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8 Mar 2018 | Blog

Empathy, compassion, and action for change

Himaa Rai

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A society’s progress can be assessed by looking at how women and children are treated in that society. In terms of Nepali society, we are certainly not at the pinnacle, but having said that, we are not at the bottom either. Compared to some other countries, Nepali society could be considered a more liberal. Hence, the gender inequalities here could be deemed less acute than in some other places. But this is all in the larger context.

Every individual experiences gender inequalities in different magnitudes. Although it is rare, some may not experience it personally. Every individual’s experience is unique. Like all things in life, gender inequalities stem out of social, financial, cultural, political, and psychological aspects of society. Inequality is not an isolated problem but is related to the aforementioned aspects of society. If we truly wish to abolish the gender gap and inequality in opportunities, rights, remunerations, and representation, among other things, we must go to the root of the problem and solve it.

The issue of gender inequality has been with human societies since time immemorial. We cannot simply wave a magic wand at it and make it disappear. It takes time for people’s attitudes to change, it takes time for society to discard ones belief system and to form and accept a new one. I believe change has to begin at home and from an early age. Children learn what they see and hear and those children grow up to become citizens of society.

People have been advocating for gender equality for a long time now. A lot of policies have been put in place to ensure gender equality. Changes have taken place and are taking but it does feel like things are taking time. People are still bound by traditional, cultural, and religious beliefs—some of the major cause of gender inequalities in rural areas. In urban areas, the social and financial status of an individual contribute to gender inequalities. Even in developed nations, women receive lower pay for the same jobs and have fewer job opportunities than their male counterparts. This, in spite of the bills and policies that have been passed to ensure equality among the genders.

Nepal’s new constitution prohibits gender-based discrimination with respect to remuneration and work-related benefits. This constitutional provision means equal pay for equal work. With all these developments, why are we still facing the problem of gender inequality? It is because people’s attitudes have to change. Passing bills and making laws are not solutions; they are merely part of the initiation. People have to be educated and they have to put their knowledge into practice. Education alone is not the solution. Good ethics and compassion towards others are very important.

I think it is not a war between the sexes, but a lack of appreciation, for every man is a son, a brother, or a father to a woman.  I believe that we must first set the right example for our children, who are the future. We have to have mutual respect for individuals of our own and the opposite sex.

When there is mutual respect between females, regardless of social status, financial status, or hierarchical position (professional and personal), gender equality will prevail in society at large. Women have to be united. We must first change ourselves in order to change the world. If women and men have respect and compassion for one another, that compassion will, I believe, be infectious enough to change the attitude of society at large.

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