Women in Nepal Army: Challenges and opportunities

Published On: March 29, 2017 12:03 PM NPT By: Pooja Chauhan

KATHMANDU, March 29: After standing for almost an hour through traffic jams in a crowded public vehicle, two of the passengers rushed to the front row to grab a seat. They were just about to stretch their cramped muscles when somebody from the back pulled the sweater of one of them and said: ‘Excuse me, you are not allowed to sit here, these seats are reserved for women.

Both of them gazed at the person for a while and turned back. When the man yelled at them again, asking them to let a woman sit there, one of them, with a very feminine voice, replied: ‘We know it’s a ladies’ seat, and that’s why we are here.’ The voice, which was loud enough to be heard by all the passengers, pulled everybody’s attention towards them.

But the members of our over-intelligent society, which perceives long hair as a symbol of women’s femininity, started laughing at them, apparently doubting their femininity, just because they had short hair. The bus’ irritating exhaust note had not bothered the girls as much as the insensible laughter and constant stare. Just to shut their mouth, the frustrated girls requested the people to stop staring at them as they were army personnel, not aliens. When the people started empathizing with them for their obligation to have short hair, the girls, with a gentle smile on their face, told the crowd that they were not obliged to cut their hair, but they chose to have short hair for comfort.

In this materialistic world, for many young girls, life’s all about looking stylish , wearing fashionable clothes and attending high-profile parties. For them, success is all about owning that life. On the other hand, there are some girls for whom life has never been just a show-off, but more about adventure and navigating through challenges without caring about what the society thinks. Breaking traditional gender stereotypes, many young girls today are daring to join the army, traditionally considered the domain of men.

The Nepal Army started recruiting women in technical service in 1961, and in 2004, it started hiring them for general services. According to the Nepal Army’s Directorate of Public Relations (DPR), the security agency plans to adopt a mandatory provision to ensure at least 9% enrollment of women.

As per the information provided by the DPR, there are currently 163 female officers in general services, and 191 in technical services. In total, there are 4,094 women serving in various capacities in the army. Similarly, 972 women have served in peace keeping missions so far.

“I don’t care if my clothes are dirty and my hair makes me look ugly as long as I am serving the nation. I am proud of myself, as it’s what I live for,” said Usha Sharma (name changed), a Junior Commissioned Officer in the Nepal Army. According to her, grueling early morning training sessions and adventure is what attracted her towards this profession. “Staying away from your family and lack of sleep could be challenging, but my dream is worth more than my sleep” Sharma added. 

Major Buddha Kumari Thebe, who has been in the army for the past 13 years, says her gender has never been a barrier. “As long as you believe in your capabilities, no one will stop you from doing what you want to, but you must stay strong as challenges are inevitable in every field, and that’s not always just because you are a woman,” she said, adding, “The growth of women in the army has been incredible.” 

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