Province 5 districts have no offices dedicated to womenWomen development offices were dissolved with the implementation of federalism.
When the country adopted federalism, all women and children offices in Province 5 were dissolved. The idea was to set up a dedicated office that would specifically cater to women issues.
Two years have passed since the country was federated, but the province has still not opened its women’s office.
Women’s rights activists have begun to question the role of women under the new system. One among them is Gyanu Paudel.
“Women played an important role to establish democracy and federalism in the country. It now seems like their roles have been completely forgotten. The state has ignored their needs; shrugged away the roles women played while the men sat down to prepare the federal structure,” Paudel said.
Women-related plans and policies have been greatly affected in the absence of a government institution which would have made it easier for policies to be formulated and budgets to be passed, say women’s rights activists.
Paudel argues that there are challenges now to achieve the targets set for women development and gender equality for lack of a separate government office dedicated to women’s issues in Province 5.
After federalism, the Local Government Operation Act 2074 BS adjusted all thematic offices of the districts with the local level.
Accordingly, the then Women and Children Office was brought under local unit. Stating that the offices adjusted in the local units were not enough to execute state works, both the federal and provincial governments set up some thematic offices, but they failed to open an office for women and children in the district level.
Radha Kumari Gyawali, central member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, said the absence of a separate woman office at the district and provincial levels is the result of a patriarchal mindset.
“It looks like the decision-making team comprised of only men. They completely left women out,” she said.
“During the transitional period on the run-up to federalism, we had lobbied with the centre to include a separate women ministry at the provincial level and a women office in the district level. The committee had assured us that such offices would be established, but they failed to keep the promise,” said Gywali.
There are seven ministries under the Province 5 government, none of which is a ministry for women. Women-related issues are overseen by the Social Development Ministry which also looks after education, health, youth, sports, senior citizens, and the physically disabled. There are seven directorates under the federal government, but none is for women and children.
Similarly, out of a total of 145 offices under the Provincial 5 government, not a single one is dedicated to women.
Social Development Minister Sudarshan Baral admitted that the ministry has not been able to penetrate the grassroots level and select plans and policies targeted at women.
“We prepared plans and selected some projects last year in consultation with women leaders, lawmakers and representatives of some social organisations, but we weren’t able to implement the projects at the local level,” said Baral.
There are two directorates—health and education—under the Social Development Ministry, but neither caters to women. The Social Division Office is responsible to work for women, children, disabled and senior citizens.
“It is difficult to work because there are no separate provisions, infrastructure, resources and budget for women-centric offices. We just carry out the daily administration works,” said Sharada Belbase, the division office chief. “Programmes targeted at women have yet to be implemented effectively.”
Baral said the province government was aware of the difficulties and challenges of working for women’s rights and development without the support of dedicated offices and his ministry is making efforts to address the issue.
“We have asked the federal government to set up a separate directorate for women and children. We are also preparing to set up a new structure in the provincial level itself,” Baral said.