Friday, May 9, 2014

How Nepal Beats America For Women. Really.

Tharu woman in my family's village. You can bet she votes.
And if she ran for office, her chances would be better than a woman in America.

I make fun of Nepal a fair amount in this random collection of stray musings that serves as my blog, because if you live here and aren't entertained by it you might as well pack up and go home. Unless you're Nepali, of course, in which case (a) you don't have much choice of leaving unless you want to carry bricks in Saudi Arabia, and (b) you at least have the good fortune to be genetically programmed to be perhaps the smiliest group of people on earth, which is evolution's way of saying "I can cope with being Nepali."

I've gotten off topic even before I started, but it's true. Nepalis even smile and laugh when they argue, and when they're really pissed, the smiling and laughing increases. Nature vs. nurture? Well, my kid basically emerged from the womb with a big grin on his face, which is why it took me at least a decade to realize he was arguing with me.
Smile smile smile.
And if you can't, here's where you go
to get your teeth fixed.

So of course I rag on Nepal, which is what Nepalis do too, all the time. It's the national entertainment, along with smiling and laughing. But there are a lot of ways that Nepal beats America, other than the Smile Factor and the Lack of Electricity Factor. There's the Casual Pace of Life Factor, and the Walkable Neighborhood Factor, and the Supporting Small Business Factor, and the Better Public Transportation If You Ignore the Belching Smoke Factor, and the Groovier Clothing Factor, and so on.

The one I'm mentioning here, though, is women's rights.

Huh? Are we talking about the Nepal on THIS planet? 

Well, women don't exactly have more rights in daily life, obviously. Women here are still the household drudge -- even, by and large, if they're a professor or a doctor. But Nepal is beating America in one place that's pretty important: Women in government.

You might think this is because most of the men are off carrying bricks in Saudi Arabia, which may be part of it. But it's a good sign. I mean, I like Nepali men. They smile a lot. I married one, and he's honest and hard-working and doesn't even mind doing dishes, although he may be a little crazy because he came back here after escaping. (So I guess we match on the craziness index. Although he's better about dishes than me. I'm not that crazy.)

But the thing about Nepal is that it gets a lot of things right by accident, like having walkable neighborhoods, but doesn't exactly score high in terms of intentional things, like running a government. What politicians mainly seem to do is squabble, bicker and steal money. So politics in Nepal is a ridiculous mess, but at least it's a ridiculous mess that is starting to let women in. And you can bet that Nepali women know how to carry a broom. Which could come in handy in the halls of power.

Meanwhile in America, almost 100 years after women got the vote, we barely squeak past 18 percent in women's representation. Whereas Nepal is now at 30 percent and 37th in the world for women in office.

Okay, women in power aren't magically wonderful. But it's kind of impossible to be worse than men. Let's hope that when Nepali women politicians go home after a hard day of not writing the constitution, their husbands aren't sitting there waiting for them to bring the tea, whip up a five-course dinner, scrub the dishes alone, and then get up at 5 a.m. to do the whole thing over again while he talks politics with his friends.

So which country in the world elects the most women? The leader is apparently Rwanda, where things got so bad that it seems the women have finally told the guys to move over and get out of the way. The whole list is here, if you want to know where America stands and who else is ahead of us -- like Finland (number 8 and embarrassing the rest of the world as always), Norway and Denmark and Sweden (of course), and New Zealand (number 26 and beating Australia because it has an incentive). They all beat France and the U.K., which Nepal does too, but America is huffing and puffing way back in the line with the United Arab Emirates.

Obviously a list doesn't tell us much. China, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia also top America in "women's representation," so it's time again to google who the heck said that thing about "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics." But Nepalis can definitely look at the list and crow. Check out India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. All of which are trailing far behind Nepal, America and, er, Saudi Arabia like a sad line of bedraggled ducklings who can barely find the racetrack.

Let's hear it for Nepali women: strong, cool, and increasingly elected to office.

Women of Dolakha district, in the mid-hills. You can bet they vote, too. 
They'll also beat you walking uphill. Both of them.

My mother-in-law is illterate and was married at age seven.
She has run for local office from a women's rights group.
Woman tempo driver, Kathmandu.
Tempos are the multi-seat motor rickshaws that are called tuk-tuks in Thailand
and by foreigners who don't know that's not what they're called here.

The girls of Mustang, coming on strong. 

All together now ........ Nepal! WE'RE 37th!

Oh whoops. No women in the picture. Hmmm.


Hana - Marmota said...

Yeah. We don't fare much better here in the Czech Republic. I'm not surprised. During our last presidential election, which incidentally was the first direct presidential election, my sister reported two elder ladies discussing the candidates, several of whom were women, and saying something along the lines of "I won't vote for the women. Who has a female president?"
My sister, as a student of Baltic studies, of course knew of several countries that have or had female presidents (cases in point: Finland. Latvia). But if women in the country think political representatives have to be men, it's not a big surprise that we're just a little bit higher in the list than the USA.

Stef S said...

I love this, and your pictures. And I bet the women there are.amazing. It sounds a little similar to my hippie life growing up, but it's All the Time, right? *grin*

Monsoon Rose said...

And with a lot less carob.