Is ‘women in politics’ a reality?

When the nation was gearing up for election and candidates were joining their hands in front of the public for votes, the same scene repeated itself again and again – a male candidate decorated in garlands and abir, asking for votes, and rarely was a woman seen in the same spot. Elections are a gateway for people to choose their representatives so that their concerns shall be addressed in Parliament but with the underrepresentation of women in politics, their problems remain undiscovered and unheard.

With the election around the corner, people have to be conscious of who they vote for and the reality of the gender equation of politics in Nepal. Are people really aware of the need for women in politics? How many women are competing in the upcoming elections? Will male hegemony in politics pose a threat to women’s needs? Are political parties following the mandated gender quotas?

History of Involvement of women in politics

Women and men have fought long and hard for women’s ability to vote and occupy the office. The first country to allow women the right to vote was New Zealand in 1893, and the latest was Saudi Arabia in 2015. As of 2015, women have the right to vote in every country around the globe. Many nations today have female heads of state, and some, like Finland, also have a female-dominated government. These accomplishments have been made possible in great part because of policies promoting gender equality.

There are many internationally agreed on norms and standards related to women’s leadership and political participation. Among them, the most prominent are

  • The 2011 UN General Assembly resolution on women’s political participation (A/RES/66/130),
  • The 2003 UN General Assembly resolution on women’s political participation (A/RES/58/142),
  • The UN Economic and Social Council resolution 1990/15,
  • The Beijing Platform for Action
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

They consist of more or less similar agendas which enclose strongly encouraging political parties to remove all barriers that directly or indirectly discriminate against the participation of women;  to promote awareness and recognition of the importance of women’s participation in the political process;  to monitor progress in the representation of women; develop mechanisms and training programs that encourage women to participate in the electoral process and improve women’s capacity to cast informed votes in free and fair elections etc.

Reservation for women

The Atlas of Electoral Gender Quotas explains that “gender quotas are numerical targets that stipulate the number or percentage of women that must be included in a candidate list or the number of seats to be allocated to women in a legislature”. They aim to reverse discrimination in law and fast-track women’s representation in elected bodies of government.

Gender quotas have also been a useful weapon in tackling the unequal gender dimension in the politics of Nepal. The legislative frameworks have ensured gender quotas at various positions to ensure adequate female representation. Article 38 of our constitution guarantees that women shall have the right to participate in all bodies of the State based on the principle of proportional inclusion. Our constitution has further acknowledged various righteous provisions such as elections to be made so there is :

  • Representation of different sex or community in the position of President and the Vice-president,
  • One woman out of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker,
  • One woman out of the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairperson of the National Assembly,
  • In the composition of the assembly, Three women among the 56 elected, and Three members consisting of at least one woman nominated by the President

Women candidates in upcoming elections in Nepal

Despite growing voices for fair representation of women in elections, only nine percent of the total first-past-the-post (FPTP) candidates for election on Mangsir 4th are women.

According to the Election Commission, a total of 2,526 candidates have filed their candidacies under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) category for the upcoming elections of the federal and provincial parliament. Out of them, 2,291 are males while only 235 (just 10.25 percent) are females.

At the provincial level, a total of 3,476 candidates have nominated their candidacies in seven provinces of the country. However, the number of female candidates contesting the elections is extremely low. Out of 3,476 candidates, only 297 (just 8.54 percent) are female, according to the Commission.


When we have a look at the world statistics, we will come to the findings that only 26 percent of all national parliamentarians are women, which is about 1/4 th of total parliamentarians. Only five countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses and only 27 countries have reached or surpassed 40 percent.

More than two-thirds of these countries have applied gender quotas—either legislated candidate quotas or reserved seats—opening space for women’s political participation in national parliaments.

There are just 13 countries that have a woman Head of State, and 15 countries have a woman Head of Government. Data from 136 countries shows that women constitute nearly 3 million (34 percent) of elected members in local deliberative bodies. Only two countries have reached 50 percent, and an additional 20 countries have more than 40 percent of women in local government. At the current rate of progress, gender parity in national legislative bodies will not be achieved before 2063 and gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years.


While the majority of political parties have denied tickets to women candidates in the elections, they cannot underestimate the value of women’s votes. The nomination of women has further dwindled because of the electoral alliances. This time too, parliament will depend on the selection of women leaders under the proportional representation system (which fills 110 seats in the parliament) to ensure the constitutionally mandated one-third representation of women.

Women are discouraged from entering politics due to preconceptions, self-doubt, and concerns about “big politics”. Special mentorship (tutoring) programs should be offered to these women to help them acquire support from more seasoned female politicians. Parties can also decide to impose additional intra-party quotas on the creation of election lists in addition to the constitutionally mandated quotas so that both genders are equally represented in the Parliament and can fiercely voice the problems of both genders.

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