Starting over

•November 18, 2014 • 2 Comments

I had written this on my mind earlier, believe me! But I just didn’t bother to type it on my computer and post it to my blog. I have always loved writing. As someone has said, not all people can write, not all people can change their feelings, experiences and perspective into words. That’s why there are still readers who want me to write. I have got comments my readers that they enjoy how I write even if it is about just a simple thing. As I had almost stopped writing and I was too reluctant to start writing again I want to see how my writings have changed in years.photo source;unknown/google

Early writing- No doubt, most of the writers begin their journey from writing their diaries. I did the same but my writing consisted of poems, essays and articles on youth, society and development since my school days. Perhaps that had already defined that I was going to work in the social field that too was specifically in youth, women and development issues.

The basics- Well after joining Mass communication and journalism, I was interested into more feature writing and obviously my involvement in community clubs got more active. I was interested in writing about social issues, writing about my perspective on how youth can be the part of development and how development is possible through youth. I was also interested in having career not fully as a journalist but as a communication consultant in any organization and that led me to have a job as a communication and documentation officer in a Youth NGO. But my academic involvement in mass communication and journalism definitely helped to have the basics for my writing.

Exploring- I started my career from a media house; I was not a writer or reporter but working in the marketing photo...department. When I got involved in Rotaract and that gave me enough opportunities to learn leadership skills being involved in different sectors of community and international service, I realized that it’s time for me to change my job to social field and participated in many trainings and seminars in the same field. At the same time I got some online citizen journalism trainings which also gave recognition for the issues that I had raised.

Stopping- No, it was actually not fully stopping but I stopped writing for my blog or for the wider audience to be more accurate. During my master’s degree in South Korea, I wrote many research papers which I had to submit at the end of the semester. I consider it more as a time to explore the issues that always attracted me and it was about gender, international development, migration, peace and conflict, youth and women etc including my thesis on Nepali women migrants in Korea.

photo source:unknwon/googleStarting over -I realize I have ignored too many words that could have been in useful for someone, that could have been idea, inspiration, motivation or may be the realization that they are the better writers hahhaha… I had promised that I would write in a regular basis and also I will make the writings that I have already done more visible so that I don’t get over shadowed. And this is why I think it is starting over my relation with my writing. And these are the beginning lines.

Blogging from Seoul!

•April 10, 2013 • 9 Comments

Well, it’s not only me who is so much concerned about the ongoing issues of North Korea when the rest of the world’s attention is also on North Korea. These days almost every main headline from the measure news media is about North Korea. Every day I check the facebook group of nepali people in south korea, people are talking about it. Some of them have said that they are leaving the country soon and some of them have said they have already left and some of them have said- they are not afraid because they are the sons of Brave Gorkhali :) My daily chores consist one more routine now- to check the news on North Korean issues. However, I don’t find a single difference in people’s lives even in the time when every other news is all about the possible war on Korean peninsula. Life is going as usual and my email inbox are filled with the invitation and confirmation messages from organizations and friends for the scheduled programs.

2012-04-29 16.57.50

You will find it interesting – when I talked about the ongoing issue with my Korean friend, she said that if –“North Korea attacks south then one Giant Robert will come out from the Han River and he will save South Korea”. I know she said it jokingly but it also shows the other part that they have been used to these threats and all from a long time.

Besides this, this is the time to see the beautiful Seoul blossoming all along with the cherries. Ah! I have been so occupied with the political issue that the pictures of cherries don’t even come to my mind : P It really feels like heaven in this season as the cherries has already been decorating the city. We have scheduled to take a glimpse of Cherry blossom next week being indifference to the continuing threat from North Korea. I will update you soon with the hope that things goes all right :)

2012-04-15 13.22.23

Behind me…

•January 2, 2013 • 4 Comments

And just like that another new year comes. To be true, I am not so much excited for new year, maybe I don’t have that young heart in me to be excited ^^ hehhe…No! It can’t be. The truth is everyday has been exciting, everyday has brought something that taught me the truth about life and every day I have been grateful. You can’t believe but even in the busiest day of my life, I did managed to take some minutes to go out of my reading room and see the sky, breathe the air, feel the chilled weather and enjoy the coffee ( bit expensive though), appreciate people and help if possible. I thank God for the beautiful nature , the nicest people around me and  giving me the strength to think beyond ‘me’.

2012 was good. There were many opportunities on my way but I had to stick into one for the better reason. Sometimes, you just need to say ‘No’ to the opportunities you get to fulfill the only goal that is most important to you and I did the same. I, myself, am amazed how I have been so calm and so much positive to stick into one opportunity, but I believe this is the best decision. I couldn’t travel to other countries except Korea but I have been to the most beautiful and best places here and enjoyed knowing people, culture and their lives (most importantly- the food :P shrrroooppp) and volunteering.

 ©nilimaraut

©nilimaraut

I served people through Rotaract and other means. I helped my Korean friends to practice their English( well, I’m not a native speaker, you know that right?), I shared my leadership experiences with other Rotaract friends in Korea, I exchanged Nepali culture with Korean school kids and I participated in human rights, migrant’s rights rallies and programs. I hope my research on Nepali women migrants will also help to improve their condition in Korea (even a little would be important for me). I shared my experiences living in a country with Maoist Conflict of 10 years among activists who have so much experiences of their activism. I loved meeting these people as I got to be aware of many political, social and economic issues in Asia and the world.

As I always love to learn, I enjoyed learning in 2012 too. I learned about myself (believe me, it’s really important). I learned about my life, my strengths and weaknesses. I could succeed to improve some of those weaknesses and strengthen those strengths more. This year in 2013 too, I hope the opportunities will come and I will be able to grab them for the vision I have and for the reason that I should be grabbing them.

I am thankful for the people who have been inspirations to me, who have helped me to remain inspired, even to those who have been inspired by me ;) and to whom I am an inspiration :P and to also those people who were lil jealous ;) .

And I am thankful for these words… this is something  more valuable than the awards I have got so far (to be true, I love the awards that have added the beauty in my room and in my life and in my portfolio :) ^^)

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P: “You are the inspiration for me to be in Rotaract”

 ©nilimaraut

©nilimaraut

-I am also proud of myself to be a Rotaract member and to be among young aspiring leaders like you. Thank you.

S: “you have helped me to be better person today”

-I don’t know how but you are generous. Thank you.

A: “Don’t forget you are the star”

-Wow, that makes me feel like celeb :P but it really helped me to be motivated. Thank you.

M: “even though I am a boy I think about how you have achieved so many things being a girl and I really admire you”

-Ah! That’s the gendered comment. But it’s good that at least you appreciated my work ^^ Thank you.

My D and M: we had never imagined that you could achieve your goals in spite of the struggles and obstacles that you faced. We cannot explain how happy and proud we are to have you as a daughter. Only we know how difficult it was for you to get there. We just wish that the way ahead would be easier for you to achieve your goals.

-I love you mom and dad!

THE RED TENT

•November 19, 2012 • 8 Comments

(since its world toilet day, i am sharing this article on the menstruation rituals that is practiced in Nepal and the girls who suffer due to lack of toilet in schools…)

Mt. Gaurishankar

Going to school was tough at that time due to the cold temperatures. Snowy in the winter season, there were hardly very hot temperatures even in the summer. This mountain area called Dolakha is where I was born. I developed my first crush on one of the mountains called Mt. Gaurishankar on a beautiful morning when the sunshine kissed the mountain and it glowed like heaven as I had heard in legendary stories about it. Named after the Gauri-goddess and Shankar-god from the Hindu religion, climbing this mountain is prohibited because of religious beliefs and respect. But every time I went close to the mountain or saw its heavenly view, I imagined hugging it.

Imaginations and dreams were part of my life when I was growing up. However, as I got older, I noticed changes occurring in my body and this was a very weird experience for me. It was shameful for me to ask my parents about these physical changes and even my mom never told me exactly what would happen in my body as I matured. Back then, our culture didn’t allow us to talk freely about physical bodily changes, or reproductive or sexual health; even now, the custom remains in my country.

Due to cold my cheeks were redder than usual on this particular day; I was 12 at the time. Feeling some strange pain in my belly, I also felt like my underwear smelled. I still remember this day! I was wearing yellow underwear and later at home, I observed a red color on them. At first, I thought it was a stain I may have gotten while playing. Then I started thinking bad thoughts—maybe I had stomach cancer or an intestinal wound and maybe it would cause death. I was trembling with fear seeing strange things in my life. I couldn’t be sure that it was menstruation because our woman elders used to say, “Nachhhunu bhayapachhi nidharma tika lagchha.” This means we get a mark on our forehead when we have our first menstruation. I didn’t see any mark on my forehead. To this day, I am not sure why they say it like that. I was too afraid to tell my mom so I wore three trousers and went to school. The whole day I was nervous thinking of the heavy bleeding. I didn’t know anything about menstruation, except that my mom would not touch anything for five days each month.

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The Nepali word for menstruation is nachhunu which means untouchable. It means while we are menstruating, we are considered untouchable or impure for five days and everything we touch becomes impure. When we have our first menstruation, we are not allowed to touch any males (including our father and brothers) and are not allowed to enter the kitchen or prayer rooms for 22 days. We also have to use separate utensils. Further, looking in the mirror during menstruation is considered bad luck. Our culture has the superstitious belief that menstruation is the punishment of sins from our previous lives.
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So when our house maid noticed the blood on my dress after I came home from school, she immediately told my mom. They packed some of my dresses and told my dad to go out of house so that I couldn’t see him. I went with our house maid to her home which was approximately 1 ½ hours away. While there, I was given a dark room with no sunlight and given one plate and glass to use for eating. People said to me, “timi aba thuli bhayau” which means now I am grown up. Ohh! Now, grown up means I had to be careful from then on not to play with male friends, not to stay out too long, not to go out often or at all. I used to cry when I was alone for being grown up—all coming from this one simple, natural physical change in my body. I hated that blood which made this sudden change.

At the time, I had to use rags because I didn’t even know there were things like sanitary pads. Using rags was unhygienic and I was also unaware of how to wash them carefully. Days were so hard; all of the restrictions were the worst part. On “those days,” I was kept away from school and feared what questions my friends and teachers would ask. I saw many of my friends miss school during their menstrual periods; I also saw some friends get married after they started menstruating because they were now considered “grown up” in my culture.

I was supposed to stay away from my home for 12 days but luckily my mom allowed me to come back on the seventh day. That day, I was given new cloths and new things. I entered our home after they sprinkled gold water (they put gold in water, as it is believed to be pure). I was told that I shouldn’t touch my dad for 22 days. This was extremely challenging because I was always “Daddy’s Little Girl” and couldn’t imagine not talking to or hugging my dad. I cried a lot and hated being grown up. Many people stared at me and scolded me, telling me it was a sin. This depressed me for a long time after that.

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DISTRICT REPORT; According to the Monthly Monitoring and Annual Performance Review Worksheet for 2008 through 2009/10 in Dolakha, the estimated target population for health service use was 224,982; the actual users were 235,674, including immigrated people. Female health service takers are increasing by 2-4% per day which can be considered as the awareness of more health problems. Out of which, in the year 2009-10, there was an average 96 cases of menstruation disorder (in married and unmarried women) per month in the district primary health center of Dolakha.
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There is minimal promotional health service through advertisement in TV, Radio, and Newspapers. It includes some information on major diseases but it doesn’t include any awareness on menstruation hygiene. Hygienic practices during menstruation are of considerable importance as it has health impacts in terms of increased exposure to various infections. Due to lack of awareness, hygiene is neglected by girls, especially in the rural areas. The renowned INGO Water Aid is one of the major organizations working on awareness of sanitation including menstruation hygiene.

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SURVEY; According to a 2009 survey by Water Aid, the key reasons girls were absent while menstruating was a lack of privacy, unavailability of sanitary disposal facilities and water shortages. They are also seen to avoid going to toilets during menstruation as most schools do not have separate latrines for girls and most of them have missed school during menstruation. According to Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES), only 41% of schools in Nepal have latrine facilities with only 26% of schools having separate latrine for girls. To avoid humiliation, especially teasing by school boys, the girls would rather stay at home. This is one of the reasons why they lose interest in going to school and have poor performance results in school. One of the studies has indicated that girls are also likely to get depressed during their first menstruation.
***
The primary health education is included from class 1 to class 10 in the new study course. There is a subject called “Science, Environment and Health” in class 1-5 and after that there is subject called “Population, Health and Environment.” (This course is not enough for the complete knowledge on basic reproductive health. Though there are some chapters about the reproductive health, due to the new course and untrained teachers it has been ineffective. Also, the girls are too shy to ask about this and teachers themselves do not teach about it clearly due to our cultural barriers. And gender biases still exist in some of the schools in rural areas.

According to Govinda Raj Sedhai, secretary of District Education Office in Dolakha, the education ministry is bringing a new literacy program to adults. These adult/elders literacy classes will include three days of health education which may help woman to know about their menstruation and reproductive health, too.

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NATIONAL HEALTH POLICY—the NHP was adopted in 1991 to bring about improvements in health conditions of the people of Nepal through extending access and availability of the primary health care system. The primary objective of NHP is to extend the primary health care system to the rural population so that they benefit from modern facilities and the services provided by trained health care providers. Under the government, there are three kinds of health services: 1) preventive 2) promotional and 3) curative health services. Menstruation hygiene falls under the category of preventive and promotional health.
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GLOBAL VIEW; in total, women spend around six to seven years of their lives menstruating. A key priority for women and girls is to have the necessary knowledge, facilities and cultural environment to manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity. Yet, the importance of menstrual hygiene management is mostly neglected by development practitioners within the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, and other related sectors such as reproductive health.In many countries like Nepal, women are considered to be “impure” during their menstrual cycle. They are prohibited to take part in social life and are treated as “untouchable” during their menstrual cycle. But the truth is menstruation is a natural phenomenon that should be celebrated and an important part of the feminine journey. We talk about girls’ education and their rights to education. And when we talk about girls’ education, we cannot focus only on scholarships or building toilets. We need an integrative approach that involves gender sensitivity among teachers and programs educating mothers on the impact menstruation has on young girls.
***

There are many cultures in Nepal. Some of them treat menstruation in a good way and some of them treat it as if it is a big curse(more in the eastern part). The majority of girls learn about menstruation from their mothers, sisters and girl friends but what happens when they don’t know about menstruation hygiene? And what happens when they have knowledge, but they lack proper facilities for their hygiene? As a result, some of them suffer from depression and some get various infections. Many girls prefer to stay home during this time, which leads to their poor school performance.

My parents were unaware of this and I am sure they didn’t do it intentionally. But I had to aware them about it so my younger sisters didn’t pass through the same condition. And I am spreading awareness on the same through rotaract. I am proud to be in Rotaract(sponsored by rotary club of Charumati) and one of our recent projects was a Girls Toilet Project for which I am a coordinator, funded by the Matilda Bay-Australia Rotary Club. We have completed the project and I am currently working voluntarily in that school to raise awareness on menstruation hygiene, as well as other basic teenage problems. This is the first step of a big mission of mine! I am still learning and seeking new ways and ideas to include both genders. And I am happy that young girls don’t have to suffer in the same way I did in my early days of menstruation.

It depends upon how different cultures practice menstrual hygiene. But it is a very important part of health education like other major health issues without which woman empowerment is incomplete. It’s only possible to increase menstruation hygiene when not only health officers but teachers and parents play a vital role in transmitting a message of proper menstrual hygiene. This wouldn’t only save girls from many health hazards but would break the barrier to their regular school attendance. And we can play a most significant role through communicating with each other to create safe menstrual hygiene in our families and in our communities. This is where the woman empowerment begins…

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard from corners of the world.

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Here in Korea…

•July 3, 2012 • 10 Comments

Well, I know it’s after a long time but as I had promised to write something that would be more interesting and informational; I want to share my experience here in Korea. I will be writing about it a lot more in the near future too.

First, I met rotaractors last week and I was so happy to see them all. May be because I love rotaract or Imagemay be because it has played a big role in my life or maybe I am destined to take this way, I felt like I came back to home when I attended Rotaract District 3640 Assembly and met such wonderful leaders of rotary and rotaract. Rtr. Gu Eun has been in contact with me since long and she is a nice and kind friend to me. I like the enthusiasm of new members who were just inducted few days ago and I remembered my new days in rotaract in Nepal. I don’t know why but Rotaract and Rotary for me is surely a different thing, may be because of its self volunteering aspect. District assembly was differently held, different than we used to have in Nepal, short and simple one. I liked the way they kept it simple, short and funny.

Second, Last month(May) I visited Gwanju, a city with a unforgettable  history of people’s massacre. I was lucky enough to get the chance to be there in the ‘Gwanju Asia Forum 2012’. Gwanju surely is an example of human rights struggle and how they have achieved to make it one of the human rights cities in South Korea. Their struggle to get democracy, student’s role in revolution and community’s support all are quite similar to the recent history of Nepal. It reminds me of how Nepali people ended the King’s Monarchy and brought the new republic system in Nepal, though it’s not so successful and seems like it’s not for us. Personally, I always enjoy traveling a lot, because it teaches me so many things, and I learned many things in Gwanju too including the culture and people of Gwanju though in little. I was also happy to meet Nepali friends over there. The development that Korea has achieved is far more than we could even imagine, we may need some sort of strong political system and stable government to achieve even the smallest part of it. I was just thinking about Nepal and Nepali people when I was traveling, I don’t know when we will see such infrastructures and development in Nepal. A dream only…

Third, on the first week of June, I and my classmates were lucky enough to raise some funds from festivals-selling Asian foods and from some organizations to make our trip to Jeju. Jeju, an island of love and beauty has surely lots of things to attract people and is a self Imagegoverning island. They do have lots of tourist’s spots to attract people. I really wanted to go to the Teddy Bear museum but I couldn’t go due to our tight schedule. But I surely enjoyed the food there, specially the chachamyan and champing and fish curry.  I still remember how that Chinese man made noodles with his hand like a magic. And enjoyed the beach and rocks and soothing wind. People are happy and they enjoy farming. Many people do diving there and I was happy to see women divers, WOW they looked awesome. And I also heard from some Korean friends that jeju women are empowered and stronger. For me, Jeju is similar to pokhara of Nepal, because of its natural beauties, honeymoon attraction and many tourist spots.

And last but not the least; I visited Korea Human Rights Foundation today along with my MAINS classmates. I was surprised to see the human rights issues that have been raised in the developed country like Korea. When in Nepal we are still working to implement basic human rights and people do not have that, the issues here are totally different. For example: we all know that the modern cameras have different picture taking functions these days. One of them is clicking the picture when camera detects Imageeyes (similar to smile detector). But they cannot detect eyes of the Asian specially small eyes like Chinese, Japanese or Korean people have, so they consider it as one of the human right violation because they didn’t made the camera suitable for people in Asian countries. See, how different human rights issues in our country and developed country are. I was just amazed.

I will write about my experience in Korea more like food, fashion, subway, non governmental organizations etc. Are you willing to hear me? ;)

A soul in Seoul

•March 7, 2012 • 7 Comments

I felt so glad to hear when one of my rotaract friend Nabin said, you haven’t updated your blog since long time. Oh… that pinched my heart. And the after exactly 4 days I got a call on skype from an unknown person, I asked him how did he got my Skype and he answered- ‘I am actually your blog follower’. It really made me feel uncomfortable, thinking that there are people who are following me on my blog. I was out of communications, in fact offline for my blog and websites that I am linked to. Thanks to the people who are keeping me on their lives as one of the part.

As I am starting to write again those too from a new place for me, in fact a new country and the culture. I couldn’t just not write about this. Arriving in Seoul for the first time itself is a great experience for me. I met wonderful Korean brothers who are friend of a Nepali brother whom I met on my flight. How nice of them to drop me to my University almost 1.5 hours far from the Incheon Airport. And invited me for the lunch, came to my hostel to see if everything is arranged and even asked my hostel in-charge that if I have any problem he can contact them. I felt like home, how kind hearted people.

I am an alien to this country- I do not speak Korean not a single word, I do not know the culture except some Korean movies I had watched back in Nepal. It’s not totally like a movie dude! It’s not like Korean movie or the tv series that I had watched. Though Seoul reminds me of Europe, it makes me feel very uneasy to go around, may be because of the culture or the language. I tell my self- ‘Nili how many times I have to remind you that its not Europe’. I do miss Europe.. but indeed Korea is definitely ahead in-terms of developments.

Only questions I am asked frequently by my closed friends is that how will I involve in the social and community movements here, after all I am one of the very important person of Nepal (in their view). Seriously that is the question to which I still need time to find the answers if I want to continue those things with the same speed or take a break.

I can say- its great to be here in Seoul, great to meet my international friends from China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, great to represent Nepal as a student :) I am unable to conclude this post with any form remarks. I am still trying to recognize my own feelings. ‘Opsayo’- nothing I find but you surely wait for my next post, you will find it interesting.

Till then this lonely(not exactly;) ) soul in Seoul will try to find some answer.. Aanighasiyo!!!

Women On the Road; Driving with Dignity

•June 29, 2011 • 7 Comments

When discussing gender discrimination and while fighting women’s rights, we must not forget the women in Kathmandu who are driving the Tempos: Public Vehicles. Over the last few years the number of women drivers keeps climbing and some of them have even started to drive the Micro Bus, showing that there are no barriers for women trying to work in fields traditionally dominated by men. There are even some women driving for international organizations like the UN and embassies in Nepal.

A tempo is a three-wheeled battery-powered vehicle used as a taxi, whereas Micro Buses are small sized buses used as public vehicles. Though men have dominated this field, now it has begun to be claimed by women. There are more than 700 electric tempos in Kathmandu valley and about 150 regular female drivers, and 350 are part-time women drivers. Among them are around 70 women who own tempos which they have bought on a loan. Now some women have also started driving the Micro Bus which is quite challenging, but they are really doing well

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“My work is my god, and it’s not a wrong thing to worship god,” Sita says when I ask about her work. Sita Thapa is 34 years old and is from Nuwakot. She is one of the first five women Tempo Drivers of Nepal, and was even honored by the president of Maiti Nepal-Ms, Anuradha Koirala (CNN hero 2010) in International Women’s Day 7 years ago.

Sita used to do manual labor filtering sand, when she came to Kathmandu with her three children 12 years ago. Her work wages and her husband’s low salary however were not enough to fulfill her family’s daily needs. After working hard for six months she got a job in a noodles factory for one year and then again in a plastic factory. Her life went on like that with little improvement. On the way to work and then back home she used to watch the women driving cars on the roads of Kathmandu. She never dreamt of owning her own car, as even fulfilling her daily needs was hard. However she used to dream that if somebody would teach her to drive and hire her, she would love to be a driver in Kathmandu. In the beginning she thought that only those who could read, write and knew English could drive these cars and as she had never gone to school she thought that it would be impossible for her to learn to drive.

One day at Sundhara, the heart of the city, she saw a woman getting out of a car after parking. She felt nervous to talk to her, but she really wanted to ask the lady how she became a driver. So she asked the lady if only literate people, who knew English very well, could learn to drive the cars. However the lady replied harshly that rather those people who could afford vehicles can drive one. That sentence pinched her heart, but she decided herself that she would learn driving one day despite the cost.

In the same day she heard the news about the first female tempo driver, Sita had a strong desire to meet the lady. However as she did not have her address or contact information she could not meet her. It was also hard to find the only Tempo driver in the big city of Kathmandu. It did not stop her from finding a way to learn to drive though. Sita knew one of the boys who used to drive a Tempo and asked him to teach her to drive. He replied that it would cost Rs. 5000 (72 $) and for SIta this was two months’ salary. She promised him that she would pay half of the cost in the beginning, and half after completing the course. The boy agreed, and she began classes.

After spending hard earned money and her valuable time, she learned driving. But she hadn’t had her own Tempo to drive it on the road to begin her new profession. She didn’t have driving license either. But luckily, Kumar sir, one of the tempo owners called her and told her that he will be helping her in all the documents work including the license and he even gave permission to drive his Tempo though she was very new to this field. The memory of her first driving on the road of Kathamndu city is still fresh in her mind and she still remembers being excited and nervous to drive in traffic.

Her first salary was Rs. 4000 and she had to drive from six am to seven in the evening. At that time her kids were very small, and she had to leave them at a neighbor’s home to take care of them, promising to bring vegetables for them when she returned from her driving job.

She drove Kumar sirs’ Tempo for several years and collected some money, and eventually was able to buy the new tempo with a loan in 2005. In between, she stopped driving and joined an NGO working for a marginalized cast and she had even thought about going abroad to work [The female population gone abroad for employment are 4538(2009) out of 242225]. However, driving was something she could never leave, so she came back to the same field. Now she owns two tempos, one of which she drives while the other is driven by a hired woman. Her monthly income from tempo is now around Rs. 25,000 per month (350$), of which she saves around $200 after fulfilling all of her family’s needs and paying the loan installments to the bank.

Sita’s standard of living has been improved. With her income, she has shifted her children from government school to an English boarding school and all of them are doing well in their studies. She also manages to visit the school from time to time to see their improvements. She can now afford to eat meat each day and also provides nutritional food to her children. Sita’s husband is employed in Nepal’s Army so he hardly gets time to see them, but Sita manages it all. She looks after the expenses and takes care of the children’s education. ‘I can proudly say I am the man of the house in practical!’ says Sita who has recently established a finance company for the women tempo drivers so that they can do some savings and even get the loans when they need. [ Wife's cash earning compared to husband's cash earning; more than husband's earning is 5% whereas less than husband's earning is 69.6 %(2009 survey)]

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Sita represents numbers of other women in Kathmandu who are making their living driving Tempos. Driving =private vehicles is not a new, but women are still new to this male dominated industry. The women in Kathmandu started driving tempos in 2000 as a profession and the numbers of women learning to drive have grown ever since. These women have been good drivers; even the traffic police say they follow the traffic laws and drive very carefully, as opposed to the male drivers. “We find very much less percent of accident done by women drivers in the Kathamandu city. We have even found that some accidents happened just because the men drivers tried to overtake the vehicles driven by women. Otherwise the accident cases are very few in women’s cases,” says Assistant Sub Inspector Rupa Rai.

Females are no less capable of operating automobiles, yet the stereotype that they are still exists. In the beginning, people used to line up on the road to watch women driving the tempos. But now they prefer to use the tempos driven by women. Many people in Kathmandu consider women drivers to be more careful than men and more likely to obey traffic laws. According to Meghraj Gautam, a central member of the Drivers Labor Union, these days there are a number of men who also help in household work when the women are on the road driving tempos, which has helped women to enter or continue this work.

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Central Bureau of Statistics in the Nepal Labor Force Survey 2008, second survey (the first of which was done in 1998): The involvement of men in household work has increased by 9%. Looking at men’s involvement in household work over the last 15 years, they have spent 5-7 hours a week whereas women spent 23.5 hours a week. The numbers of families with female ownership on house has also increased from 49.8 percent to 63.2 in 10 years in 2008. Among the 417434 total households in Nepal, there are 32766 female ownerships with house, land and livestock(2001). Percent of literate women has increased from 35.8 % to 53.1 percent. The number of women who have never been to school has been decreased 75.7 percent to 58.2 which is very much acceptable. The women who are financially active are 66 % (40 hours a week).
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Tempos are easy to operate and are safe, and one can earn good money from driving them, which are maybe some of the reasons why women are attracted to this industry. The tempo working day- 6 am to 7 pm, is also a comfortable time for women. They also manage to have enough time for lunch and to prepare dinner in the evening after work. Tempo driving has employed many house wives and girls who are in the capital in search of employment.

This is also true that being a woman in the driving industry is not so easy in this society. They have to face rude passengers and the harsh owners of the tempos. If they make some mistakes, people say it is due to gender differences. There are some challenges too, for example; people think that women in this profession are not good- morally. Women in the driving profession also feel that they should be given a literacy program so that they could understand the terms in this field. And they also feel the lack of literate people in this field. The lack of literate people has created the stereotype that this is the work of only illiterate people who do not have any other options except entering into this field. People say that men are born stronger and women are weak and are not able to do these challenging jobs. However women like Sita are proving them wrong.

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Women are employed in many work fields these days. Comparing to men’s involvements, women involvements are still less in many fields [Women in civil service till 2009 were 8769 out of 78138 of total number]. Owning the shops, selling vegetables, working on wedges, garments factory are the major areas [Women involved in manufacturing (2006/7 survey) make up 17.6 % of the industry] where we can see the female involvements is high. Driving, however, is something apart from all of these kinds of job. Many people still consider it a man’s profession.

The women in the driving profession are more confident and are even managing their families. Binita Shrestha, 29 years old, drives for the Swiss ambassador in Kathmandu now, after driving her tempo for one and a half years. She agrees that women are brought up in an environment where women are taught that they are only born for household work, not for outside jobs. But working in this field for the last few years, she has learned many things and is even able to fix mechanical problems of the vehicles. She earns Rs. 25,000 per month (358$). Gyanu Maya Lama, 22 years old, was once in Qatar doing manual labor, but now she is more satisfied driving the Tempo in Kathmandu- earning better money to fulfill her daily needs and also living with the dignity in her own country.
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“There are good foreign donors who spend money for the driving training for women but these funds have been misused by some people by showing the false records. It has been seen necessary that donors should check the documents carefully and should consult the related people before sending the fund otherwise men would be selling the women’s name and the funds would be misused as it has been done by some,” says Sita Thapa who has also been a member of Electric Vehicle Association of Nepal (EVAN) for some years.

The government also should give more facilities for women, so they have easy and affordable access to learn to drive and be in this growing profession. The women in the driving industry are a testimony to the empowerment of women in this country where women have been discriminated in many ways. If people accept women in as tempo drivers more easily, then this can encourage women to enter into many other fields where women have traditionally been excluded [Women judges in court (2009) are 5 out of 219 of total numbers of judges and Women in Police Service are 2999 out of 55259 polices in Nepal (2009)].

Hopefully the new constitution will also include some facilities for women to have opportunities in different fields in Nepal [out of 601 constituent assembly members, the female number is 197 which is the new hope for women of Nepal being represented in decision making levels]. It is time to break the stereotypes that women are only born to be involved in household work. By encouraging women to be in other fields and by supporting the women who are already doing these challenging jobs, female empowerment can continue and gender discrimination may decrease.

Creating equity is most important to create and maintain equality in the society either it is for women climbing world’s highest Mountain-Mt. Everest or for women driving Tempos on the road of the city.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.(http://worldpulse.com/node/36204)

 
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