WOW | People

Why are there not enough women in leadership positions in Nepal? What is holding us back?

Dr Manju Thapa Tuladhar
Adviser on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion

Nepali girls and women have so little agency power. Agency is the right and choice to make decisions! There is always a male somewhere in her life who thinks that she does not yet qualify to exercise her own free will and thus will act on her behalf.

There aren’t enough women in leadership positions primarily because opportunities to participate in economic, political and social life are limited for girls and women. Families don’t give girls the same opportunities for education as boys. Parents don’t take their daughters’ education seriously or have high aspirations for their careers. Families and educational institutional don’t mentor adolescent girls and young women as seriously as they do boys or men about education, work or career advancement! Parents expect daughters to behave and marry in a well to do family when young because mature women are not marriage material! They think that a good marriage would take care of all the needs of a woman. This is like parents getting “hands off” or “responsibility over” for daughter’s future very conveniently! What does marriage add to the young girl in husband’s house? Domestic duties, family care, and everything else that others will not do! Now where will time and encouragement for professional or intellectual advancement come from? Men hardly take household duties as their own. This ends up with little free or quality time for young girls and women to develop themselves. Due to this disadvantage introduced very early in lifecycle of a young girl, you don’t see more or equal number of women in higher and technical education, in the workforce as well as management. Boys grow up knowing that parents will support them and they are mentored to earn and be productive. This gives boys ambitions. The desire to achieve and succeed is healthy!  Why don’t we give the same support to our young girls and women? Mindset plays a huge role in limiting women’s access to basic things that can give economic freedom. Most female entrepreneurs have stories of struggles because parents have not invested in their education or given them equal rights to family property or money. Financial institutions also do not give women easier access to capital needed to start a business! In any area of work, women are forever assigned to stereotyped roles and positions and are hardly recognised by their male peers for their leadership skills. Employers don’t invest in female employees’ potential for growth because they still feel that putting affirmative measures in place benefits women only. Employers do not yet understand that by providing additional help for childcare or having prevention and response to gender based violence at work increases diversity and ultimately productivity of organisations.

Nepali girls and women have so little agency power. Agency is the right and choice to make decisions! There is always a male somewhere in her life who thinks that she does not yet qualify to exercise her own free will and thus will act on her behalf. Unless we let the girl or the women exercise her agency power, how can you expect a woman to make decisions all of a sudden? In politics particularly, you observe that leaders value women as mobilisers and followers and not as decision makers. That’s why usually in Nepal you will find that women are given leadership positions by men only when they believe that those women don’t have a mind of her own and will not challenge their authority. Token hand out of leadership positions hold no authority and are ineffective. When you witness women being handed tokenism it sends very negative signals to society. There are many qualified Nepali women and we could start by looking at women as more than decoration!