KAVRE, August 3: Deputy Coordinator at District Coordination Committee, Kavre, Manju Gautam, does not feel comfortable with the treatment she gets from some local representatives and employees. Her personal experience and understanding are that the 'post of deputy' is viewed 'least important' and the individual holding the post is treated accordingly. However, she is hopeful that she would make them compelled to rightly judge the significance of the position through her performance.
Amidst this determination, she says the issue of double burden facing the women holding the public posts could not be overlooked. As she says, she is worried about her public responsibility as well as the responsibility of the private sphere which is still supposed to be of women's domain. She has the experience of being uninvited in any discussions about plans and programs by the Panchkhal municipality from where she was elected in the local level election.
"She does not get due respect even from the ward chair." In the Sambant Kunja (a forum for dialogues) organized in Banepa, deputy coordinator Gautam suggested local levels' deputy mayors and vice-chairs ( these posts are largely occupied by women) that they should not surrender before the disrespect by other local representatives as they have sole power in nine local committees.
As she said, the majority of deputy mayors and vice-chairs had shared with her that they had been prevented from working independently in the committees where they have sole power. Gautam urged them to show courage to break the ceiling and stop others from interfering in their rights.
Similarly, Dhulikhel municipality deputy mayor Bimala Sharma is in a dire need of expressing her grudges from her home to office. She wished that they- the deputy ones- would be invited to the Sambat Kunja each month so that they could exchange their experiences. She, as the deputy mayor, is the chair of a judicial committee at the local level and feels pains which pinch her deep when she could not recommend financial assistance for helpless women seeking the support.
"We have to escort victims in need of financial and in-kind help to the mayor for final approval as they had no authority for the same," she said. The society is still guided by biased perception towards women who keep themselves engaged in public affairs, according to her. She feels that she does not get a welcoming gesture from her neighbors when she leaves home for her public duties. She has seen unwanted bodily gestures and pouting lips from her neighbors multiple times in disapproval of her routine as the public figure.
More harrowing story comes from Mandandeupur municipality's deputy mayor Nirmala Shahi. She shared that she suffered mental and psychological violence from verbal abuse by some employees.
"But perpetrators took no time to seek an apology when I warned of pursuing legal action against them" she reminded while demanding the right to budget allocation to deputy mayors and vice-chairs. There is somehow not so similar story with Banepa municipality deputy mayor Rekha Dahal, who says, she faces difficulties in the implementation of municipality plans in absence of required skilled human resources. Some wards have been failed to incorporate the principle of inclusion in the selection of the projects, she said.
Panchkhal municipality deputy mayor Laxmi Danuwar is worried about maintaining transparency in local-level activities as she had realized that technical human resources and consumers' committees had secret cooperation to make the works done in their favor. Her competency and a sense of justice are repeatedly questioned when she successfully settles the local-level disputes.
Moreover, Khanikhola rural municipality vice-chair Rukmini Gurung is much disappointed as works are not going on as per plan and procedure developed by the local government. As she said, her participation was not sought in the plan allocation and the entire budget meant for infrastructure development was spent on road projects. When asked about the budget for women, the reply was: "Women also use the roads." She was not satisfied with the unnecessary interference of other people's representations during the project monitoring.
Temal rural municipality vice-chair Durga Maya Tamang is facing political pressure as an undefeated challenge in the justice execution. She shared that her efforts to end the issue with a win-win feeling got aborted due to a political pressure, which, she said, was never a good practice.
According to Roshi rural municipality vice-chair Laxmi Bartaula, she encountered multiple challenges during her efforts to settle disputes concerning the demarcation of private land. But, she still hopes that these sorts of dialogues would help raise the consciousness of people's representatives about the need for healthy practices at local levels.