Like most countries, Nepal celebrates International Women’s Day on March 8. But unlike most Western countries, Nepal still has a long way to go to achieve a nice balance between men and women.
Despite the grueling hours of housework and the fact that women bear more responsibility than men, women in Nepal are not valued. Not only do they take on all the burdens of their family, they manage the household themselves and often do additional tasks to earn money. A family often depends entirely on the woman.
International Women’s Day in Nepal
International Women’s Day is the ideal opportunity for Nepalese women to stand up for women’s rights. Protesting against women’s abuse and addressing the conservative mindset and customs are also on the agenda on that day.
The National Women’s Commission and the Ministry for Women are organizing various events at multiple locations in Kathmandu on that day. In Nepal, this day is an official holiday and government institutions remain closed on that day. This gives women who work for the government a chance to participate in the initiatives. Numerous women’s rights organizations and thousands of people throughout the country participate in the organized programs. Activities are organized not only in Kathmandu, but also in the rest of the country.
Position of women in Nepalese society
We make no bones about it: the position of women in Nepal is poor. Women are discriminated against in several areas, including the wages they earn. In addition, there is a high rate of illiteracy. The literacy rate has fortunately been going up in recent years, but it is still distressingly low.
So the inequality between men and women in Nepal is very high. Women still earn 57 percent less than their male counterparts in Nepal, despite having the same qualifications and sharing the same workload. Another major problem that persists here in Nepal is gender based violence. About 48% of Nepali women experience violence in their lifetime.
Government action and practice
The Nepalese government has taken a number of steps to ensure gender equality and eliminate violence against women. They did this by signing a number of international women’s rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Yet signing these conventions is not enough. Their implementation in practice leaves much to be desired. Both the patriarchal dominance in Nepalese society and the lack of education for women ensure that not enough changes are made in practice. The many gaps in the legal system are also obstacles that are difficult to overcome for many uneducated women.
In addition, women from lower castes also face caste discrimination. Officially, the caste system has been abolished, but it is so deeply ingrained that it continues to play a role in Nepali society. Because they belong to a lower caste, they do not receive justice after being physically abused. Fortunately, there are advocacy organizations that offer help here. One important organization is the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO). This organization organizes various activities that help abolish gender and caste discrimination. These include awareness campaigns, networking opportunities and training for women.
Women in Nepalese Tourism
As a travel agency with a keen interest in gender balance, we particularly focus on women in tourism in Nepal. In many sectors in Nepal, men rule the workplace. This is also the case in tourism. Fortunately, there are already many women who have proven that a woman can equally do well in this industry. There are also more and more initiatives to offer women more opportunities and support in the tourism sector as well.
In 2017 the Tourism Entrepreneur Women’s Association Nepal (TEWAN) was founded. The founder is the owner of a trekking agency that trains and employs women guides. Together with her two sisters she founded her agency many years back, and was one of the frontrunners of female tourism entrepreneurs in Nepal. In doing so, they encountered a lot of opposition. TEWAN is an association that offers support, training and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs working in tourism. Under the motto ‘together we are stronger’. They do this through workshops and training courses for various positions, among other things.
Another initiative worth mentioning is Girls Empowered by Travel (GET). This is a non-profit organisation that provides safe opportunities for women to travel and get involved in community work with like-minded youth in a welcoming and safe environment. GET aims to promote leadership among women and youth that will have a ripple effect on the reality of their families and communities.
Since 2015, the Nepali travelers association has been organizing an annual Solo Woman Travel Challenge. This is a competition to win a travel grant for solo women travelers in Nepal. It gives them a chance to explore the vast natural landscape and diverse cultural heritage of their own country. In addition to providing scholarships and travel support, they also use their platform to spark discussions about travel, gender and risk. Many women who participated in the contest and won a scholarship subsequently launch careers in tourism! For example, we are working with two female guides who have won this contest in recent years. A very interesting initiative!
Besides local initiatives, there are also larger players working on the topic of women and tourism. Plan International has several projects running in Nepal where they want to empower women. Together with the Girls Advocacy Alliance they did an extensive research into why few young women in Nepal aspire to a career in tourism and hospitality. With the results of this research, they are now looking for solutions to overcome the obstacles. There are many women who are fully responsible for the care of their children and cannot find suitable childcare. Or there is no safe transportation for them to go home after a night shift. There are also many women who do not have the right or sufficient education.
Nepal Inside Out is a local Nepalese agency. During our search for suitable personnel, we also noticed that it is not easy to find well-educated female employees. This is also one of the reasons why we participate in the workshops of Plan International. As players in the private market in Nepal, we also gave our feedback and actively searched for solutions. Our participation also motivated us to immediately address an important issue and take action.
Platform Women in Tourism Nepal
Getting more females into tourism is important. Experience shows that in sectors where many women work, the sector becomes more sustainable and humane. So the influence of women is very positive. But how do you get more women into tourism? And preferably in roles where they can have an impact and build a great career?
There are schools in Nepal that provide training in tourism and hospitality. The observation is that there are often more boys than girls in these courses. To speak from our own experience: our oldest son Puskar (17) is studying tourism in college. In his course there are only boys. Tourism is still seen as a male sector. Girls do not choose a career in tourism.
Girls who do opt for a tourism education, often choose a job abroad afterwards. Abroad, they often earn more and have more opportunities. It is extremely important to ensure that these women stay in Nepal and receive sufficient support and training to be able to build a meaningful career. A career in which they can develop themselves and play an important role in the tourism sector.
That is why today, on International Women’s Day, we are launching the Women in Tourism Nepal Platform. Our manager, Maaike is the driving force behind this platform.
The platform consists of a free, private Facebook group. All women who work or want to work in Nepalese tourism (in a broad sense) can join. Nepalese female tourism students are also welcome! It is a place where relevant information is shared on various topics: from how to make a CV for an office job to women’s rights and sustainable tourism. Articles, but also links to free courses and local initiatives and workshops. Organizations such as FEWAN and GET as mentioned above are welcome to publish their activities here as well. In addition, women in tourism can network there, give each other advice and share their own experiences. In short, a community where you as a Nepalese woman can go for support if you aspire a professional career in the Nepalese tourism sector.
In a later phase, we also want to expand the platform physically and start developing and giving workshops and trainings ourselves. We are also looking into the possibility of organizing intern- and mentorships. As the number of members grows, opportunities will also open to act as an interest group.
We truly hope and expect that it will grow into an exciting and active community in the coming months!
If you want to support us with our platform, please like and share the group among Nepalese women you know that already work in tourism or have aspirations to work in tourism! You can find us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram! You can use the hashtag #womenintourismnepal or refer to us on social media with @womenintourismnepal.
For additional info, you may always send us an email at: email@example.com or a private message on the Facebook page!