“As women thrive, so will we all. If girls are held back, the whole world feels the pain […] The world will never realize 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realize their full potential.” — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Today, on International Women’s Day, we join governments and activists across the world to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries, communities and families. We take a moment to celebrate the many achievements, to take stock of the remaining gaps and challenges, and to call for change. This March 8th we strive for the future we want, Planet 50-50 by 2030 – the expiry date for all forms of gender inequality, discrimination and violence, the goal set in the context of the Political Declaration adopted by the 59th Session of Commission on Status of Women. The new global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hold the promise to transform our world for the better. A world where a girl can truly be and do whatever she wants, and women are able to participate equally in leadership across all areas of society. In 2030, there should be more women presidents, more women CEOs of companies, more women presidents of universities, more women local governance leaders, more women generals in the army, more women chiefs of police, more women political party leaders. Reaching planet 50-50 is anything but business as usual. We need transformation to overcome barriers to creating the future we want.
Women form over half of the world’s population, yet women remain under-represented in most of the institutions that make decisions about key aspects of their lives. This occurs despite their proven abilities as leaders and agents of change, and their right to participate equally in democratic governance and all spheres of society. They are under-represented in elected offices, the civil service, the private sector and academia, from the global to the local level. As of autumn 2015, only 22 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995, while 11 women served as Head of State and 13 served as Head of Government globally. In Nepal women are increasingly assuming leadership roles and have become more active as political leaders, peace agents, entrepreneurs and frontline responders to the 2015 earthquakes.
The promulgation of Nepal’s new constitution in September 2015 has been followed by the formation of a new government, including the election of Nepal’s first woman President, Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Onsari Gharti Magar as the country’s first woman Speaker. The constitution ensures the fundamental right of women to participate in all state organs on the basis of the proportional inclusion principle and guarantees women’s political representation in various government structures and at the leadership level to a significant extent. The 2008 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in Nepal was a milestone in women’s representation in parliament, with women securing 33 per cent of the seats; a significant step forward from less than 7 per cent in previous elections. As of November 2015, representation of women in the Nepali CA was 29 per cent with 176 female CA members out of 598. Yet, the representation of women across sectors as of 2014 was only 16% in civil service, 4.5% in the judiciary, 5.8% in the Nepal Police, 5% in the Armed Police Force, and 3.2% in the Nepalese Army. Women’s proportionate and effective representation in decision-making requires further strengthening across sectors – in political parties, the private sector, trade unions, the security sector and academia.
This reality of under-representation, exclusion and discrimination is holding back women, progress for them and members of their societies in many parts of the world. Building on the provisions in the new Constitution and the Gender and Social Inclusion Policy of the Election Commission, the upcoming local elections in Nepal need to be shaped by women’s leadership and decision-making at the local level, as both equal voters and as candidates nominated by political parties. The United Nations in Nepal is committed to supporting the Government to step it up for gender equality, women’s human rights and the empowerment of all women in Nepal.