Dahal defers proposal to make party secretariat more inclusiveThe proposal, tabled by two women standing committee members, envisions turning the all-male nine-member secretariat into a 15-member inclusive body.
Tika R Pradhan
A grim-faced Asta Laxmi Shakya told a crowd of reporters on Sunday that the ruling party had flatly rejected her proposal to make the party secretariat more inclusive by including women.
Shakya, a Standing Committee member of the Nepal Communist Party, was speaking at party headquarters in Dhumbarahi after the week-long Standing Committee meeting. Shakya and Pampha Bhusal, the only two women in the 45-strong Standing Committee, had tabled a proposal at the meeting demanding that the nine-member secretariat, the party’s highest decision-making body, include more women. The secretariat is currently an all-male body.
According to leaders, party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who was chairing the fourth Standing Committee meeting held after a year, told the Standing Committee that the composition of the secretariat wouldn’t be changed and the issue could be discussed during the upcoming Central Committee meeting. The party has called a meeting of its 445-member Central Committee on January 8. Leaders, however, say that is unlikely the issue will be raised at the Central Committee meet.
“If they wanted to, they could include two women from the Standing Committee on the nine-member secretariat,” said Shakya. “But inclusion cannot be expected from these leaders.”
The proposal of the two women leaders suggests expanding the secretariat to a 15-member committee, along with including one woman vice-chairperson in the Central Committee and ensuring one top female leader—either chairperson or vice chairperson—in all party committees.
The Dahal-led Maoists were instrumental in making inclusion a national agenda through their decade-long insurgency. Bhusal, the other leader who presented the proposal last week, fought alongside Dahal in the conflict. But ever since the unification of the Maoists with the UML last May to form the Nepal Communist Party, inclusion has taken a backseat.
“We proposed the inclusion of women in the party committee for fair representation and also to acknowledge their contributions to past political movements,” said Bhusal.
Citing a failure to ensure inclusion, the Election Commission had initially refused to register the newly formed party. It was only after the party committed to ensuring inclusion in all its bodies at its national convention that the Election Commission relented and registered the party. But almost 18 months since unification, the party’s national convention has yet to be held.
Nepal’s constitution demands that all government structures be inclusive. Clause 15(4) of the Political Parties Registration Act clearly states that women must represent at least one-third of the membership in all committees of a political party.
The ruling party’s failure to ensure women’s representation in its party committees also reflects in the governmental structure. The 25-member Cabinet of KP Sharma Oli administration only has two women, which accounts for just eight percent when it should be 33 percent.
“What can we expect from those who abandon inclusiveness after fighting for it for a decade?” said Anjana Bishankhe, a lawmaker and Central Committee member of the party who has long campaigned for women and Dalit rights.