Meaningful representation of women in governance and decision making is a must for true implementation of the constitution
The three tiers of elections — local, provincial and federal — now have ensured that the country is on the course of constitution implementation. Local governments have been installed after a gap of almost 17 years, provincial governments are gradually taking shape in all provinces, and a new federal government is expected at the centre within a week or two. Women’s representation in all state bodies based on the principle of proportional inclusion is one of the key features of the new constitution under which the three elections were held. But one of the stark features that we have seen since the start of appointment of provincial chiefs (governors) is that political parties, despite incessantly harping on inclusion, have once again proved that it’s after all man’s world. Say for example, of the seven provincial chiefs appointed by the government there is only one woman — in Province 3. All seven provinces are set to get men as chief ministers.
Let’s go back to local elections. A total of 35,041 representatives were elected for 753 local units. Of them, 40.9 per cent (14,331) are women. This is the highest number of women ever elected to public office. But still, men outnumbered women. If we dig deeper, we see women were elected to a very few top positions. In the 753 local units, only two per cent of the mayor and chair posts went to women. More than 90 per cent of women were elected to deputy positions. Then in provincial elections, only 18 women were elected. The seven provincial assemblies have 550 members (330 through First-Past-the-Post system and 220 through Proportional Representation system). In the House of Representatives (HoR) elections, only six women have been elected under the FPtP system. The constitution calls for 33 per cent women representation in the HoR and National Assembly and the provincial assemblies.
Political parties though have made up for the shortfall by picking women candidates under the PR quota, there is widespread criticism that they have done so only because they were bound by the constitutional provision and that they are yet to internalise the principle of inclusion. The criticism emanates from the very fact that Nepali political parties, which are largely male-dominated, are yet to pave the way for women to hold leadership positions. That the new provincial governments now are in the making and there soon will be a federal government at the centre, political parties must work to ensure that women get an opportunity to participate in all bodies of the state. Though the constitution does not make it mandatory that all state bodies should have 33 per cent women representation, it does call for following the principle of proportional inclusion. Inclusivity should be adopted not only because of the constitutional provisions but because of the need to create a just society and take the country forward. Rightly placing women in leadership positions can only drive the country towards equality and prosperity. In terms of numerical representation, we certainly have made good strides, but time has come to translate this into creating a meaningful representation of women in governance and political decision making.
Two improvised explosive devices were detonated at the field offices owned by Indian company, GMR, in Surkhet and Dailekh on Sunday night. GMR is developing the 900-MW Upper Karnali Hydroelectric Project. Police said the explosives were detonated at around 10pm in Birendranagar, Surkhet and Dab, Dailekhet, where its field offices are located. GMR officials said the explosions damaged the office walls, security check post and other structure in Birendranagar and the compound wall and wall of a residential building at Dab.
Although nobody has owned up to the explosions, police have suspected that the Netra Bikram Chand-led Nepal Communist Party could have done so. More than 70 personnel of the Armed Police Force have been deployed to provide security to the project and the staffers. Such attacks will jeopardize timely completion of the project, which will not only create job opportunities for the locals but also generate revenue to the national coffers. The project has agreed to provide 12 per cent free energy and 27 per cent free equity to Nepal. The government should tighten security and take strong action against the attackers.
A version of this article appears in print on February 13, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.