Your search keywords:

Lal Subba Gurung: Women should engage in development and governance roles

Lal Subba Gurung: Women should engage in development and governance roles

Every year, in the run up to the International Women’s Day (March 8), local bodies organize various programs centered around women empowerment, inclusion, and representation. There are several women groups, such as Aama Samuha, Tole Vikas Sanstha, Mahila Samiti, and Women Vikas Sanjal, that take up women’s issues. Meanwhile, local governments do their part by allocating a certain amount of funds for the upliftment of targeted groups, including women, children, marginalized communities, and senior citizens. Lal Subba Gurung, Vice-chairperson of Rupa Rural Municipality, says while the conditions of rights and representation of women have improved over the years, there are still many challenges—from budget allocation to policy making to better representation—that need to be overcomed. Smita Adhikari of ApEx spoke with Gurung on the challenges faced by women and the works being done by Rupa Rural Municipality to address them.

Tell us what your rural municipality is doing for the local women?

We have been carrying out several programs to empower targeted women groups by providing them training, orientations, and resources, as well as providing them with social and legal consultations. For this, we have been reaching out in the community to ask local women about their needs, especially in regard to implementing the programs designed for targeted groups. We have also been increasing the size of our budget for women.  

What changes have you observed regarding the condition of women in your area over the years?

In the initial days, women here faced immense challenges because of traditional perception held by men towards women. Gathering women in one place for an event or a program was very difficult. It turned out that many women weren’t allowed by their family members to attend the program. We also found that some women choose not to attend the program because they were too caught up with their household chores. As a result, we were unable to teach them about their rights and responsibilities. The situation has improved a lot over the years, but we are yet to make the desired progress.

What are the consequences of women staying passive and not seeking their role in local development?

First of all, when women are passive about their rights and roles in local development,  there is a risk of the budget allocated to the target women groups getting frozen. We have experienced this in our municipality, which has led to limited allocation in the women development sector. In such a case, the local government will be powerless when it comes to coming up with better programs and policies for women. The women’s population in most parts of the country is higher than that of men, so logically it is the women who should be given the first priority in terms of developing ownership. But that is not happening. To increase women’s participation and engagement in development works, we have enhanced community outreach to pull the attention of local women. Conventional perception of society towards women and financial dependency are the major problems as to why women in rural areas are not able to make their voices heard. So we are trying to address these problems through various programs, such as skill development and social counseling.  

What is the current status of women in villages?

If you compare the situation of women now and a couple of years back, you can see that today there are many committees focused on women development. Most of these committees are registered with the municipal offices as Aama Samuha, Mahila Sanjal, Mahila Adhikar Dabab Samuha, and so on. Similarly, Many Tole Vikash Sanstha (Neighborhood Development Organization) actively work in local areas, and they have seen increased participation of women over the years. Obviously, it indicates a silver lining of hope for women’s development in rural Nepal. But again, there are lots of improvements left to be desired. 

What do you expect from local women groups? 

Only forming groups and carrying out minor programs is not enough to meet the goal of inclusion and equity. Local women should actively seek their role in development works and governance. We want to empower women groups and enable them to participate actively in planning and execution of development programs.