Women at the Helm

June 26, 2016 , by DREAMS, Leave your thoughts
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” This quote by Sheryl Sandberg from her ground-breaking book “Lean In” has been used extensively in both literature and life by many. In the interval of two years, we have seen history being made in Nepal with the rise of women in prominent positions. This has sparked a degree of optimism and possibility of achieving the future that the above quote delivers. The climb to the top is undoubtedly tough for everyone. But there are some particular challenges for women, especially in a country entrenched in patriarchy which makes their journey towards positions of influence further daunting. But some push the boundaries of gender stereotypes and in turn challenge the socio-cultural perceptions, inspiring thousands in the process. Here are some of them who managed to have labelled themselves as “firsts” and as the histories in the making.

Photo: Dipesh Shrestha / Republica
Bidhya Devi Bhandari

The first female President of Nepal, Bidhya Devi Bhandari participated in politics from her student days, but she was catapulted into national mainstream politics after the sudden demise of her husband Madan Bhandari, one of the most influential communist leader and political figure during that time on 16 May 1993.

In recent years, Bhandari, an active member of United Marxists Leninists (UML) is recognized as one of the most headstrong women leaders in Nepali politics. As the Minister of Defense in the cabinet of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal from May 25, 2009 until February 6, 2011, her strong personality not only grabbed headlines in major news media, but brought many controversies in open. Apart from the Defence Ministry, Bhandari also held cabinet portfolio for Ministry for Environment and Population in 1990s.

However, Bidhya Devi Bhandari gained her much awaited political stature upon being elected as the President of Nepal last 2015. With almost 30 years of her life devoted to politics, her journey to being the first female Head of State surely is a praiseworthy one. Even though she has often faced criticisms throughout her political career, Bhandari is an iconic personality in her own means. Moreover, it is of no doubt that having a female as the head of a state in a country with deep patriarchal roots is undeniably a powerful symbol to uplift the status of women.

Photo: http://www.odishanewsinsight.com
Sushila Karki

Sushila Karki became the first woman Chief Justice of Supreme Court (SC) of Nepal on 13th April 2016 will be heading the judiciary till 6th June 2017. She has assumed the office months after the country got its first woman President and Speaker. The 63-year-old is the senior-most judge in Nepal’s Supreme Court who was appointed SC justice (ad-hoc) on 2009 was later promoted to the Permanent SC justice in 2010. She was also the first and the only Judicial Council member as of yet.

Apart from being known for her zero tolerance nature against corruption in the judiciary, Karki is also acknowledged for her judgements allowing women to pass their citizenship to their children and her dignified judgements in cases regarding gender-based violence.

Photo: http://www.constitutionnet.org
Onsari Gharti Magar

Onsari Gharti Magar was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the Legislature-Parliament of Nepal becoming the first woman Speaker in the history of the country. The former deputy speaker held the prestigious position after she was elected unopposed last October.

Popularly recognized to have been one of the fighters who were involved in the first attack against the state by then CPN-Maoist which started the armed conflict, Gharti Magar also became a Constituent Assembly (CA) member through the Proportional Representation system during the first CA and was directly elected from Rolpa Constituency No 2 in the second CA before being elected Deputy Speaker.

Gharti Magar married her neighbour and CPN-Maoist leader Barshaman Pun in 1995 but defying traditional gender-stereotypes, she continued her political career and was “underground” most of the time during the decade long armed conflict.

As Gharti Magar had been elected unopposed, it is seen as a positive approach for inclusion and unity. With more female leaders in influential government positions, there is hope that the unheard plights of women will finally be acknowledged on national platforms.

Photo: http://www.nayapage.com
Ragini Upadhayay Grela

Ragini Upadhayay Grela, an artist with over 30 years of experience in art productions showcased in 20 countries around Asia and Europe, was appointed as the Chancellor of the prestigious Nepal Academy of Fine Arts in 2014. Then Prime Minister, Late Sushil Koirala had administered the oath of office and secrecy to Upadhayay amid a function at the PM’s office in Singh Durbar for the term of four years.

Upadhayay is known to render religious tolerance and the space for women in Nepali society through expressions in her art. She revolts against political violence through her inter-textual and inter-generic art forms which often depicts the follies, cruelty and violence of the patriarchal society through feminist perspectives.

Photo: http://www.odishanewsinsight.com
Sudha Tripathi

Professor Sudha Tripathi was appointed as the rector of the Tribhuwan University by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli last December for the tenure of four years. She is the first female to serve as the head of the largest university in Nepal.

Apart from being renowned professor of Nepali in the field of academia, Tripathi is also a prominent name in contemporary Nepali literature scene, her works mostly based on Marxist-feminist concepts.

Tripathi is highly admired for her extensive knowledge in Nepali’s feminist literature and has successfully published several women centric essays and books, which has garnered appreciation from prominent literary and political figures.

Photo: http://www.thehimalayantimes.com
Neema Gharti Magar

Sixteen year old Neema Gharti Magar bagged the first gold for Nepal in the last edition of South Asian Games (SAG) that took place last February. Magar’s gold was the fifth gold medal secured by Nepal from Wushu in the history of SAG. This has revealed her significant contribution in the field of sports, also highlighting the need for promotion of Wushu as a potential sport for the young crowd of the nation.

When young girls who are still in school show enough confidence and determination to not only get to international platforms but also knock off all their competitors, it is nothing short of inspiring. Gharti Magar has managed to do exactly that.

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