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May Day and Nepali Working Women

The 118th International Labor’s day, popularly known as May Day, name given to the first day of May, observed all over the world by organizing different programs. In Nepal too, International Labor Day was observed by organizing various programs concerning the rights of workers.

Various public functions, rallies, mass meetings and conferences were held throughout the nation calling for protection of the rights of workers. The government has announced a public holiday on the occasion of International Labor Day from this year.
The Labor Day has its origins in the “eight-hour day movement”, which advocated the eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.
International Workers’ Day (a name used interchangeably with May Day) is a celebration of the social and economic achievements of the international labor movement.
May Day has become an international celebration of the social and economic achievements of the working class and labor movement.It is a day of celebrating in many parts of the world as a labor holiday. It is a day for each working group regardless of caste, ethnicity, race, sex, religion etc.

Status of Working Women in Nepal:
Nepal is a signatory of the most of the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and it has expressed its commitment for uplifting the condition of all sorts of laborers. However, no significant change is seen in the practice
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) – Nepal, out of 11 million labor forces in the country, only 3.6 percent workers are employed in the formal sector that involves some form of social security. But over 96 percent labor forces in the informal sector are deprived of job security.
According to the Labor Act, institutions with less than Rs. 50,000/- investment and having less than 10 employees are treated as informal sector. Besides, the farmers holding less than 5 bigas of agricultural land and employing less than 10 agricultural workers also come under the informal sector category. Child labor is also part of the informal sector labor.
Women constitute half of Nepal’s population and a visible majority of the poor. Despite some socioeconomic achievements in the past decades under a planned development effort, women are still lagging behind their male counterparts.
In Nepal, the status of women has improved in the past few decades, especially in the areas of education, employment and health. In 1981, only 12 percent of the females in Nepal were literate. In 2003/04, the NPC estimated the rate to be 33.8 percent (Nepal Living Standard Survey, henceforth NLSS). In terms of employment, the female participation rate in Nepal’s labor force is higher than South Asia’s average 41 percent of Nepali women, whereas only 33 percent of all South Asian women were employed as of the year 2000.
The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) score for Nepal is only 0.39 and it indicates that women are far less empowered than men in political, economic and professional domains. Women’s share of earned income is about one-half of that of men while their participation in the political process is only one-fourth that of men. The gap is even wider in terms of participation in professional and administrative jobs. In addition, women in rural areas are much less empowered than those in the urban areas.
Although women play a large role in Nepal’s economic sphere, their domestic work, as well as the agricultural work they do is not considered in the national income estimation. Their input in agriculture is ignored because most women participate in subsistence farming.
Besides, women fill only 17.57 percent of the current interim legislature and only 2 ministerial positions in the interim government. Also, only 8.55 percent of women participate in civil service and only 4 percent of women are at the policy formulation level. This data proves that very few women take on decision-making roles in the government. Much of this is due to the cultural restraints they face.
In terms of work, women all over the world suffer from the effects of unemployment, job stereotyping, sexual harassment, wage disparity, reduced access to jobs and vocational training and have difficulties in moving up the ladder in the job force. In Nepal too, such social maltreatment is prevailed.
The majority of women in Nepal have to endure a “double burden” and sometimes even a “triple burden”. Not only do they serve as (1) economic agents and work outside of the home to bring in money, but also once they return home, they have to (2) handle household duties, such as cleaning and cooking, and some even have (3) childcare duties to attend to. The first form of work–paid employment–leads to positive effects on a woman’s bargaining position within the household. However, the latter two forms of work are usually not accounted for and are considered to be ‘feminized work’. Women are looked at as being primarily responsible in the reproductive sector.
The labors are basically categorized on paid, unpaid, and self-employed. According to NLFS 1998 survey, of the total female labor force of Nepal, 7.7 percent women are paid regularly, 28.9 percent are self-employed, and a staggering 63.4 percent are involved in unpaid work. Only 1.99 percent of the total female labor force participates in the non-agriculture formal sector. This is highly unfortunate, because in this sector, workers not only receive a regular wage, but other benefits as well. 12.80 percent women participate in the non-agriculture informal sector, where they receive a daily wage.
There is very little gender-sensitive statistical data complied by the government, so it is difficult to properly measure women’s contribution to the economy and the economically active population in the labor force. Much of the work women partake in does not get converted into monetary value.
The facts and figures presented above show the low socioeconomic status of Nepalese women. Many factors determine this situation, including Nepal’s highly patriarchal society, suppression, exploitation, illiteracy, ill health, poverty, orthodox traditions and a discriminatory legal system. The country has one of the highest indicators of son preference in the world. Boys not only pass on the family name, but also are thought to be the future caretakers of their parents. Thus, parents are far more likely to encourage their sons to study in the hope that they will obtain a respectable position in the workforce and be able to support their family. However, when it comes to educating their daughters, they are wary. Not only will educating them cost money and take time away from their household chores, whatever a girl gains through education is considered insignificant to her parents. It is felt that since the daughter ends up moving out of the house after marriage, she cannot be depended upon financially. So instead, mothers focus on training their unmarried daughters to take care of the household to prepare them for life after marriage.
Recommending Measures:
• There is need to eradicate the social and cultural values that disadvantage women. The participation of women in the labor sector is directly connected to the level of education, skills and opportunities they receive. So, the main goal for Nepal in relation to women’s economic participation is to secure equal economic rights for women by increasing their employment opportunities, as well as their access, control and possession of resources.
• The government needs to fill the gaps in labor laws to make them correlate with international labor standards (i.e. the International Labor Organisation). Female workers in the informal sector are being denied basic rights, such as minimum wage and safe working conditions. As Nepal’s economy becomes more liberal, employment will rise, but it is likely that women will be placed in jobs in the informal sector. So, the security measures and gender sensitivity as well as environmentally working accustomed mechanism should be created.
• Women should be encouraged to participate in all forms of government – from the grassroots to the national level. Their participation at all layers of social structure should be guaranteed by formulating laws and provisions. The government needs to ensure that women’s work is not undervalued and under recorded. Nepal is lacking in terms of gender-sensitive data. The national accounting system needs to be improved so that a true assessment of women’s contributions to the national economy can be formulated.
• Women’s participation in decision-making in agriculture needs to increase as well. Women should participate in community-based organizations/groups so that they can voice their opinions and ideas and advise each other on issues related to agriculture, credit, technology, etc. These gender issues have to be integrated into domestic agriculture policies. Similarly, it is essential that women should be allowed easier access to resources, especially credit.
• Nepal needs to promote small farm commercialism. The Agriculture Prospective Plan, which aims to help landless women and disadvantage groups, stresses the production of high value crops (i.e., horticulture, bee-keeping) and livestock.
• Investment in training programs for women so they can upgrade their skills and create a higher quality product is desirable. Promotion of the Nepali fashion industry, which would focus on unique designer products, is necessary.
• Gender-sensitive employment and pay equity legislation should be formulated in applicability to both national and Foreign Service suppliers.

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