Narrowing the gap

Narrowing the gap

Oct 29, 2014-

The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2014, released on Tuesday, reveals some interesting trends in Nepal’s gender-based disparities. Overall, Nepal is moving steadily towards gender parity—on a scale of 1 to 0, with 1 being completely equal and 0 being completely unequal, Nepal has climbed to 0.646 this year, up from 0.605 last year. Long an unequal society, Nepal seems to be making progress, especially when it comes to education, labour participation, and political participation. There is complete gender parity in primary education (1) but there are more girls than boys in secondary education (1.05). Women also have a longer life expectancy (1.03). Labour force participation (0.93) and sex ratio at birth (0.94) are other areas where the gap is fast closing.

While Nepal’s overall ranking of 112 among 142 countries is not something to be celebrated, the strides that the country has made in literacy and health are definitely positive. Still, there are distinct trends that policymakers need to take heed of. Labour force participation has increased to a near mythical index of 0.93, ranking Nepal 16th in the world, but there is still a great disparity in wages. The Report estimates that annually women make $1,503 to men’s $2,873. Furthermore, women’s participation in the labour force seems to be limited to manual labour, with the index again skewed in favour of men when it comes to legislators, senior officials, and managers (0.16) and professional and technical workers (0.24).

There is also an anomaly when it comes to political empowerment. With a score of 0.176, men vastly outnumber women when it comes to political participation. Astoundingly, Nepal still ranks 61st among the 142 countries surveyed. This is a dismal picture of the world’s political sphere. Nepal, with a 33 percent reservation quota for women in all public bodies as per the Second Amendment to the Civil Service Act and 174 women in the current Constituent Assembly-cum-Parliament, has scored better than half of the world’s countries. And this is despite the reduced number of women in the current CA from the last one, where there were 197 women among 601 members.

The Report has outlined some positive trends but this is no time for the government to rest on its laurels. Without consolidation and institutionalisation, achievements like the 33 percent reservation for women are likely to see a pushback, as has happened in the current CA—women members are far less vocal about their rights than in the last CA. Political parties are crucial in this regard. By fielding competent women candidates in elections, elevating more women to office bearer positions, and nominating women to ministerial portfolios, parties can help instil a culture of gender parity. With greater political participation, women will themselves be able to fight for greater rights, like equality in wages and adequate representation in lower organs of government, along with the private sector. 

Published: 30-10-2014 09:15

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