Women leaders of the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) have demanded a greater role in the party.
The women leaders speaking in a virtual program about women leadership and the issue of statute and active membership on Monday have demanded that the current provision of 33 percent representation at all levels granted by the statute should be expanded further.
Member of the party's central policy, research and training academy Arzu Rana Deuba lamented that the party has limited the women to mere voters. "Only joint general secretary is a woman among so many office-bearers. Should we always remain just voters?" she asked with her husband and NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba also in attendance. "Women should not be limited to joint general secretary."
She opined that there may be fewer women to fight for the post of president—her husband Deuba is looking to fight for another term as party president—but they can fight for other posts. "I am not contesting for any position."
She added that the women leaders should write to the party president mentioning which positions should be filled by women. "We have remained mere voters very long. Women should now become office-bearers. Mangala Devi Singh allowed us to vote. BP (Koirala) already made women minister."
She urged the party leadership to not create problems in giving active membership to women and demanded that at least 40 percent of active members should be women.
President of Nepal Women Union Uma Regmi and Vice-president Saraswati Aryal Tiwari also demanded that women should get at least 40 percent representation in active membership. "Women in districts are complaining that they are not getting active membership. They say forms have been hidden," Regmi rued. "Party president should instruct the district leadership that at least 40 percent of active membership should be given to women."
She referred to remarks by some NC leaders that women have already become president and speaker and they don't need more representation, and pointed that CPN, not NC, has made women president and speaker. "Women in villages ask us who are women leaders in Congress. Do women have access to leadership level?" she asked. "There are women who have gone to jail and toiled hard right from the grassroots in our party. The party should provide opportunity and environment to take them to leadership level."
Tiwari demanded provisions ensuring women president in electoral constituencies and even in some districts as guaranteed for joint general secretary. "Women are guaranteed only joint general secretary. Why has one-third constituency president for women not been ensured? It would have been easier to bring women to leadership if we had said district presidents should also be women."
Replying to women leaders, President Deuba said he has no problem in increasing reservation for women. "There is no problem in increasing reservation. Let's keep 40 percent and not just 33 percent but we need votes. Women from our party should not lose election and those from other parties win," Deuba argued. "I am ready to give women 40 percent of tickets in election but you should return victorious. It is as if we are giving tickets to lose."
Deuba's wife Arzu had lost the general election from Kailali-5 like many senior men and women leaders had as NC suffered a humiliating loss under Deuba in the last election.
Deuba claimed that other parties have not given 33 percent reservation to women like NC has. He urged women leaders to also work in expansion of the party organization. "I am ready to give 40 percent active membership to women. But where are the women distributing active membership? You should expand organization in a way to win election."
He pointed that the party currently has allocated joint general secretary for women nd argued that nothing has stopped women from fighting for other posts. "The party currently allocates up to joint general secretary through reservation. The statute should be amended to make provisions above that. We cannot muster two-third majority when I alone am ready to do that."