Conducted for the first time in Nepal, the monitoring of the second Constituent Assembly Elections through gender perspective proves to be successful, albeit with minor glitches.

KATHMANDU — The elections for the second Constituent Assembly was held throughout the country on November 19, 2013 with extensive monitoring by national and international organisations. The polls also saw gender monitoring for the first time in the history of elections in Nepal.

The National Constituent Assembly Election Monitoring on Gender, Nepal (NMG) is a network of 30 civil society organisations led by the National Women Commission Nepal (NWC) to evaluate and assess the elections. The network was established to fulfil two main objectives—promoting free and fair CA elections through gender monitoring for women’s equal and meaningful participation in the electoral process, and to support the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) in the implementation of its gender and inclusion policy.

In an event held in the capital on February 24, 2014 to disseminate the results and feedback from the monitoring teams, Rajin Rayamajhi, the legal officer of a core member organisation, WHR (Women for Human Rights, a single women group) mentioned that the monitors of NMG covered 1,956 polling stations in 240 electoral sectors all over the country. “This mobilising of a large group of monitors belonging to the different member organisations were highly successful in assessing the condition of women as well as other marginalised and/or excluded populations, such as senior citizens, women with disabilities, indigenous and women from geographically remote areas where specific gender issues associated with the elections have been monitored,” said Rayamajhi.

The process of monitoring that commenced a month before the November elections was executed in three phases—pre-election, election day and post-election. The process dealt with organising and coordinating elections by the Election Commission. The assessment of response and physical space provided by mass media outlets to gender issues, including women candidates and voters, was also carried out.

10000002_10203360371040240_1091593962_nJeevan Sharma, coordinator of the monitoring network NMG, presented facts and figures of the initiative at the event, highlighting the challenges of the process. He mentioned some of the remarkable successes of the elections observed during the monitoring. Some of the polling stations were fully operated by women officials, whereas most of the polling stations met the needs of women voters in terms of personal space and facilities. The highest voters in the election were also women.

The monitoring also brought forward the problems faced by women voters and candidates in relation to election, political participation and media coverage.

The monitoring process, although successful in most areas, also faced many challenges especially due to the violent boycotting of the elections by protesting political parties. The 650 monitors of all the districts, majority of whom were women, faced difficulties in terms of financial, geographical and security conditions during the monitoring.

“There were issues of female voters being influenced by male members of their family and political party members. Some of polling stations lacked in providing better and specialised facilities for breast-feeding women, visually impaired people, among others. At the majority of polling stations, there were insufficient number of women security officials,” says Sharma.

The concept of monitoring elections through a gender perspective was first introduced in South Asia during the general election of 2013 in Pakistan. The success of this initiative and its necessity in Nepal influenced these organisations to adapt the same concept. The assessment was a great opportunity to provide feedback on the problems faced by women during elections, as well as analysis and suggestions for future reference for the ECN.

The monitoring network, which was permitted to assess the elections at a high level by the ECN, will continue monitoring future elections through this gender lens at national and regional as well as local levels. According to Sharma, a detailed report of the monitoring is to be published and released to the national and international community in the month of March, dedicating it to the International Women’s Day.

Preeti A Karna, Correspondent (Asia: South)

Image Courtesy: © WHR-Nepal