Akriti is a 17 years old activist from Nepal. We had the amazing experience to discuss her various commitments and the way she perceives feminism in the Nepali society. In this interview she talks about what’s important to her, how she would define feminism, and what she thinks are the biggest challenges ahead for women in her country.
L : How would you introduce yourself, what are your passions, what would you like to do in life? What’s important to you?
A : Hi, my name is Akriti Ghimire. I am a Nepali citizen. I study in class 12. I would introduce myself as a Nepali Feminist. My goal is to get more and more information about feminism and provide all that information to everyone. For me the most important things of my life are my rights and equality.
L : What would you want to do later in life? As a career but not only.
A : As a career, I literally never ever had thought what I want to do later in my life as a career or generally because there was no point of making plans for the future. For the longest time I was thinking that my parents were going to force me to get married right after I complete my studies. But now I am really interested in writing and I want to become a renowned writer, not because the way my parents think have changed but rather because now I think that I can fight for myself. That’s why I started making plans. I was recently writing about feminism, equality, anxiety and depression but I am also trying to write something lighter. For example, I have written a romantic short story but also want to write comedy. I am not a professional writer, I have just started writing.
A : And not as a career, I would really like to make Nepal a safe and a happy place for everyone not only WOMEN but for the LGBTQIA+ community and everyone. I have not joined any organization until now because I don’t know how they work. I have just started learning about things. I have recently joined Pad2go which is a social enterprise of Nepal working to remove 13% VAT from menstrual products. I was a campus ambassador for this organisation but it is going to end soon so for now it’s better to say I have not joined any organization. I am studying in grade 12, so my studies are very important to me since my education qualification will help me to develop many skills. I have not planned any events and actions, for now I am just focusing on writing stuff regarding gender equality, but I’m not sure if and when I’ll make those writings public. For now, that is all I am doing but I am focusing on learning new things because even now I don’t have any idea where should I start.
L : What does it mean for you to be a « feminist »? Is a label you like? Is it popular in Nepal?
A : Feminism is a social theory or a political movement or an individual movement which argues that legal and social restrictions on women must be removed in order to bring about equality of all the genders in all aspects of public and private life. I know most of the people think that equality is already achieved and they are finding the concept of equality or feminism to be narrow when in fact it is not. People say that we now have the right to study and that back we did not : while I appreciate that, women had to fight to earn the right to vote and to education, while men did not. By fighting for our rights, we get those rights, but this is not enough because even when women are educated, men treat them like uneducated people. Why? Because our society thinks that men are more knowledgeable than women in every field. Isn’t that our right to get equal respect as the men who have an equal level of education as we do? And this is only one example there are many more. So feminism is not already achieved, we all have a long way to go. For me being a Feminist personally means everything because I live my life as a feminist. I laugh, I cry, I do everything as a feminist. I think I do everything as a feminist. And talking about is it a label I like, I don’t think I have any problem with this because according to me, this is who I am. This is my identity, I should be proud of myself for who am I and how I think. Feminism is not as popular in Nepal as it should be but many people, organizations and we, globally, are trying our best to make it popular. I think everyone should be feminist because everyone should believe in equality.
L : What do you consider to be the biggest challenge for women in Nepal?
A : In Nepal, the biggest challenge for women is that it is a male dominated society. There are a lot of difference between men and women. Women are not « allowed » to do several things. I don’t know who they are to allow or not allow what women should do. There are lot of restrictions for women. And the worst part is they don’t even know that they can decide for themselves, that its their right to choose who they really want to be. So the challenge for women in Nepal is a HUGELY MALE DOMINATED society and ILLITERACY also. There are many things that women didn’t have the right to do as per their choice. But today Nepalese women are defying cultural tradition and are becoming community leaders, environmentalists, politicians and business owners. In October 2015, Nepal elected its first female president, Bidya Devi Bhandari. Other famous Nepali women include CNN hero of the year Anuradha Koirala, Pushpa Basnet. First female to climb Mount Everest Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, international award-winning athletes Mira Rau, Phupu Lhamu Khatri, and the first female Chief Justice Sushila Karki. Women’s representation in the Constituent Assembly has increased to 29% in November 2013 elections from 2.9% in 1991.
A : In most of the places in Nepal, gender disparities still hugely exist, women’s have limited control or saying in affairs, women are restricted to household works, deprived of education, discriminated based on caste and have poor health care access. Existing laws are inadequate to deal with sexual offence and Nepal has no law to deal with sexual harassment. This is also the reason why Nepalese women are frequently subjected to a regime of rape and domestic abuse and young women risk being trafficked to the brothels of India.