Department of Family Medicine
Scoring the Third Goal
A commentary on Nepal’s efforts to promote gender equality and empower women
Posan Samser Limbu
R. N. 593
The once mystical women have fallen from being worshipped as goddesses and possessors of the mystery of child birth1 to mere child bearers. If females are the oppressed among humans, perhaps they can take heart from the fact that failing to escape after mating, the male gets eaten by the bigger and stronger female black widow spider.2 The strong oppress the weak which is in concordance with the laws of nature, and the same goes for humans. But humans are supposed to be at least a cut above the other animals. They are supposed to care for the weak and protect them from harm. Women, generally weaker physically than the men, are supposed to be taken care of by their men. This attitude, while embracing the highest ideal of humanity is fundamentally wrong in that women are assumed weaker and this assumption extends to not just being weak physically but in all other areas, and sows the seeds of discrimination. It has been a challenge to the humans to figure out a way for two vastly unequal groups to live as equals. In a bid to tackle the gender inequality issue and other problems plaguing humans, representatives from 189 countries met in September 2000 at the Millennium Summit in New York to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration. The leaders made specific commitments in seven areas: peace, security and disarmament; development and poverty eradication; protecting our common environment, human rights, democracy and good governance; protecting the vulnerable; meeting the special needs of Africa; and strengthening the United Nations. The Road Map established goals and targets to be reached by year 2015 in each of the seven areas. The goals in the area of development and poverty eradication are now widely referred to as “Millennium Development Goals”. 3 The third goal of the Millennium Development Goals is to promote gender equality and empower women. The target to be achieved by 2015, target no. 4, is “Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and in all levels of education no later than 2015. Four indicators are used to track progress in this goal and they are: Ratio of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education; Ratio of literate women to men of 15 to 24 year olds; Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector; and Proportion of seats held by women in National Parliament .4 Nepal as a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals is striving to meet them. Let’s consider the first indicator. The first school for girls was established in 1948 after four women captured from the streets during the anti-Rana movement demanded a school for girls to Prime Minister Padma Shumsher.5 The education of girls prior to that was informal if any. The establishment of St. Mary’s School at Jawalakhel in 1954 was another milestone in female education and it ushered in the era of modern education to the girls. So it has only been a little over 60 years that the girls of Nepal have been exposed to formal education. Boys on the other hand have enjoyed education since antiquity in the form of Gurukuls earlier and formal schools later with the establishment of Durbar High School in 1853.6 However, modern western type education entered Nepal only in 1951, just three years prior to girls’, with the founding of St. Xavier’s Godavari by Fr. Moran S.J. at the request of the Ministry of Education.7 So although the education gap historically appears very wide, boys and girls in Nepal have had modern education exposure at least in primary and secondary schools for roughly the same duration, especially considering that education was largely an aristocratic indulgence until the downfall of the Ranas and restricted from both male and...