Women and Nepali society

In 2011, ‘ECS living’ magazine interviewed me on a woman’s role in a modern (21st century) Nepali society. I had all forgotten about it when I recently found its transcript. I found it good enough to share with you. I have edited it for clarity and now am reposting it here 🙂

Women are perceived as someone’s daughter, wife or mother in our society. Do you think it is necessary for women to have a separate identity of her own besides being a wife or a mother?

Yes. Women have to forge their unique identity in the world today. Mother/wife/daughter are secondary roles. Any of you can have those. So start following your own path and become that change you seek in the world today.

Does religion reinforce the traditional roles of women? How?

Yes and No. If you follow religion to the scriptures (word by word), you might be misguided into accepting traditional rules which is not its intent. If you follow the essence of any religion (what it implies), then you would understand that religion actually provokes women to change the rules of the game, to be proactive and change agent in this world.

The patriarchy categorizes certain dos and don’ts for both men and women. For instance, men are the breadwinners in the family and it is women’s responsibility to look after her household chores and her children. Now that even women have become job holders, how does this patriarchal ideology constrict both men and women?

Patriarchal ideology is going to be less and less relevant in Nepal soon. The roles of men and women in a family will be inter-changeable like in many developed countries. The new ideology is inter-changeable, inter-dependence and mutual-responsibility.

How does the glamorized avatar of women either benefit or harm her individual identity?

Glamor hurts. Personality rocks !  Glamor is short-lived. Personality is long-lived. Glamor causes jealousy. Personality attracts genuinely. Therefore build your (unique) personality…

Women have been objectified since time immemorial. They have been perceived as a housemaid, a sanctuary for legalized sexual satisfaction, an object to conceive and reproduce babies and so on. In the present context, what are the ways women have been often exploited and how can women refute these patriarchal domination.

Build your self-confidence and you will not be played with. In-fact if women only realized and accepted how powerful they actually are, they would find that this society would have no choice but to respect them instead of trying to exploit them.

What are the strengths of women in the present context?

In Nepal today, If a man can do it, so can a woman.

How can women overcome the prejudices of patriarchy?

Focus on building your unique identity by improving your personality and reputation, other than being a mother /wife/daughter. Be involved in nation-building tasks. Follow your vision, not your fears. Follow your heart and mind, not the societal mob. Remember, your family may not understand you or would reject you at first, but in time, they will ALWAYS come to accept and love you for who you are.

How is the system of reservation either benefiting or undermining the capabilities of women?

I don’t believe in a system that creates division in any way, whether it favors or discriminates women. Equality in strictest sense has to be followed by educating people’s moral sense without discriminating based on sex . Yet by instituting quota systems giving women special priorities just because they are a woman will brings strong resentment from men who feels discriminated in turn. I do believe in  providing special incentives to help train women who need to upgrade their skills  so that they can compete.

Even job holder married women go to their homes and single handedly do all the household chores. That is the ideal wife according to the patriarchy in the modern times. How can this concept be changed?

Frankly let men do their dishes. I do it. If I can do it. so can others. In modern Nepal, traditional roles are no longer fixed, they are starting to change to mutually interchangeable roles . As women play  more powerful roles in public, this ideal wife concept of the past will fade away.

Women inherit nothing but castes, first from their fathers and later from their husbands. Does this tendency conceal a woman’s identity?

Yes to an extent. Women should never have to inherit identity from anyone else (neither should men). I recommend women not to change their identity (surname, castes), and husbands and others in the family not to insist on changing them. Just because it is an old tradition doesn’t mean it still holds credibility now. We have to be pragmatic. In the 21st century, identities are meant to be built. They aren’t meant to be inherited from someone else. Focus on building and shaping your unique identity 🙂