Women in Nepal: the need to be recognised

December 18 2012: The traditional roles that Nepalese women are asked to fill has meant that much of the time, their work and efforts within the community are overlooked. By providing women in Nepal with the necessary training to become leaders of their own future, many women hope that one day their voices will be heard.

Mithila painting of a woman performing a traditional role

During October, whilst in Lahan, an eastern region of Nepal, I was fortunate enough to meet 30 women from the Siraha, Saptari, Dhanusha and Mahhottari districts. I was lucky enough not only to meet them but to facilitate a session on ‘Dialogue’ with them under the banner of The Peacebuilding Initiative conducted by the All People’s Development Centre (APEC). For the last two years, APEC and financial assistance partner Search for Common Ground (SFCG), have been working with these women with the aim of enhancing their capacity for economic and social self-reliance.

Under The Peacebuilding Initiative, APEC recently organised training on “Collaborative Leadership and Consensus Building”. I was present at this training, and had the responsibility of ensuring the participants were aware of how conflicts, particularly localised surrounding conflicts, are solved through dialogue.

The women’s passion and eagerness to learn was incredible. Two years ago at the start of APEC’s work, it was rare for these women to socialise beyond their own homes; they were like birds inside a cage. They hardly spoke other than to family members. However, after two years of involvement with APEC, they made huge steps in development and are now suitably ready to take on the challenges of leadership, peace worker and peace facilitation. They not only overcame their own internal struggles, but progressed to solve external disputes with family members, communities and society in general, including local administrations, police authorities, Village Development Committee (VDC) members.

The substantial changes that some of these women underwent provided the inspiration to express themselves through paintings. They were mainly from the Maithili community, where Mithila art is part of their culture. The art is popular in the Dhanusha and Mahhottari districts of Janakpur and is considered the pride of the community.

The importance of the paintings lies in the message of the Mithila paintings, which reflects the stereotypical role that women are restricted to. For instance, in the lowland area of Terai, women are restricted from working and participating in community and public events, and are not part of decision-making processes.

Mithila painting of a woman in a leadership role

One Mithila artist, Sunaina, explained her thoughts behind the painting above:

The painting gives a clear message of a female leader delivering a public speech in front of people representing different ages, ethnicity, culture, religion and gender. The painting shows a shift in the role of women from the private domain to the public; it shows they have vision. The painting also represents co-existence, peace and harmony amongst the different ethnic, cultural, and religious people.

Sunil Sah, chairperson of APEC, said that he had never seen a Mithila painting of a woman with a microphone delivering a speech in public before. The painting highlights women’s vision for equality, peace and harmony.

Change however, is a slow process. The success women have had so far has generally been overlooked both locally and nationally. It seems that for now at least, the symbolic Mithila paintings are a starting point for women to encourage and find support in the community, and a way of sharing their vision for both the present and future.

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Comments

There are 8 comments Show comments

DILLIP DAS on January 4, 2013

This is very good article by Ambika Pokhrel. She has given a clear message of a female leader delivering a public speech in front of people representing different ages, ethnicity, culture, religion and gender on Mithila painting

Santosh Bidari on January 11, 2013

This is very good view this time of Nepal .

DILLIP DAS on January 11, 2013

I am a writer and Editor of ‘World Watch’, a monthly English news Magazine, coming out from Orissa, want to publish the article ‘Women in Nepal: the need to be recognised ‘ of Ambika Pokhrel in ‘World Watch’ . May I be permitted to do so.I wait early response.

Ruairi Nolan on January 11, 2013

Hi Dillip. We’re really pleased you find the article useful! Unfortunately I don’t have your email address, so I hope you get this comment: we would be very happy for you to republish this article by Ambika in World Watch. Please just be sure to credit Ambika as the author and Insight on Conflict as the publisher, and add a link to this page if it is an online publication. Do let us know if you do so.

Best wishes, Ruairi Nolan, Insight on Conflict Programme Manager

pramila kumari chaudhary on November 7, 2013

This is mass impressive and valuable.

Kara on November 13, 2013

Reprints of this art could be made and sold in fair trade stores in Western countris, such as Ten Thousand Villages in Canada. I think there would be lots of demand for it! The money could then go back into these initiatives, such as the loan given to the woman for painting supplies.

Kara on November 13, 2013

Unless the local artist feels that selling reprints would cheapen their experience or make it less personal. That would not be good…!

paola valenzuela on December 8, 2013

La valentia de esaa mujeres en los tiempos que estamos… Sean obligadas, culturalmente
Socialmente a caminar con su rostro y todo cubierto….
Lo bello de la vida.. Es que siempre en la vida alarece una heroina, para que vean más allá que desde una ventana…
Preciosas pinturas… Colores maravillosos… Felicitacionesss !!!!!.

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