Gender participation in development
Of late, the debate on gender participation in Nepal’s development has intensified. More than 40 percent of the candidates elected in the local elections held recently are women. According to the new mandatory provisions, either the chief or the deputy chief of any local body has to be a female. Similarly, there is the mandatory provision of a female member and a Dalit female member in every ward of any local body. These mandatory provisions have led to the election of a significant number of female office-bearers in the local bodies.
Such high female participation at the local level can be believed to contribute significantly to Nepal’s efforts towards gender-oriented economic development. The annual budget process and the issues and areas covered by the budget guide human development indicators in any country. For the first time in entire South Asia, Nepal started making gender-accountable budget from fiscal year 2007/08 and devising development indicators accordingly. A gender-oriented budget is not a separate budgetary system aimed only at women; it’s the allocation of amounts for women from the allocated budget.
A gender-friendly budget uses mainly five indicators. First, programs to increase the capacity of women. Second, the direct participation of women in budget formulation and implementation. Third, the direct share of women in the distribution of dividends. Fourth, the government investment in areas of increasing women employment and income generation. And fifth, qualitative improvement in the utilization of women’s time and a decrease in their workload. If we seriously want gender balance in our development initiatives, then we have to change our traditional thinking, understanding and working styles of economic development.
Especially, the state has to adopt special policies in order to involve women in the mainstream of economic development. At present, women development programs have reached almost all local bodies. The fact that more than Rs 4 billion was spent through women empowerment programs in the last fiscal year 2016/17 shows the effectiveness of these programs. Besides this, women across the country saved more than Rs 16 billion through micro-credit programs. Similarly, the savings by women crossed more than Rs 12 billion through programs conducted by the Poverty Alleviation Fund and other agencies. This shows that women’s participation in and contribution to economic activities has been on the rise. The economic empowerment of women not only brings them to the mainstream of development but also plays an important role in the entire country’s economic development.
While talking about the major challenges to Nepal’s development, we cannot miss out gender inequality. The special provisions in Nepal’s constitution 2015 and the policies of positive discrimination adopted by the government have played a very positive role in the economic, political and social development indicators of women. If we further expand women’s participation in the growing women’s participation in the local bodies and the overall development process, then that would give more effective results. Similarly, it has become imperative for the state to adopt the policy of gender participation in health, education and cleanliness and food security programs.