Along the dusty roads and through the small rivers on motorbike, the NESPEC group made our way to a field office in Hadiya where I was able to talk with the secretary of the women’s rights forum, Ganga Rai. She helps facilitate the monthly meetings for women in the village and keeps a record of women’s problems in the area. In the picture below you can see a written out statement of a women addressing a domestic violence concern with her husband. Women come to the NESPEC office to file their problems and then are brought to local officials if needed. Usually all members involved in the conflict come together in the office and NESPEC mediates the problem. Restorative justice at its best, I thought to myself, how happy I was to hear that this practice was being used here. I hope to see one of these sessions in action. Ganga explained to me that most often the conflict is talked through when they all gather together and understand each other much more after explaining their side of the story.
Just as in other developing countries, fighting patriarchy is an uphill battle culturally and politically. There have been major improvements in the past few years; women now have rights to land at birth, decriminalized abortion and also the government removed a law that allowed men to divorce their wife if she was infertile. To my surprise, women comprise 33 percent of the Constituent Assembly and have women on each of the eleven constitutions committees.
However, there have been some setbacks. For instance, a law was recently approved to pay men who marry widows. 50,000 rupees would be given to men who marry widows. The government believes this is a way to help women who lost their husbands in the civil war. More than 12,800 people were killed in the ten-year war. Why wouldn’t the government provide basic employment trainings, education, health care or social security? Women are still considered second-class citizens to some in power it seems. NESEPEC is addressing the new law in their women’s forum meetings to spread awareness and hope to pressure local officials to revoke the law.
Yet, I must be positive, for the first time in history, women will have a voice in the parliament and at last will have their rights represented. There are many powerful women’s groups that are relentless in lobbying and listening to the marginalized. Yah for the women’s movement in Nepal!
In only a few weeks time I will experience the strong unity women share in the festival for women called Teej. A Hindu festival, where women fast and pray Lord Shiva for a long life. My friends here have described it as one big party where red saris, lots of jewelry and dancing are required. It will be an unforgettable time to celebrate with my new friends here.
Posted By Morgan St. Clair
Posted Aug 6th, 2009