Paving the way for empowered female leadership
Since Nepal formally became a democracy in 2008, it has made several strides towards improving female participation in politics. Pursuant to the 2015 Constitution, just over 40% of all seats are reserved for women.
Nepal has the most women in parliament of any South Asian country and more than 14,000 women entered politics after the 2017 local government elections. Recognising the intersectional nature of disadvantage, a record number of women from the Dalit class — commonly known as ‘untouchables’ — were elected.
In search of deep change
Yet, without concerted additional actions, there is a danger that these quotas will only spur surface-level, cosmetic changes. Elected women have often been limited to deputy roles. Worryingly, many elected representatives have also complained about not being seen as legitimate leaders in their local communities.
In other words, deep-seated patriarchal norms die hard. These very same norms also mean that women continue to lack access to the educational and employment opportunities enjoyed by their male peers, evidenced by Nepal’s lowly ranking of 115 in the 2015 Gender Inequality Index. As long as these realities persist, the effectiveness of quotas will be severely limited.
Where we come in
It is this reality which has motived us as normative entrepreneurs, to create change at the grassroots level. Our work has extended employment and education to over 5500 marginalised women and girls who would have likely otherwise been denied these opportunities. Our plan to open a boutique hotel in Kathmandu will also help women break into what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.
Crucially, by empowering disadvantaged and disabled women who become role-models in their community, we show that women can lead just as well as men can. We also give women a direct stake in our organisation, and Seven Women currently has twenty-two women in its senior leadership team in Kathmandu.
Clearly, there is a long way to go. However, with your support, our bottom-up initiatives can continue to complement the top-down initiatives of the Nepali government. This way, we will achieve real and lasting change.