Representing the collective voice of youth & women
Nabina Lama, Vice President of All Nepal National Free Student’s Union, joined politics to represent the collective voice of youth and women. She had been elected as a Secretary and later President during her college days. Lama believes in implementing her rights in a proper way and hence has been able to advocate for the rights of youth and women as a young leader.
She has been active in politics since the last nine years and works in empowering youth and women through her party’s campaigns. Originally from Kavre, she first came to the capital in 1995 and was inspired and encouraged to venture into politics through her family’s involvement in the field. “During the Panchayat period, my father worked as a teacher in Kavre and besides being a social worker, he was active in politics as well. You could say I got into politics to maintain the tradition,” says Lama.
Lama says that the main predicament of today is that though we have a law system, it is not implemented well. “The problem is that there isn’t any politician who is willing to think about well being of the nation and people and provide justice to the suppressed groups.”
The other important issue she points out is that the social structure of our country is built in such way that women are often considered as second citizens. “I don’t represent indigenous community but I represent the youth of this country. We need to empower youth and women by creating awareness. Young people can speak for themselves but they need to be encouraged,” says Lama.
The Week met up with Lama to talk about the current situation of politics in Nepal and her party’s agendas.
What, in your opinion, are the issues and problems of the current political structure of the country?
There isn’t an agreement between the political parties and they don’t trust each other. The facts that the parties aren’t united, can’t develop feelings of nationality and think for the welfare of citizens and the prosperity of the country are the main challenges we face right now. What we need are more politicians who are willing and committed to think about the nation and have a vision, because everything is just limited to speeches now. I’m also involved in a party but I’ll admit that there aren’t any leaders and politicians who consider bringing out the core social debates for social goodwill.
What do you think about the state of women in the country?
Currently, women are the most dominated and suppressed sex, be it financially, socially or politically. Women are considered as secondary citizen and it doesn’t help that they’re mostly unaware of their rights. Women today seem to have a lot more access to fields that were earlier considered men’s domain. But even then, we see a lot of cases of violence against women that includes domination, suppression and physical abuse. So, the situation and circumstances of today demands that we move ahead by becoming more aware as there are critical issues in the society that needs to be addressed. Our societal structure determines the way women are perceived which is why even their basic freedom is restricted so we really need to change our mindset, attitude and move forward by being more open and accepting. I believe that there should be more women representation in politics and that they should be made secure, educated and powerful. To achieve that, the state needs to address issues of women’s rights and give the matter the urgency it requires.
What do you think about violence against women and the ongoing movement to address this issue?
There are increasing numbers of cases of violence against women and the fault lies in the way women are perceived in our society. Our social structure has been built in such a way that women, especially the uneducated ones, are often looked down upon. We need to change the mindset of people, only then can this problem be curbed. Violence against women is a huge issue and the increasing number of cases shows the regressive ways of our society. The cases of Sita Rai and Chhori Maiya Maharjan are matters of grave concern for the entire women population of the country. Our biggest challenge is to speak for justice to put an end to this kind of violence and the current movement at Baluwatar is a start towards achieving just that.
What are your views about your own party?
CPN UML is a communist party but it’s not leaded by the proletarian group for whom the party is supposed to work for. We follow Marxist ideology and work to embrace creative and productive aspects of the society to bring a positive change and bring a peaceful transition in the country. In 1987, it ended violence and use of guns as it stands to fight for the rights of the common people. Following the ideologies of Marx, the party has limited itself to theory. There isn’t any politician who has been able to value the common citizen’s emotions, sentiments and issues and that’s a terrible thing. Politics has become a power game and there’s no transparency. So we need experienced, capable and good leaders in the party to bring some change.
What are your party’s immediate plans?
Our plan is to get more youth and women involved in politics and help them develop their leadership skills. There’s also the issue of addressing the debate of education in the country. Our main focus, however, is to make politics more sustainable. That will be the only way we can ever hope to bring some semblance of peace in the country. For that, we come up with various initiatives and campaigns.
Why do you think young people should be involved in politics?
There’re talks of including women, youth organizations and leaders to participate in the government because these voices need to be heard. Our politics is run by people who have been in similar positions for years. There’s a need of more young people to enter the traditional political structure and place themselves in the vanguard for us to move forward. Youth should be empowered and should be allowed to take the lead as the old leaders cannot think beyond their traditional attitude.
What is your opinion about federalism?
This country was governed as a party-less, single caste and a single religion country. There was monarchy but after the peaceful protest and 12 year conflict, the country came to the stark realization that a single ruler cannot run the country which is why it became a republic nation. But the country hasn’t been able to institutionalize the concept because to develop that we need a constitution. The country has become Federal Democratic Republic State of Nepal but not so much in practice. More than 50 percent indigenous committees are there and we need to protect the identity, language and culture of those indigenous groups. If the politicians had been sensitive enough in this issue, the present situation would’ve been different. Culture and language are a country’s property so we need equal inclusion of all groups and caste so that we can raise a collective voice. A Federal Democratic Republic is important in order to address the issues and debates of indigenous people, Dalits, Tarai, Madesh and others because unless we do that there’ll be continuous violence, conflict and debates in the country.
Do you have any suggestions for the youth of the country?
Politics develops a nation, if practiced right and manages violence and conflict. The youth need to be more involved in politics or more aware about what’s happening in the country. They also need to follow the rule of law and discipline to create a proper society. The voices of young people need to be heard by the government so it’s important that they speak out. In politics, proper rule, coordination, system and leadership are important. Young people need to support groups like ours so that together we can work on those aspects and move ahead for the development of the nation as a whole.
As a young leader what are your future plans?
Being the vice president of a student party, I have a lot of responsibilities to fulfill. In future, if I become the president, I’ll further work on pressuring the concerned parties to consider the freedom, reputation and prestige of youth and women like me. We need to break the stereotype tradition of politics. As a politician, I’ll work to protect and guarantee the rights, justice and freedom of the citizens. My second priority will be to focus on making education equal and impartial to all.