Gender Issues likely to get prominence in the Constitution

11 Apr 2010

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With one-third women in the Constituent Assembly (CA), the gender issues are likely to get prominence not only in the Constitution, but also in the state mechanism. However, women leaders still believe that their participation in the CA is only a foundation to build a gender equal society and that continuous efforts are required to keep this on the right track.

One hundred ninety-seven women in the CA have unanimous voice when it comes to gender related issues. CA member Binda Pandey, also a chairperson of Fundamental Rights and Directives Principle Committee (FRDP), one of the thematic committees of the CA, has the responsibility to prepare a draft fundamental rights of Nepali citizens that is well identified and enshrined in the new Constitution. "It is very important that gender equality and nationality get equal footings in the citizenship rights."

With women at decision making levels, a series of women's rights policies including the Domestic Violence Bill, the Amendment of Election Act and the Public Service Commission Act have been promulgated. 

But women leaders have come through a long journey of struggle within and outside their respective political parties to secure the current position in the CA. The Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist's (CPN-UML) adoption of an eight point agenda on gender equality forced other political parties including Jana Morcha, CPN-Marxist Leninists, Nepali Congress (Democratic), and Nepali Congress to adopt the same. 

After the House of Representatives (HoR) was reinstated in 2006, CPN-UML leader Bidya Bhandari presented a resolution in the re-instated HoR to ensure 33 per cent women's representation in all the state mechanisms. Nepali Congress and CA member Kamala Pant submitted a letter supporting the resolution in the HoR on behalf of her party.

This progress made on the political front on gender equality is a huge leap forward. Women representatives occupied only 3.4 per cent of seats in the HoR in 1991 and 1994 elections and their representation reached 5.8 percent in the 1999 elections. 

Binda Pandey says, "we have so far been successful in advocacy but when it comes to policy making, we still need to build up skills in presenting our points logically."
 

The UN Millennium Campaign in partnership with Jagaran Nepal, a civil society organisation working exclusively for the rights of women, has held a series of interaction programmes for women CA members in a bid to address this gap. The interaction programmes have mostly focused on economic, cultural and social rights and its link to the MDGs. Discussions on linking policy issues and MDGs to the Constitution have helped the CA members to lobby for their fundamental rights in the new Constitution. Ninety women CA members took part in the five workshops held over a period of six months. 

Five young CA women members have formed a caucus with five male counterparts to advocate and campaign for the MDGs and the various Economic, Social, Cultural Rights (ESCR) issues in the CA. Besides the CA, they will set the topic of MDGs and ESCR in motion in the Parliament, with the Government, the line Ministries, various stakeholders and also in their constituencies to promote positive policy and practice changes. 

The CA members aim to collect best practices and success stories on MDGs in their constituencies and compile those in a booklet before the high level event on MDGs takes place in September 2010 in New York. 

(For more information on the UN Millennium Campaign, pls. contact seema.rajouria@undp.org, National MDG Advocacy and Campaign Specialist)