The challenges of women in Nepal (CEDAW’s 49th Session)


Last week, several of our Advocacy interns had the chance to attend CEDAW’s (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) 49th Session meetings. The session is being held the United Nations headquarters from July 11-29.

Yu-Chen (Janet), Shih, CEDAW Experience

7/20/2011

Today is my second time attending a Committee meeting of the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The country
being reviewed by the committee is Nepal, a landlocked developing country located
in South Asia. I attended Italy’s review last week, but the issues discussed by the
committee this week are very different. The only common thing might be that
discrimination against women exists both in developed and developing countries,
and the gender gap in Nepal is even wider.

Nepal today faces stark challenges of gender discrimination at all different levels.
Though the New Constitution of Nepal guarantees women equal status and rights
to men, the implementation is still a question. The main problems raised by the
reviewing committee included lack of political will and public awareness to promote
gender equality, gender stereotypes rooted in traditional cultural values, trafficking
of women, unequal gender ratios in political participation and education levels, and
a high maternal mortality rate, especially for rural women.

The government of Nepal has shown efforts to narrow the country’s gender gap
in the reviewing report; however, it seems that Nepal still has a long way to go to
reach the goal of gender equality. This is obvious by the disproportionate number of
males present on Nepal delegation; there was only one female representative. Some
committee members asked pretty good questions. For example, have women living
in rural areas been informed about their rights? How has the government tackled
gender stereotypes prevailing in society and mass media? Did the government
ensure equal opportunity of free education for boys and girls? One member also
suggested the need to address the trafficking problem in immigration, console
trafficking victims, and collect data for women trafficking. These statements cut to
the point and address most of the problems currently existing.

However, regarding the maternal health issue under article 12, the committee
mainly focused on increasing family planning services, such as contraceptive use, as
the primary way to decrease the high maternal mortality rate in the country. That
means there’s something missing in their recommendations—good maternal health
programs that include skilled birth attendants and age-appropriate, knowledge-
based sexual and reproductive health education for adolescents. These elements are
crucial to solving the roots of the problem.

In conclusion, I really learned a lot about the severe situation women in Nepal face
today. It helps me to think more about the challenges for women all around the
world and how we can all work together to make it better.

– Yu-Chen, Shih. 24, Taiwan.