Gender equality took a leap forward in Nepal – Finland’s support has been significant
A record number of women stood for election in Nepal's local elections in the summer. Some of them had participated in trainings supported by Finland, which related to the Constitution and the elections.
In the past ten years, Nepal has managed to raise women’s participation in politics, administration, the private sector and also other areas of life. In the local elections held in the summer, a record number of women stood for election, including untouchable Dalit women. Thanks to the amendment of the Constitution last year, the proportion of women in decision-making bodies rose 30 per cent.
Nepal is one of Finland’s long-term partner countries.
“One of the projects funded by Finland in Nepal is a project by UN Women, which involved training of women in matters related to the constitutional reform and participation in elections. Many of these women got a seat in the local elections and many other women have continued to take part in decision-making and equality work in their own communities,” says Leena Akatama, Senior Adviser on equality matters at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, who visited Nepal recently.
The new Constitution guarantees that a certain proportion of the seats in decision-making bodies is reserved for women and representatives of minorities, who used to be markedly under-represented in political decision-making before. After the local elections of the summer, 40% of the Nepalese district council membership and over 90% of the deputy mayors are women.
New law bans “menstruation huts”
Finland’s long-term support to Nepal’s education sector also adds momentum to women’s access to decision-making bodies. As many as 51.5% of pupils in secondary schools are girls today compared to 40% as recently as in 1999. In 2016, more than 260,000 girls enrolled in secondary school. Girls’ schooling has widespread social development impacts: education reduced the number of child marriages and teeage pregnancies and also reflects in the productivity of work and economic growth.
This autumn, the Nepalese Government adopted an Act that criminalises women’s banishment from their communities during menstruation.
“Traditionally, menstruating women and girls have been forced to spend the time separated from others and stay in “menstuation huts” with no access a toilet or unable to get washed and prevented to go to school or to work. Finland has been actively raising the harmful effects of this tradition to discussion in the communities,” Akatama tells.
The Act as such does not guarantee that changes will be made but social norms must be changed, too, and Finland will continue the promotion of equality in Nepal also in future.
“However, a step has been taken in the right direction,” summarises Akatama.