Civic Education and Women Rights
One-day seminar organised by Modern Kanya
Multiple College and FES
19 March 2016, Kathmandu
Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi
With Nepal entering the phase of constitution
implementation, the significance of civic education has further
increased. The constitutional enlightenment is the key to translating
the promising provisions of the new statute into action. Informed,
educated and open minded citizens can contribute to the application
of statute to the real life. Civic education converts the people
into awakened citizens. It liberates them from all kinds of tutelage,
bondage and illusion. It enhances socialization, volunteerism
and opens the possibility for cooperative action. According to
a political scientist, it helps Nepali citizens and leaders to
open different social experiences of life and synthesize them
into a single holistic national vision and know their ties with
community, society and the state. As civic education leads the
people to the path of ideal citizen, it is also instrumental to
promote women rights in the society. It opens up their horizon
and make aware of their rights and duties in the society. It highlights
the gender role and calls for ensuring gender parity and emancipation.
Women make up over half of the population. If the women become
educated and conscious of their right and responsibility, the
country will make strides in the political, social and economic
arenas. Realizing this common knowledge, Modern Kanya Multiple
College and FES, Nepal office jointly organized a seminar 'Civic
Education and Women Rights' in Kathmandu. It was attended the
students of the college, and the people from different walks of
Divided into two parts- inaugural and discussion of working
papers, the one-day seminar saw the government spokesman and
Minister for Information and Communications Sherdhan Rai spoke
on the contemporary issues. He asked the women to batten down
the hatches to implement the pro-women contents in the national
charter. FES Nepal office head Dev Raj Dahal offered insights
into civic education and its importance in the resilient nation-building
campaign. EC Commissioner Ila Sharma called upon the women to
enter politics to remove the negative stereotype that politics
is a dirty game. Lawmaker Min Bishwokarma insisted on taking
development and justice side by side. The following are excerpts
of the seminar:
Sherdhan Rai, Minister for Information and Communications
The phase of struggles, sacrifices and hardships of women is
over. Women's rights have well been documented in the new statute
and now they should assert their role by invoking the provisions
of the national charter that has ensured the identity, access
and representation of all classes, castes and communities. It
has settled the dispute of ansa (parental property) and bansa
(descent). It has ownership of the people and guaranteed the
33 per cent representation of women in all state organs; therefore,
they should neither hold any grudges nor develop the inferiority
complex. From now onward, the women should roll up their sleeves
to implement the statute to ensure their place at the decision-making
With the promulgation of the new statute, the nation had braced
up for attaining prosperity and good governance. It is not time
to fuss about but to implement the statute in letter and spirit.
Civic education plays a vital role to generate awareness among
the people about their rights and duty. Prime Minister KP Sharma
Oli's visit to India helped clear misunderstandings besetting
the two nations while his China visit would take Nepal-China
relations to new heights. Nepal will play neither Chinese nor
Indian card while expanding its ties with its neighbours. The
government is going to hold talks with the Nepali Congress in
a bid to muster its support to the nation building drive.
Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES office Nepal
The gap between knowledge and wisdom in Nepal had widened,
fuelling tension in human life. In this context, civic education
as a teleological (purposive) subject seeks to bridge this gap
for the promotion of good citizen not through rigorous scheduled
educational courses but by enabling them to carry on democratic
deliberation. It provides citizens greater capacity for systemic,
critical thinking about the enlightenment and reveals innate
abilities and special psychic power of atma gyan (inner vigilance),
which is essential for the character building of Nepali citizens.
Personal autonomy of individual citizen has an ultimate value
for resilience. It cannot be reduced to group interest, creed,
political party, ethnicity or other units. Civic education is
also praxis for linking democratic values, and institutions
to practical activities to help resolve the problems of everyday
life of society, to do away with social evils and irrationalities,
maintain clean and green environment and enable citizens and
leaders to become capable of taking independent decisions. Praxis
in this context means an act of engaging citizens in applying,
exercising, realizing or practicing democratic rights, ideas
and institutions for the promotion of public goods. It goes
beyond 'schooling' of text-based and rote-learning curriculum
to contextual, conversational and interactive 'learning'. Increasing
political consciousness of one's own human condition is a lynchpin
for decreasing powerlessness and increasing active civic participation.
The practice of civic education increases human longing to
innovate, broadens perspectives, transforms pre-national identities
of Nepali people into national identity of citizens, enable
them to exercise constitutional rights and duties and learn
civic skills and disposition to peacefully participate in knowing,
opinion formation, public policy making and public affairs.
Civic education liberates citizens from all kinds of tutelage,
promotes political socialization from childhood to adult acculturation,
fosters trust and volunteerism and opens the possibility for
cooperative action across the nation's heterogeneous population.
Civic education detribalizes society and helps promote constitutional
behaviors of leaders and citizens. It helps Nepali citizens
and leaders to open different social experiences of life and
synthesize them into a single holistic national vision, know
their ties with community, society and the state and their responsibilities
within them and across the national borders and living species.
Without civic virtues, they will be addicted to self-interest,
families, lineage groups, friends and client-oriented interest
groups and fortified by subtle exclusion of other groups.
Ila Sharma, Election Commissioner
Civic education should be first imparted to the political leaders.
Economic and political rights are key to uplifting the position
of women in the society. I urge women to be either conscious
voters or not to be used/abused by the politicians. They must
not detach themselves from politics. They should give candidacy
in the election. Civic education needed to be promoted to generate
awareness among the people.
Min Bishwokarma, NC leader/ lawmaker
There is the need for setting standards to define merit, and
linking rights with duty. Equality, freedom and dignity are
necessary for human beings and civic education is one of a viable
means to attain them.
Ram Prasad Dahal, Chairman of Modern Kanya Multiple College
Education is the key to attaining all sorts of rights of women.
Since the nation has taken a political direction, it is time
to focus on gaining economic prosperity.
College principal Sabin Pokharel said that despite relentless
struggle, the women had not reached top position of leadership.
Working Paper Presentation
Professor Dr Gitabhakta Joshi, National Planning Commission
member, presented his working paper entitled 'Gender Equality
and Women Empowerment'. The gist of his paper is as follows:
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) - 2016-2030 has set
17 goals. Of them, five are related to the women empowerment
that include eliminating gender disparities at all levels of
education by 2031, particularly in tertiary level; abolishing
the wage disparity and sexual violence, harmful practices such
as child, early and forced marriage; increasing the proportion
of seats held by women in the national parliament to 40 per
cent and women's share in public service decision making positions
to at least 28 per cent.
The government's efforts to ameliorate the condition of women
have borne some fruit. For example, women's participation in
the civil service has reached 16.9 per cent, literacy rate 57.4
per cent and labour participation rate 54.04 per cent. Likewise,
the gender disparity index is 0.489, women's human development
index 0.521, and their participation in the parliament is 29.91
per cent. In order to promote gender equality in the government-run
programmes, it has allocated 22.27 per cent gender budget. The
laws relating to curbing sexual abuses and witchcraft charges
against women have already come into effect. Under the 13th
Periodic Planning, the government has set up short-term shelters
for the victims of women violence in 17 districts and 104 community
service centres. The courts have followed fast track process
to settle the cases related the violence against women. Likewise,
the government has set up Mangala Sahana Rehabilitation Centre
for the victims of domestic and sexual violence. The 14th periodic
planning (2017-2075) has envisaged and launched an array of
programmes for the women empowerment. If its goals are realized,
the women will be empowered economically, socially and politically
with the drastic decreases in the cases of violence against
them. This will also help Nepal to fulfill its commitment made
with many international organizations.
Rudra Devi Sharma, under secretary at the Ministry of Communications
and Information presented her working paper 'Civic Education,
Gender Equality and Women Development problem and Solution.'
The gist of her paper is as follows:
Women empowerment contains various elements- goal, growth,
morals, power, access, learning and positive thinking. The Forbes
has suggested five ways to empower women and girls- purchasing
power, portfolio power, philanthropic power, political power
and entrepreneur power. Civic education is about the development
of knowledge and skill, ability and capacity needed for a sovereign
citizen to attain rights from state and become aware of their
duty for the nation. It makes every citizen civilized, able,
moral and responsible. It is an incessant means of socialization.
It increases people's participation in the affairs of the state
and impels the government to make its activities transparent
and accountable. It informs the women about the prevalent policies,
laws, acts and regulations devised to mainstream women, ensure
their access to equal and fast justice.
Women's participation in development is necessary to build
an inclusive, just and Loktantrik society, end all forms of
violence and discrimination and make women's contribution to
national economy visible, among others. The new constitution
has guaranteed the fundamental rights of women. It has stipulated
that there will be no discrimination between man and women for
equal work, and ensure their access to education, health, employment
and social security on the basis of positive discrimination.
It has guaranteed their right to safe maternity and reproductive
health. It has special provision for the empowerment of socially
and culturally marginalized women. There are sectoral laws and
constitutional arrangement and commissions meant to increase
the women's participation in politics, parliament and civil
Despite the implementation of women-friendly laws and programmes,
problems and challenges still persist. In addition to the effective
application of laws and regulations, reforms should start from
family to reduce violence against women. A credible mechanism
should be set up at the local level to deal with the cases of
violence against women and gender-friendly budget should be
increased gradually. Women living in different regions and districts
face different problems so they require separate strategies
to solve their problems. Women rights movement does not target
men. It is against violence and discrimination. The women's
participation in development and for equality has taken a backseat
when sons are seen as asset and daughter as liability. Although
men and women are equal, they are biologically different. Therefore,
their practical and strategic requirements also vary. It is
the need of the day to end impunity by adopting zero tolerance
on violence and discrimination against women; adopting different
strategies for women's meaningful participation in every level
and process of development and ensuring the proportional distribution
Ram Prasad Dahal, chairman of Modern Kanya Multiple College,
presented his working paper 'Civic education and college's students'.
The gist of the paper is as follows:
The civil society is a rational unit of people committed to
the public welfare. It selflessly devotes to make the state
dutiful for the public benefit. It inspires for consensus and
co-work to bind the people to mutual relation. Education is
the foundation of the advanced society. Education consists of
philosophy and thoughts developed by human beings. A welfare
state is marked by education, happiness, peace, prosperity and
progress. As the civil society is promoting social justice,
freedom, equality and unity, the importance of education is
increasing day by day. Society is an open university of education.
It is difficult to achieve goal just by studying the bookish
knowledge and crude theories. It is necessary to make education
practical and useful for life. This requires that policy makers
identify the need of society and frame the education system
so that its affordable and accessible to all.
Education is being commercialized. Human resources are produced,
not for the purpose of generating knowledge but for meeting
the need for post and money for the business houses. It does
not impart on Nepal's history and society. Politics and economy
are not in prioritized subjects. Education sector is marred
by the politics of divide and share. Universities are leader-
and cadre-oriented while the unions have become the place of
poisoning venal politics in the minds of young people. Teachers
indoctrinate the pupils with their spiteful political ideology.
In essence, the present education system does not teach the
students to feel and experience. Education has been divided
for two separate classes- the haves and the have-nots. The expensive
colleges produce students, whose meritocracy is based on rote-learning
and who work for the foreign purpose. On the other hand, the
public schools, which are for the offspring of the people living
from hand to mouth, are in dilapidated condition. But, the poor
students are forced to drop out for financial reason and end
up in the farm field. The presence of women, who make up half
of the population, in the education sector is not satisfactory.
The number of female students at bachelor and master's level
is negligible. Even the educated women are confined to household
chores. Their access to executive, judiciary, and education,
health and finance is not up to the mark. If a woman is educated,
the entire family becomes enlightened. The girl students should
build their capacity to change the society. They need to identify
their goals and priorities before setting their feet in the
college. Education is the property of women. They can be agent
of change with positive attitude, strong will power, assiduousness,
honesty, curiosity and passion.
Comments from the floor
Anita Acharya- Despite the pro-women provisions in the
statute, the women had been continually harassed, raped and
killed. The Internet and social networking sites have been abused
and egged the perpetrators on to commit crimes against women.
According to a study, 70 per cent of conflicts occur owing to
the economic and social factors while the remaining 30 per cent
for the natural resources and territory.
Shivani Thapa Basnet- There was a time when the girls
had to take permission to go to schools and colleges. Today
education is the right of all. Education empowers the people
to exercise their rights and make aware of their duty for the
nation. Although we have one of the best statutes in the world,
we have been unable to make strides in the socio-economic fields.
Concluding the seminar, economist Govinda Thapa said
that imparting quality education to the children has been taken
for granted in the 21st century. "It opens the door to
boundless opportunities that are simply unavailable for an uneducated
person. There is no limit of progress and prosperity that a
competent and education person achieves in his/her life."
1. Respect each other (men and women).
2. Embrace Loktantrik system and make it dynamic.
3. Forge unity among the women.
4. Try to be a good citizen.
5. Embrace and propagate civic education.
6. Be committed to nation and nationalism.