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Guest Column

Business and women empowerment

Shanker Man Singh

They may be branded as mere item numbers but the suggestive, but catchy, Bolloywood numbers ‘Munni Badnam Hui’ and ‘Shiela Ki Jawani’ have become the exultant cry of a breed of post-feminism fettles that are determined to celebrate women power like never before. If a risqué Munni saw nothing wrong in becoming a ‘Zandu balm’, then Shiela seemed to be totally self sufficient with her umber sexuality. In a blatant display of narcissism, the Bolloywood item character declares she wants to hug and hold herself.

The theme of the International Women’s Day this year was “THE GENDER AGENDA: GAINING MOMENTUM”. Over time and distance, the equal rights of women have progressed. We celebrate the achievements of women while remaining vigilant and tenacious for further sustainable change. There is global momentum for championing women's equality.

Equality of women with men is still a far cry and has remained as elusive as ever for most of our sisters around the world. Majority of women have been largely untouched by socio-economic development and their role as equal and important partner in the maintenance of peace in the world is largely neglected.

Physical violence against women (acceptance of beating by the spouse and other male household members) as socially legitimate, physical abuse by landlords, and trafficking of women into prostitution are serious problems for women in poor households. These problems can only be tackled slowly, but they cannot be ignored in any programme of economic progress for poor women.

The observance of International Women's Day began early in this century. As we completed one decade of this new century, we cannot help but begin to review what has happened during the last century and the last decade with respect to women's roles and participation.

When we talk of “professionalism for empowerment” in Nepal, a Business and Professional Women Nepal, the then Business and Professional Women’s Club, 1972, was established as an independent, pioneer, non-profit voluntary social professional body of the working women from different professions and businesses inclusive of all levels. It serves as a common forum to articulate the interests and issues of women/youth particularly those related to working women. It also works towards creating institutional linkages between organizations concerned with women/youth development with a strategy of empowering women/youth through launching various socio-economic activities ,working as an advocacy group on sensitizing gender equality and equity, good governance ,awareness on health, hygiene, water and sanitation, women human rights ( socio-economic and cultural rights). Through its Polytechnic job oriented trainings it offers women and youths an opportunity to develop their professional, social and intellectual skills, and increase their values in the workforce. The main goal of BPW Nepal is Socio-Economic empowerment of women and inclusive. It ensures its members to become outstanding and shine in their professions and businesses. Now number of women entrepreneurs association like the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association (FWEN) and the likes are proactively doing the business development , policy lobbying and gender sensitive activities as swell .However, a lot more needs to be done for which the government support, cooperation and the legal support is also vital.

We can empower women in business through financial inclusion for women, equipping women with skills needed to succeed as an entrepreneur and facilitating entrepreneurial opportunities, making supply chains an opportunity to provide pathways for women to participate in commerce while mitigating negative impacts on women and their communities to identify areas where business can further equip women for success particularly in the above listed areas.

Women still bear the brunt of` violence against innocent civilian victims in conflict situations. They are subjected to rape, mutilation and deprivation. Domestic violence against women is still almost as endemic today as it was 20 years ago. Women still do not have the freedom of choice neither have they control over their bodies in reproductive process. Women's human rights are still widely refracted or denied.

The fairer sex still lacks access to economic resources in many societies and have unequal access in almost all societies. Increasing feminization of poverty is but one stark indicator of unequal access to economic resources and opportunities. Women are yet to be recognized, let alone internalized in development process, as agents and beneficiaries of sustainable development.

Sustainable development is not only an economic or ecological phenomenon, but also involves participatory governance, empowerment of women and promotion of equity and justice. In a developing country like Nepal the role and participation of women in development process are of great significance because of the multiple responsibilities of women. In this context, the role of the UN system in enhancing the participation of women in national development and in creating awareness about the issues related to women is laudable.

The UNDP with the presence of about twenty two 22 agencies in Nepal is trying to promote socio-economic activities with intent to achieve the MDGs by 2015. But to the disappointment of conscious people, the contributory functions of the UN remain inadequate to meet the fast rising needs of the country in transition with increased demands of the people for an improved standard of living.

(The writer is former General Manager of Nepal Stock Exchange. He can be reached at: [email protected])

(Editor’s Note: Nepalis, wherever they live, as well as friends of Nepal around the globe are requested to contribute their views/opinions/recollections etc. on issues concerning present day Nepal to the Guest Column of Nepalnews. Length of the article should not be more than 1,000 words and may be edited for the purpose of clarity and space. Relevant photos as well as photo of the author may also be sent along with the article. Please send your write-ups to [email protected])

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