Minority Voices: Sharing Challenges with Parliamentarians

July 5, 2024

Representatives from the minority and the marginalized communities shared their woes with lawmakers and reminded their elected representatives to ensure that their voices are equally heard in the policies.

Women, Dalits, persons with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities and marginalized groups shared their challenges and hardships with MPs of the federal parliament during an interaction on "Inclusive Representation and Parliament" organized to mark the International Day of Parliamentarism in Kathmandu on June 28.


The International Day of Parliamentarism, celebrated annually on June 30, was established in 2018 by the UN General Assembly. It highlights the importance of parliamentary democracy and the role of parliaments in society, emphasizing the need for transparency, accountability, and true representation by parliamentarians. The Day focuses on strengthening the democratic institutions for sustainable development. The day is being marked with the theme "Parliamentary Diplomacy: Building Bridges for Peace and Understanding" this year.

Persons having different kinds of disabilities narrated their stories of hardships to the lawmakers. Rama Dhakal shared that a few months ago, they had staged a protest demanding the provision of personal care assistants. However, most MPs did not raise this concern in the parliament. "My son has spinal injuries and needs four personal care assistants, but I haven't received any substantial support yet," she said. Bhoj Raj Shrestha echoed similar sentiment. He urged MPs to support issuing a directive for the immediate provision of personal care assistants for persons with disabilities.


Constituent Assembly (CA) member and Dalit rights activist Binod Pahadi expressed concern over the dwindling representation of Dalits in parliament since the first CA, noting a significant decrease in the number of Dalit issues being raised in the parliament. For instance, the first CA had 51 Dalit representatives, but now there are only 16 in the federal parliament. "Dalits struggle to rent rooms in the capital, yet parliamentary committees neither oversee nor issue any directive on the matter," he lamented.

Rama Devi Parajuli, General Secretary of the Nepal Disabled Women Association, stated, "We watch MPs to see if they will correct the discriminatory laws, but they are not effectively raising our concerns in parliament."

A lady from the Norwegian Embassy speaking at an event


Representatives from the sexual and gender minorities lamented that legal provisions in health, labor, and employment sector, among others fail to recognize their rights. Despite raising these concerns repeatedly, they remain unaddressed.

Listening to the queries and concerns of persons with disabilities and rights activists, Kamala Devi Panta, Chairperson of Development, Economic Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the National Assembly said that she has long been advocating for disability issues and representation in the parliament. She had registered a stricture on health, which was unanimously endorsed by the National Assembly. Like Panta, MPs including Amrit Lal Rajbanshi, Tara Lama Tamang, Urmila Majhi, Ganga Ram Chaudhari and Goma Labh expressed their commitments to raise the concerns in the parliament.

Addressing the interaction, Aneela Khan, counsellor of Norwegian Embassy in Nepal said, “Parliament is inclusive when all community members can access it and participate in its activities, programs and services regardless of their age, gender, location or physical ability." Appreciating UNDP's Parliament Support Project's contribution in enhancing capacity of women MPs and MPs from marginalized groups as many MPs were new in their roles, she said, "Equally important is to ensure that the voice of the marginalized populations is raised, and their issues are prioritized in the public policy." 


UNDP Nepal's Deputy Resident Representative Julien Chevillard said, "Our promises of inclusion delayed will ultimately have implications on legislative works and duties. So, while we celebrate the achievements made thus far, we should not forget to make our collective efforts towards addressing the aspirations of true representation in parliaments and other state mechanisms.’’ Saying that the Constitution of Nepal has guaranteed equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, he said, women, Dalits, persons with disabilities, sexual and gender minority groups are facing several barriers including discrimination and exclusion. "Significant progress has been made, however, we still need to further the principles of equality and justice," he added.  

A dynamic mix of 60 participants—including 6 MPs, rights activists, journalists, and representatives from marginalized and minority communities—came together for the actively engaged interaction.

The interaction was organized by Nepal FM Network in collaboration with UNDP's Parliament Support Project (PSP) funded by the Norwegian Government.