Women's Industrial Village in Panchkhal courts serious controversy as govt neglects FWEAN

Published On: December 13, 2023 01:30 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Dec 13: The Women's Industrial Village, which is going to be built in Panchkhal of Kavre to generate employment for women by developing women's entrepreneurship and establishing industries, has become embroiled in controversy even before its foundation stone laying ceremony.

A serious dispute has surfaced even before laying the foundation stone of the first women's industrial village being built with an investment of about Rs 1 billion as the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Associations of Nepal (FWEAN), which is the umbrella organization of women’s entrepreneurs from across the country, is excluded as implementing partner. It may be recalled that the park is being built under the Industrial Development Village program announced by the government at the initiative of FWEAN.

The foundation laying ceremony of the industrial village is scheduled on Wednesday afternoon in the presence of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Finance Minister Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat, and Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Ramesh Rijal.

While the women's industrial village is being built at the behest of women entrepreneurs, the achievements of its stated goals looks uncertain as FWEAN itself is not included in the partnership for the park's development.

FWEAN has expressed its serious displeasure after the South Asian Women Development Forum (SAWDF) was chosen as a partner, excluding FWEAN, which has a track record of preparing women entrepreneurs across the country and has its district chapters in moist districts. The construction of industrial village is moving forward in collaboration with Panchkhal Municipality and SAWDF, sidelining FWEAN, leading to widespread criticisms for neglecting the umbrella organization of women entrepreneurs

Sources claimed that SAWDF President Pramila Acharya Rijal lobbied for the park to be launched by excluding FWEAN, leveraging her political connections.

The controversy intensified further as Mahesh Kharel, Mayor of Panchkhal Municipality and Rijal's brother-in-law (sister's husband), supported Rijal (Kharel’s sister-in-law) despite the need for collective efforts in developing women entrepreneurship. SAWDF operates as a loose regional forum.

FWEAN has branches in 61 districts of the country. Many women entrepreneurs are associated with FWEAN. It has also been helping to prepare women entrepreneurs across the country. The government has also been partnering with FWEAN in the policy sector. Products produced by women entrepreneurs, who do not have access to the SAWDF district chapters, are less likely to come to the park.

An official of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies said that keeping out the umbrella organization of women entrepreneurs based on political reach does not send a good message.

"There should have been cooperation and partnership with the common organization of women entrepreneurs across the country," said the official, asking for anonymity. "It will be difficult to run the park after women entrepreneurs do not take ownership." 

Women entrepreneurs have become dissatisfied after the government chose to collaborate only with a loose forum that works only at the regional level on the basis of political access and connection.

FWEAN has been partnering with the government for 20 years with the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI), and Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC). FWEAN is also an umbrella organization of women affiliated to domestic federations. About 50,000 women entrepreneurs from across the country are affiliated with the FWEAN.

While the establishment of a park for women entrepreneurs is a positive decision, it is sad to keep out the umbrella organization of women entrepreneurs, said Shova Gyawali, president of FWIN.

"At our request, the government went ahead with the plan to build the park," said President Gyawali, "We are surprised that there is no partnership with FWEAN now."

She stated that her organization has been working for the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs."We want to make the construction of the park a success by cooperating with the government," she said, "We have to create an environment of partnership."

Women Entrepreneurs Green Industrial Park (WEGrIP) is going to be established in Panchkhal with an area of 157 ropanis of land. For this, Panchkhal Municipality has provided the land and the government has allocated the budget. Dissatisfaction has increased among women entrepreneurs as the establishment of the park proceeded without coordination with key stakeholders.

Darshana Shrestha, the first vice-president of FWEAN, said that as the government's policy partner, the FWEAN should have a partnership in the park. "It is a matter of happiness to establish a women's industrial village. FWEAN also needs to engage in such a partnership," Shrestha said. She also argued that the government should not ignore its policy partner.

Basanti Pradhan, vice president of FWEAN, said that the construction of the park should be progressed so that all women entrepreneurs are included. "We have been working to develop women's entrepreneurship," Pradhan said, "We expect cooperation and partnership with the government."

Panchkhal Municipality Mayor Mahesh Kharel said that an industrial village is going to be built to develop the entrepreneurship of women. Kharel argued that he does not recognize other organizations because the work has progressed through an agreement with the SAWDF. "The municipality cooperates with the organization with which the municipality has reached an agreement," said Mayor Kharel.

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