"The interview with the equal opportunities officer of the state of Brandenburg was a highlight for me. It showed how important permanent structures are to ensure the equal participation of men and women in public life," said Sushama Gautam, lawyer and activist for children's and women's rights from Kathmandu, commenting on her one-week trip to Germany. As part of an eight-member delegation of Nepalese women lawyers and politicians, she visited Berlin and Potsdam during the first week of May at the invitation of FES. Under the heading of gender justice and federalism, the participants exchanged views with experts and practitioners from trade unions, parliaments, and civil society on the state of political and economic participation of women in both countries.
Since the end of decades of civil war and the abolition of monarchy in 2007, the country in the Himalayas has been on an arduous but steady path of democratisation, within the framework of which women's participation in the political process is also being negotiated. The 2015 constitution, which establishes Nepal as a federal, parliamentary republic, also provides for a quota of 33 percent women in parliament. After the elections in 2017, Nepal has been ranked 36th in international comparison according to UN Women, while Germany is 11 positions behind with 30.9 percent share of female parliamentarians. Thus there was enough material for exchange on the Parity Law, which was the issue for a visit to Klara Geywitz, member of the state parliament of Brandenburg in Potsdam. The visitors were particularly inspired by the cross-party nature of the legislative initiative, which aims to ensure equal share of women and men in the electoral lists of political parties. Gender equality as a task for the society as a whole was also an important take-away of the talks with the German trade unions.
Labor law expert Kabita Shrestha was enthusiastic about the concept of parental leave: "The title itself makes it clear that bringing up children is a task for both spouses and not just the mother's duty. This allows a new perspective on family and working life," she said during the evaluation meeting in Kathmandu. In Nepal, a new labor law was passed in 2017. For the first time it includes men‘s entitlement to 15 days‘ paid paternity leave and recognised the role of fathers in bringing up children. In a country where more then 75 percent of the working population earn their living outside the formal sector, the legal provision only benefits few people. "The experiences from Germany can still be helpful for us, particularly when it comes to shaping the implementation of the new labor law as well as the law on social security with regards to the informal sector where most of the women work", says Shrestha.
How women can mutually strengthen each other in politics and professional development was the topic of the final discussion with the former Minister of Justice and internationally renowned legal expert Prof. Dr. Herta Däubler-Gmelin. "The example of the German Women Lawyers‘ Association was very revealing for us, because they lobby across professions for women's concerns," explained Sushama Gautam, president of a newly founded cross-party network of nepalese women lawyers. At the end, it was agreed that, in addition to organisations and laws, female networks and role models are needed to achieve real change and take charge. "We were all very impressed by Prof. Däubler-Gmelin, not only because of her great expertise and years of experience," Gautam sums up. "Take the floor when it presents itself to you and refer to the contributions of other women when you speak! Those were two of the very memorable learning experiences she gave us."
Besides the multi-fold information and contacts the study visit gave inspirations for new ways to achieve gender equality in Nepal and Germany in the future.