There has of late been a lot of talk about women’s empowerment and the record presence of Nepali women in law-making bodies. But who are these women? What are their personal and education backgrounds and what are their commitments to the society? If you are curious, there is now a handy tool at your disposal.
“Hamro Mahila Pratinidhi” is a project funded by the Norwegian Embassy and implemented by a not-for-profit civil technology company called Youth Innovation Lab (YI-Lab). The result is a web-cum-written profile of 301 elected female political leaders of federal and provincial parliaments. Besides this, through an interactive web portal, you can view profiles of 14,353 local level female representatives and access information such as their age, education level, ethnicity, contact details, and their political commitments.
Pradip Khatiwada, 28, the lab’s executive director, says that the goal is to foster facts-based conversations about politics. “There are countless female political leaders in Nepal whose stories have not reached the public yet. We are trying to change that,” he says.
“Hamro Mahila Pratinidhi” is a project funded by the Norwegian Embassy and implemented by Youth Innovation Lab
Khatiwada says that despite the proliferation of social media and modern technology, people still struggle to find basic information about their representatives.
YI-Lab first thought of this concept during the 2017 elections. Khatiwada says Nepali politicians make fancy promises during elections. But there is no body to keep track of whether they fulfill these promises. YI-Lab wanted to do something about it.
However, arranging funding was a big challenge, and they were also confused about where to start. Then they came across “Hamro Mahila Pratinidhi” project that an organization working on women’s issues, Sankalpa, had bagged from the Norwegian Embassy. YI-Lab decided to help Sankalpa implement it.
Some female representatives were hesitant to give their personal information and there were language barriers too as they went about collecting data of female representatives, says Khatiwada. “Some first wanted to take their husband’s permission,” he adds. He recounts the times when he had to personally contact representatives as they were not giving information, and he did not want any information missing from the website or the book.
After collecting data, the next goal was to make the collected information easily accessible and interesting. “This is the age of technology and this generation wants information at their fingertips,” says Khatiwada. “Kathmandu’s youth might know more about American politics than Nepali politics because information about American politics is fed to us in a handy and simplified way over the internet.” He wanted to create something similar in Nepal.
Through the web platform, you can compare data about women representatives, say between two provinces or municipalities. Khatiwada says this first-of-its-kind initiative is a “gold mine” for researchers.
“If you have documentation of one election, you can spot the trends in next elections too,” he says. Representatives will keep changing but because a web platform will be in place, more information can be added without additional investment. YI-Lab will even engage volunteers and encourage political representatives to alter or input (new) information on the web platform.