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Thursday, January 24, 2008
Seeking Equality in Nepal
The Chicago Tribune ran a fascinating article today about the state of women's equality in Nepal (read the article here). In Nepal women traditionally have few rights. They are married before puberty, often die in childbirth, and until recently it was legal for them to be beaten by their husbands. But during the decade long Maoist insurgency they heard the promise of equality and fought as equals alongside the men. Yet as the fighting has given way to politics, that promise of equality is dissolving before their eyes. While the men setting up the new government say they support equal rights for women, it is clear that women are not a priority. So women find themselves shut out of the new government with no voice in the system they helped to install. They also are unable to return to their rural homes where unlike the men returning as war heroes, they are viewed as having lost their honor because of their serving alongside men as soldiers. Basically they are being told to wait until its the right time for the men to make everything better for them.

My heart goes out to these women who are being sent such conflicting messages regarding their worth and identity. To be called equals and given opportunities when it was convenient for the men and then pushed aside as a distraction is a devastating turn of events. It unfortunately reminds me a bit too much of the treatment women often receive within the church. So I'll be interested to see how the plight of the Nepalese women unfolds.


posted by Julie at 2:07 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 1/24/2008 04:01:00 PM, Blogger Miz Melly

    I was recently at a talk given by an NGO worker about the situation of women in Afghanistan. They aren't even classed as second class citizens. And she also spoke about female genital mutilation in Rwanda and other African nations. We really take for granted how much ease and comfort we in the West have.

    I would be really interested to read more theology from women outside of the West. One book recommended to me was Struggling to be Sun again (Introducing Asian Women's Theology) by H. K. Chung. Another good feminist theologian with an interest in women's issues in the global south is Lieve Troch but I haven't been able to find any of her writings in English (she's Dutch).

    I can't afford to buy all the books I want to read on these subjects. It would be wonderful to have some kind of book swap or online community library.

  • At 1/27/2008 08:57:00 PM, Blogger Kalirati

    The role of women in Nepal is very complicated. Women had traditional power in many Nepali villages, some subcultures given more than others. One of the problems with the Maoist uprising is the Maoists were resolved to destroy traditions and with these traditions, traditional power models. Many women were conscripted into this conflict, and forced to remove their traditional clothing and adornments, to turn their backs on their Buddhist or Hindu beliefs, and to fight "like men." Equality meant filling a male role--these women had to give up all the power they did have as females.

    Moving home is difficult for these women--and not just because of the stigma of their past. The villages have changed, the women and their expectations have changed, and the economic base has changed. Most families send their men into the cities now to earn a meager amount of money which means that villages are populated by children, the elderly and woman.If a woman returns to this, her male prospects are limited and she is fighting for her place in a village that is much more impoverished than it was when she left. Traditionally a village could survive hand-to-mouth. That is not so easy any longer.

    On top of this, Nepal is crippled by the past violence and the lack of leadership. Maoist, Parliament, the King--the people have lost much since opening up to the west in the 1950's. All of this chaos comes from the country's inability to survive in a world economy. It is a difficult situation.

    Very complicated but many organizations are trying to help. I know of one Nepali woman, Kiran, who is running a school that provides quality education for girls. Her e-mail is kirankarjit@hotmail.com She is doing great things. There are also aid organizations working to help teach skills to women who are unable to find marriage prospects.


  • At 1/31/2008 06:39:00 PM, Blogger medium guy


    I lived in Nepal twice - once for a cultural immersion exchange semester and once for over a year as a patient advocate in Kathmandu. My perception echoes what you have written in the sense that there is great gender inequality for most Nepali women, due to many complex cultural reasons as the previous commenter wrote, including the beliefs and practice of Hinduism in Nepal [my observation was that in rural mountainous regions, the women of ethnic groups who practiced Hinduism to a lesser extent and Buddhism to a greater extent lived on a more egalitarian basis]. However, I perceived a tone of positivity in your post about the Maoist insurgency that I do not believe it deserves. Prior to the insurgency, which began in the mid 1990's, Nepal was known for being a generally and essentially peaceful place. The insurgency has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and previously unthinkable scenes such as soldiers enforcing martial law with assault rifles in Kathmandu became commonplace. Nepal has lost its "innocence" over this and though there may be some positive outcomes for Nepali society, it will have been at an unfathomable cost. I just thought perspective needed to be voiced.

    On a positive note, a wonderful organization that is helping low-caste Dalit women in rural areas is called EDWON [Empower Dalit Women of Nepal] through micro-credit and empowerment through education. This charity is the real deal - grassroots and effective. Their website is www.edwon.org.



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