Dalit human rights organisations have been lobbying for increased participation of Dalit women in politics and Government for decades and with Nepal’s first local elections in 20 years, this is finally becoming a reality.
When a record number of Dalit women now take their seat in local Government across the country it is indeed a dream come true. IDSN members in Nepal have been working for decades to increase the political participation of Dalit women in Nepal, resulting in the 2017 Local Level Election Act stipulating that at least one of the four members of each Ward Committee should be a woman from the Dalit community. As a result of this over 7000 Dalit women stood for election and over 6000 will be set to take their seat in local Government this autumn, according to reports.
“After a long struggle and campaign by FEDO to politically empower Dalit women and increase their representation in state structures, so as to integrate them into national development processes, the local level elections have finally provided an opportunity,” says Durga Sob, Founder of the Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO). ”This will definitely elevate the status of Dalit women and help break the practice of untouchability and caste-based discrimination and bring about a revolutionary change in our society.”
In a addition to lobbying for legislation Dalit organisations in Nepal have also been working to raise awareness of the rights and opportunities and build capacity among Dalit women leaders.
“I heard FEDO interviewed on the radio and was interested in what they said about Dalit women’s rights,” says Pabitra Bishwokarma, the President of the Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) in the Makhanpur District of Nepal in an interview with Womankind. ”After I became District President I realised that I needed to be more educated so that I could motivate and help other women … In the past Dalit women have been used by political parties, but, thanks to FEDO, we now have bargaining power.”
Following the election FEDO held a felicitation and orientation programme for a large group of newly elected Dalit women (pictured). This is a historic time for Dalit women in Nepal and it is hoped that their influence will contribute to a more equal and just society.