Gender inequality continues to plague NepalThe country has made progress in areas such as life expectancy but there is still a long way to go before it attains gender equality.
The briefing note for countries on the 2019 Human Development Report maintains that ‘policies matter for inequalities. And inequalities matter for policies.’ This is as true as it can get. Although there is really no need for a report to establish the fact that gender inequality exists in Nepal, the 2019 Human Development Report has yet again revealed that the country has a deep chasm to fill when it comes to levelling the playing field for females. With a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.476, Nepal ranks 115th out of 162 countries. True, Nepal has made progress in other areas such as life expectancy, literacy rate and so on; but there is still a long way to go before it attains gender equality. In fact, so deep is the gap that according to Ayshanie Medagangoda-Labe, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme, "If we started working to reducing the gap now, it will take us 202 years."
This year, the report showed that Nepal moved up two spots to rank 147th out of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index. The index rose from 0.380 to 0.579, an increase of 52.6 percent. Meaning, people are living longer, are more educated and have greater incomes. The improvement looks huge in terms of percentage, but Nepal’s Human Development Index at 0.579 is a slight improvement. When the value is discounted for inequality, the index falls to 0.430, a loss of 25.8 percent due to inequality in the distribution of the human development index dimension indices.
Gender inequality has always been an issue plaguing the country. The literacy rates of men and women in Nepal differ by 17.7 percent if we look at the National Census 2011. Women also suffer more cases of sexual violence than men. Even when it comes to healthcare, there are still cases of women dying due to lack of basic healthcare facilities during pregnancy—pre or post.
This is not to say that no action has been taken as yet. On the legislative front, the constitution guarantees 33 percent seats to women to enhance their participation in political life and policymaking. This applies to the government at the federal, provincial and local levels. These are affirmative changes that is bound to have solid effects in the long run. But there is much to be desired. Most places are rife with hierarchy. Patronising women and their success is still as common as it was a few decades ago. What’s more, policymakers often turn a deaf ear to women’s plight.
The Ministry of Women, Children & Social Welfare was being run by a woman until some weeks ago. Following a cabinet reshuffle, the ministry which is dedicated to women has two men running the show—the minister and the secretary. It is being cognisant of these things that makes it possible to bring about change in the long run. Men cannot be sensitive about women’s issues like the latter can. And this sensitivity will ultimately reflect or not reflect in any kind of policies being drafted.
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