Ashmita Pokhrel

“Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world” says UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2018.

Of course, gender equality and women’s empowerment is one of the most important areas focused by the UN along with other national and international agencies working in the field of women’s issue.

Although all the conventions and covenants mention no discrimination in terms of sex and gender, world is still divided into two dimensions- men and women. It is an accepted fact that except biology nothing should be different yet achieving equality is a far cry.

Empowering women has become a core issue, because at some point of time, women were left behind men and from that point competition to maintain equality has begun. The concept of competition would not have been emerged if there were no discriminatory practices at the first place.

When the world, including we- Nepalis, was celebrating the International Women’s Day on March 8 this year, a girl on remote area of Kailali district was severely tortured for her alleged involvement in witchcraft. A girl becomes a victim of rape every other day; a girl dies now and then when she stays in a chaugoth (an outhouse for girls and women to get them excluded from family during their menstruation).

There are many examples women are treated inhumane. Now we need a way out from the problems that we face and this is only possible when a woman is empowered.

Empowering women and maintaining gender equality is only possible when male counterpart recognize their role as an equal contributor in any step- be it a house making, policy making, and development practices. From ages, women have been standing ‘for the men’. But in the changed context, role of men has been imperative for respect to and rights of the women.

When men and women come together for each other and support each other, the world can certainly become a better place to live in.
Being inspired by the Free Press Unlimited initiatives, Freedom Forum also marked this March 8 giving a creative and powerful symbolic message- men’s only march for women! Collecting more than 20 organizations, men’s march took the main street where the men folks were distributed sanitary pad. Sanitary pads to men?! Of course, to men. It was aimed at making men folks aware about women’s health and hygiene. It seems small and even trivial for many, but once one cogitates on it, it is important that this female biological phenomenon must not be ignored.

When I remember the moment a man shrugged off after taking the sanitary pad, it still brings me humour. But, the reality he embraced after brief talk was praiseworthy- he put the sanitary pad in his bag with comfort, said he would give it to his spouse as a unique gift.

The pad, the male ones had to give to their female members after reaching the family.

We believed that a small but new initiative would help men generate respect to women. Once the respect is shown, it gradually inspire for collaboration and equal participation and rights. Isn’t it a quick message-laden work far better than a grand seminar on women’s rights in a big city hotel?