Deputy speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe’s refusal to leave her post despite intense political pressure is the latest example of how deep rooted patriarchal grip in Nepali politics limits women to smaller roles.
Tumbahangphe has a PhD in Political Science from Tribhuwan University. Her PhD dissertation was on ‘Political Movement of Women in Nepal’. She has been active in politics for at least 40 years. She had joined student politics in the late 1970s and was elected treasurer of the Free Students’ Union of Nepal Law Campus representing the All Nepal National Free Student Union (ANNFSU). In 1994, she was elected as vice-president of ANNFSU.
However, her qualifications hold no value for the male leaders who give progressive speeches but limit women’s participation in policy making levels. None of the national political parties has complied with the Election Commission’s directive to ensure 33 percent representation of women in the central committee.
Moreover, all seven provinces across country have women as deputy speakers and men as speakers.
Yesterday, Tumbahangphe was called at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Baluwatar where Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Nepal Communist Party (NCP) co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal urged her to leave the post. The male duo insisted that Tumbahangphe must resign in order to make way for a new speaker’s election.
Deputy-speaker Tumbahangphe, in her reply to the leaders, said that she was firm in her stance and would not resign as she is qualified for the post as much as any other male candidates fielded by Oli and Dahal.
She also presented a list of 12 points that qualify her for the post of Speaker, including her years as a student leader, as a women’s leader, and as an advocate for gender equality in national and international organizations.
Tumbahangphe has a long background of fighting for women’s rights and she supports increasing government expenditure on public education.
The speaker’s post has been vacant for the last three months following the resignation and arrest of then speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara after he was accused of attempting to rape a woman staffer at the Parliament Secretariat.