Last week, women engineers and managers in power utilities from across South and Southeast Asia gathered in Kathmandu for their first ever conference. They came from Afghanistan, Vietnam and countries in between.
As more and more women are building and managing energy plants in power hungry Asia, these work places will have to be women friendly. The entire ecosystem from science and technology education to recruiting and retaining women in the energy sector were discussed at the Kathmandu meeting. We heard about women who struggled to rise up their career ladder and the prices they paid for it, including family separation.
3/4th of the sky, Editorial
Staying alive, Sewa Bhattarai
Traditionally, women have an exalted place in Nepal. We worship the female attributes in the form of the Nava Durgas and the Asta Matrikas. We celebrate the life of Maya Devi, the mother of the Buddha, Sita, daughter of King Janak and Bhrikuti, the queen of the ruler of Tibet.
Today, four years after the earthquake and failed attempts by men, Rani Pokhari is going to be restored by the women of Bhaktapur. We have trekking companies run by women for women. We may soon see pink taxis with women drivers for women passengers like in east Europe.
The house for the Nepali family, Sewa Bhattarai
Making gods for a living, Sonia Awale
Surviving the aftermath, Sonam Choeyki Lama
Staying positive, Sewa Bhattarai
Not too long ago, Nepal had a woman chief justice, a woman speaker of the house and a woman President of the republic. A woman CDO has just taken charge in Jumla. Women are in line to be secretaries and directors in many ministries and government agencies. The head of FNCCI is a woman.
More and more girls are in school and the dropout rate in east Nepal, for example, is higher for boys than girls. In colleges and universities, here and globally, there are more women than men. This is partly because boys are absorbed into the job market more quickly. From Bhaktapur to Dhangadi, all deputy mayors are women. In four years they could all become mayors. Pokhara will probably be represented in parliament by the late Rabindra Adhikari’s wife.
Read also: Saving Kathmandu’s past for future, Sonia Awale
With the men having migrated overseas for work, rural Nepal is being rapidly feminised. All aspects of the social and economic life are being led and managed by women. Many women have also left their villages, in-laws and small pieces of land to go to cities to educate their children, paid for by remittance money from their husbands.
More and more land is being registered in the name of women and the reduced tax for them is working as an incentive to accelerate this process across Nepal. This may be a good time to revisit the process of aggregating fragmented fertile land and initiating commercial and contract farming. It is also time to go for high value crops for cash and no longer for subsistence.
Read also: Learning about teaching, Prakriti Kandel
Nepali women have shown that given the opportunity and a level playing field, they excel in every field. They climb the highest peaks, they run the most successful businesses, they are in the army, police and in banks. They are doctors, engineers, teachers and administrators. As more and more men leave the villages and cities for work abroad, women are taking charge.
This must not be seen as a default but a real opportunity to empower Nepal’s women. We need to change our perceptions and mindset, and stop saying that the particular opportunity went to a person only because she was a woman. At the current pace of feminisation, within a decade or so Nepal may well have to institute affirmative action for men.
Anil Chitrakar is President of Siddharthinc