, health, employment, reasonable accommodation and food as fundamental rights.
Amendment to the existing laws in compliance with the Convention on the Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW) and other relevant international instruments on women through affirmative action is another important aspect of the declaration.
The consultation program also identified two other areas: gender identity and violence triggered by social ills. The recommendation and declaration of the conference will be taken to the upcoming conference being held in March in New York on the occasion of the 20 anniversary of the Fourth World conference on Women.
Ziad Sheikh, national representative of the UN Women, said that the conference will play an important role to draft agendas of women empowerment and bring out effective report on the area of women´s right only if women are taken as a part of the decision-making process and as a catalyst for change.
Addressing the concluding ceremony, Sophie Kemkhadze, Deputy Country Director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) expressed that it is no longer sufficient to talk about women or men in broad terms, adding, “We also need to shed light on the challenges faced by women from different social, ethnic, religious backgrounds and tailor support to their needs.”
Likewise, Chief Secretary Leela Mani Poudyal expressed his commitment to help from his position to uplift the status of women in society and help promote gender equality.
What is Beijing +20?
The United Nation´s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing adopted ´Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action´ in 1995 that was endorsed by 189 countries.
With an agenda of women´s empowerment through gender quality and women´s rights, the Platform for Action aims at ending inequality and discrimination against women.
The platform of Action included 12 critical areas of working such as women and environment, women in power and decision-making, the girl child, women and the economy, women and poverty, violence against women, human rights of women, education and training of women, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, women and health, women and the media, and women and armed conflict.
The review is being taking place at the regional levels as the UN Economic and Social Council requested the Commission on the status of women in 2013 to review and appraise implementation of the Platform for Action in 2015. Also the year 2015 marks the 20th anniversary since the adaptation of the Platform for Action.
Syllabus should include gender topics: Govt
The review report of the government states that Nepal has made fair progress in the promotion of gender and the empowerment of women since the adaptation of the Platform for Action.
The study, however, suggests to sensitize the educational institutions in understanding the problems manifested through gender-based violence by incorporating this subject in the syllabus and by encouraging research on these issues.
Similarly establishing a separate women bench at the court to address cases related to gender-based violence within the existing judiciary structures for efficient delivery of service to the victims until a fast-tract court is established in all districts and appellate courts is one of the key priorities for action over the next three to five years.
After adaptation of the Beijing Declaration, the Nepal government passed Domestic Violence (Offence and Punishment) Act-2009 and the Regulations-2010 in a bid to mitigate gender-based violence.
Likewise, the government also set up a gender violence elimination fund (operation) Rules-2010 to assist the victims, and also introduced Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act-2007 and Regulations-2008, inter alias.
“Gender equality has been conceived as an important factor for poverty reduction and such awareness has been reflected not only in codes, law and rules but also in receptive nature of the government toward various discourses and practices of development,” reads the report prepared by the government of Nepal, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) in July 2014.
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