APD recently approached Minister for Women, Child and Social Welfare Neelam KC who has been involved in Nepal’s Communist movement since 1971. She joined the Naxalbari Communist Movement (Jhapa revolt) at the age of 13. KC, who is currently a politburo member of the C.P. Mainali-led Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Lenninist), has shared her experiences on feminist movements with APD. Excerpts :
When can Nepal get first lady PM?
How do you assess Nepal’s women movement over the past four decades?
Nepalese women were formally united for their own rights and freedom in the country since 1947. This was not an easy task for a woman to raise voice against the 104-year Rana regime. Women movement began with the struggle of Yogmaya who fought against the autocratic Rana Regime and contributed to Nepalese people for the establishment of democracy. Credit goes to late Yogmaya, Sahana Pradhan, Sadhana, Mangaladevi and their entire team. Now we are at this stage of women movement because of those women leaders’ contribution.
What were the challenges in women movement during Panchayat Regime?
The women movement remained somehow inactive during the Panchayat Regime due to political circumstances. Parties were banned to conduct their activities. The spillover effects of such restriction on parties could have seen in all sectors including the women movement. The women movement also faced hiccups in its mission at that time. After the Naxalbari Movement in 1971, the women movement again started to gain momentum. I joined the Naxalbari Movement with my friends Leela Kattel, Babita Niraula, Gaura Prasain and Shova Kunwar. It was very challenging work for us to join the underground politics at such period when the King had taken all power imposing the party-less system in the country. Our family wouldn’t allow us to join the political movement when women were forced to confine within their home. Another challenge was that we used to walk day and nights with male colleagues across the country in course of political activities of our party at that time.
Why the women movement couldn’t become successful so far as per expectation of women?
Of course, like other political movements women movement has not become successful in its mission. Tendency toward women in the government and society has still not changed yet. There is still discrimination to women in all sectors including government, society and common people. If we go back to the history, women have made significant contribution in Nepal’s political movements such as 1950, 1990 and 2006. Political parties have used women in those all movements. So in my conclusion, when country needs political change, then women’s involvement becomes always vital.
Are political parties responsible for women backwardness in Nepal?
Political parties have hardly recognized those women who have made significant contributions during the political movements. Interestingly, handful women who consider themselves powerful and who have never fought for country’s movements have got chances to enjoy power in the state. Parties have given opportunities to those women who have less contribution in country’s democratic struggle. Such opportunist women are also able to influence political parties and leaders thorough various means. I and C.P. Mainali were jailed at the same time in 1978 when we raised voice against the Panchayat regime. I was 13-year-old.
After 2006 movement women are getting more opportunities. Isn’t it?
Of course, after people’s movement in 2006 women are getting more opportunities in the government service and private sector due to the inclusive policy. Women’s population counts 51 percent in the country so we are seeking 51 percent women’s participation in all sectors. There is 30 percent participation of women in the Constituent Assembly.
Nepal has not got even a single lady PM, Why?
This is all because of male-dominated and patriarchal society. It seems male leaders are still hungry of power. This is not true that country jumps to a dramatic change after a female Prime Minister. We witnessed that there was no change in women status even though there were ladies Prime Minister in India and Bangladesh in the past. Male-dominated political parties have not yet thought about women prime minister in Nepal’s context. Women had active participation during political movements in 1950 and 2006.
Is your ministry working for bringing new policies and laws for ending Violence Against Women?
The ministry is working toward bringing new policies and laws for the safety of women and children. On my initiation, a new bill on ending sexual harassment at the working places to women was recently enacted through the legislature parliament. I tabled a bill at the parliament on ending violence against woman in the name of witchcraft. The bill is still under the consideration of the parliament. The bill will be endorsed by the parliament once the new session of the parliament begins. The cabinet has recently given approval to bring new laws in ending domestic violence against women. It is very unfortunate the women are not safe even in their own family.
What will be your role in ensuring women’s rights in the new constitution?
I am not directly involved in the constitution-making process right now. Government’s role is only to facilitate the constitution-drafting process. So as a minister my role could be a bit different. Though, I am also a politburo member of a party and getting involved in women movement. I will do my best to put pressure on political parties to incorporate issues relating to women’s rights as the fundamental rights in the new constitution.