Women leaders from all political backgrounds say they feel constrained
Out of 46,693 applications for leadership positions at the local level (mayor, deputy mayor, presidents and vice-presidents and ward presidents), only 4,851 are women.
While the nomination of women represents a total of 37.84%, only 8.4% of the candidates are in leadership positions, according to the Electoral Commission.
The remaining appointments – for female parishioners and Dalit female parishioners – are mandated by law.
Nepal is holding local level elections on May 13 and given the number of women nominated, their representation will be significantly reduced compared to the 2017 elections.
“This seriously undermines the capacity, contribution and eligibility of women politicians,” said CPN-UML Standing Committee member Binda Pandey. “It shows that female politicians have not been accepted by political parties at all.”
While the nomination of women candidates is mandated by law, political parties have exploited a legal loophole to thwart women’s representation in local governments. Discrimination against women within parties and the inability of women politicians to speak out against their parties have largely limited their ability to protest against such decisions, according to women leaders.
“The parties have manipulated the essence of the constitution to serve their interests,” said Uma Thapa Magar, deputy mayor of the sub-metropolitan city of Nepalgunj, who failed to secure a mayoral ticket from her Nepalese Congress party. despite his wish.
According to an agreement between the five-party electoral alliance, the mayor’s ticket was given to Prashant Bista of the Nepalese Congress and the deputy mayor’s ticket to Kamaruddin Rai of the Janata Samajbadi party.
“A man who was previously ward president gets the ticket to mayor, but a deputy mayor who oversaw the duties of the entire municipality is sidelined. Why?” said Magar, lamenting that discrimination against women within political parties is rampant.
Women politicians admit that they cannot speak out against leadership within their own party and their values, while holding their flags. Such limitations force them to self-censor and are unable to push back within the party.
“I cannot speak against my party. And even if we don’t agree with the actions of the party, we cannot speak out,” Magar said. “The women of the Central Work Committee also did not speak. How are we, or how can we?
According to Magar, the alternative to partisan politics is independent candidacy, but the public’s refusal to support independent candidates forces them to navigate the limited rights they exercise at the mercy of mostly male party leaders.
Despite attempts by women politicians and legislators to attract the attention of relevant authorities, the lack of timely attention from the judiciary and the sheer negligence of political party leaders, female appointments have declined compared to recent local elections.
Exploiting a loophole in Article 14(4) of the Local Elections Act 2017alliance politics reduced the local representation of women, as predicted by political and electoral analysts.
Women’s candidacy is lower than women’s share of victory in the 2017 local elections, which will most likely result in even lower female representation in local governance after the 2022 local elections.
With parties pursuing a policy of alliance, female politicians feel cheated. They realize that empowering women is not enough until male political leaders perpetuate the same sexist mindset.
“Women, Dalit members or people from marginalized communities can be more empowered than ever. But progressive political change seems impossible until the mindset of male leaders changes,” said UML’s Pandey.
The lack of female representation is evidence of how the sidelining of women continues in contemporary politics. Many women politicians feel extremely discouraged by the lack of party support in their political careers despite their outstanding contribution. However, the decline in nominations has not deterred women leaders who see the only path to better redressing women’s issues at the grassroots level and forming a fairer and more just society is through inclusive female representation.
Many are even more adamant and determined to ensure that their representation is not reduced. Whether it’s demanding votes for women or ensuring that the law itself is changed, women politicians are seeking a broader alliance to ensure women’s representation at the leadership tables.
“Until you have a law that makes it compulsory for women to apply, we will not be represented. This was very clear with the alliance policy in the elections,” said Rekha Sharma, central leader and whip of the CPN (Maoist Centre).
This is a lesson women politicians have learned and plan to move forward accordingly.
Pandey, who is also a lawmaker, believes two immediate actions are imperative to reverse the deliberate exclusion of women from local elections by parties. First, she says, the Electoral Commission should mandate one vote for a woman for mayor or deputy mayor.
“Parties may have refused to nominate women, but now it’s important to start a campaign to ensure at least one vote for women, either for mayor or deputy mayor,” she said.
Second, female politicians are gearing up to push for changes in laws ahead of federal and provincial elections, after learning the ways of male leaders.
“We will immediately push for changes to the laws before the federal and provincial elections in November. And we will now ensure that there is at least 50% female representation at those levels,” Pandey told the Post.
Given the limits within which women leaders can speak out against their parties, Magar from Nepalgunj believes that forces outside political parties should also speak on their behalf. Third-party lobbying is crucial for more inclusive Nepalese politics, she said.
“We need a broader alliance beyond political parties,” Magar told the Post from Nepalgunj by phone. “Despite lobbying within the party, there is no hope. We need external pressure, from individuals and organizations to speak out against this, because we cannot.
This alliance should not be limited to women, but should also ensure the involvement of men, according to her.
“Without the involvement of men who are allies, this fight will continue to go unheard and ignored,” she said. “Having worked for a long time in the Nepalese political system, there is somewhere more value in what men have to say. If we want men to be heard, we need a broader alliance that also has men speaking for us.
Many women in politics are unwavering in their determination to prevent the collective efforts of men to deny women’s political rights. Recognizing the need for a legal mandate, they plan to start with changing the law.
“It is very obvious that men and women are unequal in politics. Perhaps, without the policy of the alliance, this would not have happened. But it did,” Sharma said. “We need the law to ensure our representation.”