I recently wrote about the new law that was put into place regarding payments (50,000 rupees) to men who marry widows. I was able to sit down with the president of NESPEC’s women’s campaign, Mamta Thakuri to discuss how she is motivating women’s groups to demand change with this demoralizing law. There are about 11,000 single women in the Udayapur district, making this issue essential in tackling. The passion that Mamta had while speaking (a video will be up shortly of the interview) was very evident as soon as she started speaking about the current campaign. She is driven to make social change with the women in the area and she is encouraged that she has seen many improvements over the years. It seemed like such an incredibly simple statement, “We want the government officials to treat women the same as men. “Isn’t that the truth the world over I thought? Such a reasonable plea for society
NESPEC is trying to change people’s views, both men and women on gender equality. You cannot only advocate for the woman, yet must also encourage men to understand how he is bringing harm onto his wife and family.
Single women in the district have written a letter to the chief officer of the Udayapur district on the new widow law and have been told it’s looking very promising for change. In addition, Mamta and NESPEC are supporting another group of women in the forum that want to change a law that only gives payments to single women who are over sixty years old. Currently, single women over sixty years old receive 500 rupees per month ($6.50 American) from the government. Mamta and the single women she is working with are demanding that all single women, no matter their age to receive payments from the government. This way they can use the money towards job training, education and healthcare, which could take them out of the hopeless despair they often find themselves in.
I have spoken to many women in Gaighat and I presume its even worse in more remote areas. Women are completely dependent on their husbands for income and general wellbeing. Often, men are working in other countries for years without seeing their families because of the lack of industry here, leaving the wife at home taking care of the household. Women are slowly taking ownership of their own lives by realizing they can speak out and make a difference.
Over the past three years Mamta has witnessed a great number of women sharing their experiences, recognizing they have a voice and a story to be told and eventually demanding for change. Mamta and NESPEC do not have the support they desire in their campaign. There is a disconnection between the police, (often making bribes to keep abuse hidden) courts and society overall with campaigning for women’s rights. There is a long road ahead to change people’s attitudes about women in Nepal, with people like Mamta Thakuri encouraging change I have hope perceptions can be transformed.
Posted By Morgan St. Clair
Posted Aug 31st, 2009