Shaping Nepal’s Future: Prospect and roadmap for feminist foreign policy

FFP represents a paradigm shift in traditional approaches to diplomacy and statecraft.

At the beginning I would like to highlight one narrative made by Monika Hauser, Founder of medica mondiale, A feminist women’s rights organization. She says, ‘A Feminist Foreign Policy means self-critical politics! To this effect, the Federal Government needs to regularly scrutinize its own actions. This includes the issue of how political decisions are having an impact on women and girls and on gender relations’.

What I believe, Feminist foreign policy FFP or feminist diplomacy FD means more than just promoting women. It aims to implement tangible feminist solutions to foreign policy problems. FFP programs, networks and communities can directly tackle current inequalities in representation, knowledge and policy-making.  In recent decades, there have been notable transformations in the field of international relations, mirroring shifts in global dynamics and the evolution of societal norms.Top of Form

 One of the most notable developments in this regard is the emergence of feminist foreign policy (FFP). It is a strategy integrated into the policies and practices of a state to promote gender equality and to help improve women’s access to resources, basic human rights, social justice and political participation. It enhances not only the knowledge, capacity building and quality of women but also fulfill women’s right where there will be no discrimination, growing representation to promote participation for gaining decision making levels that can prevent violence and reach to resources. Its origins can be traced back some 100 years to the international women’s peace movement during world war I.

In all wars and conflicts, women and girls are raped, kidnapped and enslaved. Many survivors come away with physical and psychological injuries with social stigmatization. Having Patriarchal societies in many countries, it exists power inequalities. FFP represents a paradigm shift in traditional approaches to diplomacy and statecraft. The objective of feminist foreign policy will be achieved only if there is establishment of gender justice, overcome discrimination and violence. It recognizes the interconnectedness of gender equality with broader issues such as achieving long lasting peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights. It brings transformative change in the society.

One of the foundations of feminist foreign policy in international law is the Resolution 1325 of the United Nations (UN), and another is (CEDAW) which highlight women’s and girls’ rights, opportunities, protection and security.

More and more countries pursue a feminist foreign policy. Sweden was the first country to introduce a feminist foreign policy. The concept was first coined and integrated into governmental policy by Margot Wallstrom, former Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister. The principles were to be applied in the policy areas of diplomacy, trade, development aid and security. Now is a bit inactive there. It abandoned the concept of feminist foreign policy in October 2022. But some other countries around the world have followed its examples such as Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, among others. When Sweden made 3R formula (Rights, Representation and resources) to express how it intended to empower women and girls. Germany extended it 3R+ D-Diversity.

Now I would like to highlight some of the provisions of our constitution which portrays the positive impact to FFP nonetheless it does not have direct such terminology but the essence is there.

Here, I would like to pay honor of the provision incorporated in the Constitution of Nepal 2015 which entails gender balance and women empowerment. The Constitution (present) is inclusive and one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, passed by overwhelming majority of the lawmakers. It has guaranteed 33% of parliamentary seats (both in the lower and upper houses) for women (Part 8, Section 84.8). It has the provision of alternative arrangements for gender and communities in all elected or selected executive positions of the government. For example, the President and the Vice President of Nepal should represent different gender or communities.

Similar arrangement is made for the selection or election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives; Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the National Assembly; Mayor and Deputy Mayor of municipality and among other (elected) selected, nominated executive offices and government bodies. There are also reservation seats for women and others for government bodies.

In 2019, the global average for women in national assemblies was 24.3%, whereas Nepal’s constitution mandates a minimum of 33% women’s representation in legislative bodies in all levels. Presently, the representation stands at 33.5% in the House of Representatives, 37.28% in the National Assembly, and similar percentages in provincial assemblies of Nepal.

The earlier parliament had around 40% female Members in its Parliament. Currently, around 40 % women leaders are presented in local bodies. After 10 years, we can see a good number of Nepali leaders in power. The constitution stipulates the objective of eliminating all forms of discrimination, exploitation, and injustice to establish a civilized and egalitarian society. It aspires to ensure economic equality, prosperity, and social justice, as well as the development of social and cultural values, emphasizing mutual respect (Part 4.50.2). The constitution addresses women’s rights in Nepal, affirming that every woman is entitled to equal lineage rights without gender-based discrimination (Part 3.38.1). It comprises the right to obtain special opportunity in education, health, employment and social security on the basis of positive discrimination. (Part 3.38.5). Furthermore, women are granted the right to participate in all State bodies based on the principle of proportional inclusion, emphasizing the principle of equality (Section 3.38.4).

The inclusion of provisions in the constitution sends a positive signal, promoting women’s participation in various spheres, including foreign affairs. These roles entail engagement with the international arena, diplomacy, and interactions with foreign delegates, marking a significant advancement for women in various leadership capacities. This is the fundamental law of Nepal regarding women’s right and opportunities incorporated in our constitution 2015.

These developments instill a great hope even grassroots-level women, inspiring them to pursue such positions in the future and fulfilling the aspirations of girls throughout the country to become leaders in future, which is the core interest of FPP. However, despite Nepal’s commitment to women’s rights and empowerment, including involvement in initiatives such as Security Council Resolution, SAARC and CEDAW, there is still a lack of women representation in certain positions.

As a consequence, there is a significant lack of women in key executive positions such as high-level officials, Secretary General, secretaries in the parliaments of Federal, Provincial and local level, remains predominantly male-dominated indicating a persistent gap of their involvement in foreign policy planning, decision-making, and implementation. We anticipate having in the future.

The number of women is increasing worldwide. More than half is usually covered by women in the globe. If this population remains idle, the country will certainly lag behind in development. As women form important share of nation, women should be encouraged, if the country needs sustainable development.

While FFP holds great promise for advancing gender equality and social justice on the global stage, it also faces numerous challenges. Moreover, the effectiveness of FFP depends on political will, institutional capacity, and collaboration with diverse stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and international organizations. Nonetheless, FFP offers a unique opportunity to reframe international relations through a lens of inclusivity, empathy, and solidarity, paving the way for a more just and equitable world.

Here I would like to share some of my own Examples while I was assuming the post of Ambassador to Israel: On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, MFA Women Diplomacy Network organized an educational project: “Ambassador for a Day” with the idea that the female ambassadors, female diplomats can empower the girls and provide an example to show them the possibility that one day they could have a professional career and may even become a diplomat.

Nepal Embassy volunteered to host two girls Students of 10 grade, who were from marginalized community one Muslim and another Ethiopian on 5 March 2020. It gives one message that Ambassador not only can empower and enhance the opportunities of her citizen but also the citizen of other countries as we share the same world. They can be diplomat, or leader or high ranking official.

Another example regarding Sports: Nepal Embassy organized Israeli Mothers’ game named Mamanet (Catch ball) between Nepali and Israeli team. After that game, Many Nepali women Care givers became players. When they travel to play abroad, they carry Nepali flag. They are becoming leaders in this sport. These are some pragmatic examples of promoting Feminist foreign policy. Our citizen who are residing abroad, they are also promoting our country. On the status of Women and Gender Equality, Nepal’s Constitution is Enhancing Gender balance in our society.

In conclusion, feminist foreign policy represents a bold and transformative approach to international relations, challenging conventional notions of power, security, and sovereignty. By prioritizing gender equality and social justice, FFP has the potential to not only advance the rights and well-being of women and girls but also to promote peace, prosperity, sustainable development and human rights for all. As more countries embrace FFP and integrate gender perspectives into their foreign policy agendas, the prospect of a more equitable and more sustainable world becomes increasingly achievable and even more realistic.

I believe that feminist foreign policy is not aiming to avoid other genders’ opportunities and their rights. It is to bring peace, justice, security and harmonious societies in the world. Thank you.

Dr. Anjan Shakya is a member of the National Assembly and a former ambassador of Nepal to Israel. This article is based on a paper presented at a program organized by the Centre for Social Innovation and Foreign Policy on May 7, 2024, in Kathmandu.

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