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Voices from grassroots politics

“A Woman politician has to either leave politics, or leave her husband.”

The above statement by Bhagwati Pudasaini says it all—it describes the plight of grassroots women politicians in Nepal. This describes how women politicians are deserted by family members and how much they have to struggle to come up and take the center stage. Gender empowerment of women who come from the lowest strata of society is generally ignored by the state level agencies. Their plight, their concern, their agenda and their problems are not addressed most of the times. It is not only the support that grassroots women politicians lack, they also lack the knowledge capital to better participate in national politics and get involved in decision–making.

Confronting them are many hurdles including lack of education, financial dependency, work status, gender insensitive political culture, societal obligations by virtue of their gender, and above all indifference from the state level agencies.

Everyone has a story to share, a story so inspiring that one will keep wondering over the courage that these brave women possess. Despite the struggles they face, grassroots women politicians have the audacity that could put to shame any women from mainstream politics. Ganga Devi, District Committee member of UML expressed that the problem lies with the women politicians themselves. They are not ready to believe in themselves. The moment women start believing in their abilities, they will be able to challenge themselves, push themselves, and break the boundaries.

Women’s involvement in politics can come with huge prices, says Sarita KC of Nepal Women’s Association, Chitwan. Citing the story of a women CA member, who had to divorce her husband after her involvement in politics, she said that the reason behind such a fate is the deeply embedded male dominated culture in the society. This is a testimony to the fact that women have to face violence as a result of their political affiliations. Women are barred from exercising their freedom, they are accused and they are humiliated for activities they never performed.

The important question is: Do women politicians, who reach at the top echelons of power to do something for the grassroots citizens? Do they ensure that women empowerment occurs at the grassroots level? Do women at the grassroots level become empowered after getting women leaders, in fundamental areas like economic participation and decision making, ownership of properties, access to resources, in issues related to women’s reproductive health and fertility choices and educational attainment, amongst other issues? As much as it is sad, they seem to forget the roots they come from, they forget the people who had supported the, and forget their responsibilities.

On looking closely, it can be seen that although political parties are involving women in their activities, it is true that they have weak women members in the party, someone who they can boss around. This is the face of invisible form of violence, a form that remains in obscurity. It is very important to have gender sensitization in order to have more women entering politics. Such sensitization should take place on a family level as well as societal level.
Gyanu Timilsina talked about the problems that the Terai women face including Child marriage to witchcraft. A woman never belongs to anyone—neither the parents, who await her marriage, nor the in-laws, for whom she always is the daughter-in-law, and neither in politics, which is again considered a male’s domain. The question is: Where do they belong to?

Parvati Rana, District Committee Member of the UML put it very right when she said that women politicians have to take care of the family affairs, and they have to take care of the state affairs. Grassroots women politicians have to make sacrifices—of their dignity, of their family members, and of their peace of mind. She was tortured and harassed on the pretense that she was a “Hill woman?” The question that she asked is reverberating and I am still looking for an answer: Where was the state when my clothes were torn apart? Where was the political party when my child was put in a sack and beaten mercilessly? Well, I don’t have the answers.

These women politicians have faced all the atrocities with the true spirit of a warrior. They have been harassed, they have been looked down upon, and they have been left to face the violence. Nothing of this has deterred them, and nothing will ever deter them. They understand that the path they have taken is not an easy to travel on and they truly believe in the cause they are endorsing. Mahamaya Devi Chaudhary, who was threatened times and again says that no matter how many more struggles lie ahead, she is not ready to give up. “I am the voice of the voiceless women. If men can do politics, why can’t women?” Women can of course do politics, and this is the spirit that inspires us and gives us the hope of a better tomorrow!

This article was written for the conference newsletter for the second regional conference on violence against women in politics: revisiting policies, politics and participation, held in Nepal from November16-17,2009

Comments

Dear Khus,

What's up friends? It has been really long time we are far fromthe connection. “A Woman politician has to either leave politics, or leave her husband.” most of time, when women and especially girls talk about the politics, we have to hear these types of saying from our parents. It is very hard to get support especially for women from parents. Thank you so much for bringing this issues.

keep writing and be in touch .

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

Khushbu's picture

Where have you been?

Hi Sunita

Long time indeed...seems like you have disappeared..i am sure it took you sometime to get the good news seep in...we are all very happy for you...

Thank you for leaving in your comments...i have worked on this issue for one year...and will write more in the future...

Love
Khushbu

Khushbu Agrawal

sunita.basnet's picture

NIce to hear from you

Dear Khus,
Nice to hear from u after a long time.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

JaniceW's picture

Insightful article

Khushbu,
Namaskar. Thank you for shedding light on a number of issues that most people are unaware of. These women are indeed courageous in their fight to be heard. How interesting that you state that they are weak members of their political parties, seemingly forgetting their roots once they are in power. I would have liked to have read more about this to understand if, after their long struggles for a position of influence, they become silent because of the discrimination, abuse etc.. causing them to act in more submissive roles once they gain these political positions.

You also have pulled some wonderful examples of women who have taken that long, difficult journey. Perhaps, next time, you could expand on their personal stories taking us deeper into the human side of the issue. Using quotes while conveying the strong emotion the women feel can often make a story more compelling as it connects the reader with the person's personal plight.

Your writing continues to be strong and you draw attention to issues that are rarely reported on in the mass media. This is your strength as a grassroots journalist and I hope you will continue to raise your voice on these important topics. Great work! Hardik Subhakamana.

Khushbu's picture

Dherai dhanyabaad

Namaskaar Janice

So nice to hear from you like always....Thank you tons for your constructive feedback. i really appreciate it.

You have given me a new story angle. I will certainly come up with an article giving a "human side" to the issue like you said. I have done extensive research on the issue. I was involved with a regional organization called South Asia Partnership International for more than two years, and did a lot of research for them. I have interviewed many women, and this article was written in like 2 hours time to cover the voices of grassroots women politicians who had participated in the second conference on Violence against women in politics that happened in Nepal from November 16-17 2008. So, its like one year old article, and today when i read it, i realize that there are many flaws in the write-up, but we had a major time constraint. But, now, since i am relatively free and do not have time constraint, i will work on a better article on the same issue.

Thank you so much once again.

Dherai maya
Khushbu

Khushbu Agrawal

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