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Ram Kumari Jhakri


Ram Kumari Jhakri is the President of All Nepal National Free Student Union (ANNFSU). Ram Kumari Jhakri ran for the presidential election of ANNFSU, a student wing of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), CPN (UML), in its 19th National Conference in Pokhara in September 2008. After a keen competition with a male candidate she came out as a victor. She rewrote the history of Nepali politics by becoming the first woman president of any student organization in the country.

Since her childhood Ram Kumari was a girl with rebellious mind. She was highly influenced by Karl Marx’s ideology on class struggles which she had heard from her teacher when she was in sixth grade. She said, “Marxism gave me a perspective to look at the society. I was also influenced by my brother Padam Jhakri who was politically active during school days. Through my brother I established my connections with people related to the political party.” Even after the political change in 1990 she felt that there was no change in various kinds of discrimination in Nepali society. As a woman from a poor family in a remote village who belongs to ethnic minority, Ram Kumari herself had to face various hardships. She wanted to end all kinds of discrimination.

Ram Kumari was also chosen by the CPN (UML) as a candidate for proportional representations in the Constituent Assembly but she withdrew her name from it. She explained a reason; “ANNFSU is seeking for an independent role as a student organization. If I accepted an offer from the party ANNFSU would look like just one of departments of the CPN (UML). I didn’t like that. Instead, I made up my mind to contest for the election of an ANNFSU president.”

She was the first woman candidate to stand for a seat of a president in the history of any student organization. Her slogan for the campaign was “Make the History – Break the History!” and she made a history by winning the election. Winning the election was only the tip of an iceberg. Her potential as an ‘ice breaker’ is much bigger than that.

In the context of Nepal what is the condition of women in the arena of politics? Do you think in Nepal, women in politics face violence?
I think there are very few women in Nepal in the arena of politics.

Yes, certainly in Nepal women in politics face violence. I think violence has various forms. However, in context of Nepal violence particularly violence against women in politics hasn’t been a serious topic of discussion yet. As the culture of silence is prevalent in Nepal, people hardly talk about violence against women in politics and there exists cent percent tolerance by women who face violence. This is the major cause for violence against women in politics not being a topic of discussion. Even, women in politics who face violence are not sure whether the violence they are facing is real violence or not and whether they should speak about it or not. This situation exists because the culture of silence prevails i.e., women do not verbalize the violence they face. Women accept violence that they face as a part of their life. Because of this acceptance, they do not consider violence as something to be talked about.

What type of violence do you think women in politics face? As a woman politician did you face any sort of violence?
Violence has various forms. When talking about violence that woman in politics face, the violence is more of psychological nature than physical violence. People, especially in our society which is male-dominated, do not accept women as leaders. Instead of praise women in politics receive criticism and they even have to face character-assassination.

As a women politician even I faced different kinds of violence. I started my career in politics at a young age of eighteen. As I entered politics even my friends started treating me negatively. Even my family members did not support me. So, this kind of treatment made me unsure whether I was in right direction or not. Consequently, I found myself in a very uncongenial situation. Many a times, people pointed fingers at me because being a woman, I got involved in politics. I faced such kind of violence in the beginning of my political career. However, as my experience in politics increased, the forms of violence that I faced also changed. People always questioned about my efficiency. They thought that she is a woman; she cannot perform her task efficiently, so we shouldn’t give her any work. Had I been man, I think I wouldn’t have had to prove so much. But being a woman; I had to prove much more and show much confidence in order to reach the present stage in politics.

I am the president of ‘All Nepal National Free Student’s Union’ now. When I was contesting for the position, I feel that my co-contestant’s capability, his experience was not at all comparable. However, he could compete with me because he was a man. Being a woman I had to have much more capability and experience in order to be able to contest with him.

Talking about violence and obstacles that woman in politics face I find that every time the form of violence that women in politics face differs. So, if we devise mechanism to face one type of violence, next time violence comes in a different form. Thus, women in politics must be prepared to face and fight against any type of violence that they face.

What is your opinion on inter and intra party violence faced by women politicians? Which type of violence do you think women face more?
I think the violence faced by women politician is beyond political party. It is rooted in the mindset and patriarchal structure of our society. This type of violence is exercised by one gender to another.

Women in politics have to face both inter and intra party violence. However, I think woman face more intra party violence than inter- party violence. Political parties do not prefer to give party tickets to women because they always doubt women’s efficiency and never give them a chance. People do not accept women as leaders because the patriarchal structure of our society always treat women as second class being who have no decision-making capacity.

What do you think is required to reduce the violence women face in politics?
First of all, I think the patriarchal mindset of people needs to be changed. Secondly, it is very necessary that women be informed about the fact that they should fight against the violence they face. Women face violence silently and never speak about it. So, this type of practice shouldn’t exist and women in politics should voice and share the violence they face. Only then the mechanisms to cope violence can be collaboratively developed.

What is your opinion about the quota and reservation made to increase the number of women in politics?
I definitely think that quota and reservation made to increase the number of women in politics is a positive approach. However, I have few conditions regarding this matter. There should be quota and reservation for women for a certain time period and not forever. In the present situation of South Asia, due to the patriarchal structure of the society, women cannot compete with men. So quota for women is necessary but I think only for a certain time period. Quota is necessary to represent women but if this system exists for a very long period, it will not uplift the situation of women as whole. Certain women will rise to the position, but the situation of women in grassroots will not change. Let us take the example of Nepal, at present there are 33% women in parliament, but the situation of women in grassroots have not changed. Hence, in the meantime women should be empowered and be made competitive enough so that they can fight for themselves.

In the context of South Asia there are many women who have reached the climax in political career but women from grassroots are not represented .What is your opinion in this regard?
We can see that in South Asia except in Bhutan and Nepal, women have attained high ranks. Women have been prime ministers and presidents of country. Women in South Asia have reached policy-making positions even faster than Europe. However, it can be observed that many women in South Asia have reached high-ranking position in politics due to their family background. We can see that in India where a woman became prime minister in the 80th century, violence against women is still rampantly high. Likewise, in Pakistan where Benazir Bhutto became the prime minister at the early age of 35, the rate of violence is still very high. So our goal should not just be limited to bring certain women to high ranks in politics but we should be able to uplift the condition of women as whole. This can be achieved only if women fight for their rights and pave their own paths in suitable direction.

Would you like to add any comments?
There is violence against women in politics in our Nation and the whole region of South Asia and this violence can be eliminated if we work collaboratively. I strongly believe that it is possible to eradicate violence against women in politics and we should be positive that this can be achieved.

Source: http://www.sapint.org/newsletter/newsletter4/facetoface.html