KATHMANDU, Nov 10: When more than 50 female candidates contesting the Constituent Assembly election from the valley addressed the mass from the Khula Manch on Sunday, a few sounded like confident speakers.
A lack of competency was apparent in case of the majority. However, there was still something that appealed to the mass - women´s desperation for a space in the world ´reigned by men´, which was actually best demonstrated by the weakest speakers!
“See how she is trembling while speaking, yet, she is contesting in the election - there is a strong message in it,” noted a middle aged gentleman who was sitting at the front row during five-hour long ´Vote kaslai - Netri lai´ campaign led by an independent youth group.
“She represents the women of our society who have no practice of speaking in public. Today she is nervous, but tomorrow she will develop confidence, we should take women´s lead positively,” added Mohan Singh Mohora, who is going to vote from Darchula district in the upcoming election.
Mohora stated that he would love to vote for a woman candidate not only to support the campaign but because he always believed in the idea of gender equality. “But unfortunately, I cannot vote for a woman. There is no single woman candidate in our constituency; I mean the one who is contesting in direct election.”
Under the first-past-the-post electoral system a total of 12 candidates are contesting from Darchula district which has only one constituency and none of the candidate is female.
The wider picture is not encouraging either. Out of the total of 6,343 candidates contesting the FPTP seats across the country, only 672 are women. Even if 50 percent of women are elected through proportional representation system, women´s overall participation is quite likely to fall this time as compared to the last CA, where about 33 women had participated, making it a historic achievement.
And women organizations, rights activists and political analysts had long warned of this situation while appealing to the political parties to mull over best ways to increase women´s participation.
“But every party should admit that they have been quite biased to women,” said Hisila Yami, leader of the UCPN- Maoist during the program. “Even our party has failed to be inclusive in terms of gender issue, I must say this,” she said.
Yami added that women´s role is not only to give birth and take care of her family. “However, men are happy to limit women in the very role as they don not want to share the power they have been enjoying for long!”
According to Janaki Manandhar, who is contesting from Kathmandu - 1, three things are keeping women at the back seat in politics - family responsibility, lack of resources and family support. “These three things obstruct our way. It is not easy to penetrate into the men´s world. But we have started doing it,” Manandhar, leader of People´s Rights Forum, said amid huge applaud from the mass.
Out of the total of 101 women candidates contesting from the valley, 57 had reached Khula Manch to speak for themselves.
According to the campaigners, media networking throughout the country would take the campaign ahead which is expected to make immense impact on women´s candidacy. "People are convinced of our views. We are confident that we can still change things to our favor in a few days left for the election," said Surabhi Pudasaini, a campaigner.