Across Nepal, we have temples, festivals, rituals and icons that depict the power of women and their amazing and diverse attributes. These unique powers are always invoked at times of great crisis and always become the last “weapon” that enables the final victory of good over evil. Two women have dominated the media headlines in the past few months. One was a girl from Pokhara working in the Gulf, coming home with her savings to access medical services for her mother. She was robbed at the Nepal immigration and then taken to a hotel to be raped by the airport policeman. The immigration officials and police at the airport are not only powerful men, but also have been placed there due to political connections. They are untouchables. In far-away Dailekh in west Nepal, a journalist’s wife decides to take the lead to get justice for her husband who was tortured and buried alive. In a country that is reeling in impunity, both these women have inspired society to demand an end to impunity. They spoke up and took the lead while others are silent.
In the great Hindu epic the Mahabharata, there is a section where the Pandavs and the Kauravs gamble to settle their family feud and end up losing everything including their wife ”Draupadi” to their cousins. It is one of the most disturbing images in the whole story. The winners decide to further humiliate them by stripping her...and as the story is told to us, Lord Krishna ‘steps in’ and ensures that she has an “endless saree”. It is a great story that is now televised and captured in comic books. The question it raises is, what is it about our heritage that does not quite do justice to the role women play, how they are treated, and the consequences of not being able to create societies that are inclusive and safe for women? We have a tradition where the Kumari or living goddess blesses the head of state to rule the country each year. This is an immense “symbolic” power given to the young girl. Our heritage has these unique features built in for a cause and as a reminder of the rightful place our girls and women have in society. At the main entrance to the Bhaktapur Palace is a great image of the special place for women in Nepal society.
Impunity is the greatest enemy Nepali society faces today and needs to be recognized as such. People in power and position and with the right political connections feel they are untouchable. Until we can call a murderer a murderer and a rapist a rapist, no matter what their political affiliations or position in power, we cannot focus on improving the state of affairs. This country has huge natural resources, has a great location, hardworking and honest population that can help us out of poverty. These are all dormant in the current conditions. We need leaders, brave and honest. Caring and nurturing. Nepal is looking for leaders to take us out of this mess. We could certainly use the woman power at this critical time.