The International Women’s Day is observed on March 8th to acknowledge the tremendous work done by the feminist movements worldwide. This year’s (2023) theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, highlights the role of innovative technology in promoting gender equality and meeting the health and developmental needs of women and girls.
Innovation and technology have the potential to empower women and girls and help realise their sexual and reproductive health related rights. Women and girls are increasingly using mobile phones, and the internet and digital platforms, to share and access information on sexual and reproductive health, including menstrual health, and family planning. They are also increasingly using social media platforms to express themselves.
Today, all Nepalese must remember women’s rights leader Yogmaya Neupane who successfully campaigned to abolish the Sati (self immolation forced on Hindu widows to end their lives by placing themselves on their husbands’ funeral pyres) practice in Nepal by revolting against the country’s practice of feudal patriarchy. The practice was brought to an end in 1920 by Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana. It became a milestone in Nepal’s women’s rights movement. In the years to come and until now, the women’s movement of Nepal has been a collective effort of social and political campaigns aimed at achieving a better and equitable society.
While the women in Nepal have the constitutional right to vote, own property, and make decisions about their reproductive health, the rising cases of recurring domestic violence to sexual violence including the alarming growth of rape cases and the widely accepted fact that almost half of the country’s women have experienced either physical or mental violence and have become victims of sexual assaults in their lives in Nepal are alarming issues that need to be addressed by the Government of Nepal.
Many women and girls are still subjected to domestic and sexual violence. Many factors come into play, but the lack of literacy, poverty and the lack of awareness about their rights are pertinent aspects that need to be addressed by the Government of Nepal. It must discuss and address these root causes at the policy making level, and ensure that women and girls representing all communities from across the country have equal and easy access to digital resources and equipment and the necessary literacy, skills and resources, ultimately promoting gender equality and meeting the developmental needs of women and girls.
According to a column written by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal Sushila Karki, times are changing, and the rules governing gender equality are evolving. However, she poses some unanswered questions: Do women in Nepal today have access to freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws? To what extent is freedom restricted in relation to women’s rights? What context proves that gender equality is practiced among Nepalese women in the society? The Asian Human Rights Commission would like to reiterate these questions.
World renowned feminist, activist and journalist Gloria Steinem rightly states, “The story of the women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” So let us celebrate the International Women’s Day by bridging the digital gender divide and by embracing equity.