Analysing meaningful representation of elected Dalit women at local level of Nepal in 2017 election

Author: Poonam Mohtey

Mohtey, Poonam, 2021 Analysing meaningful representation of elected Dalit women at local level of Nepal in 2017 election , Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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In 2015, Nepal promulgated a new constitution aiming for proportional representation and inclusive participation in the 2017 election. This inclusive approach secures a mandatory representation of two women ward members at the local level election, including one woman and one Dalit woman. According to this provision, Non-Dalit and Dalit women were nominated in 753 local areas across Nepal as a local ward member. This was an opportunity for the Dalit community to come into the mainstream of the nation and have the responsibility to perform in the best way. The 2017 election has thus become a milestone for Dalit women who are discriminated against socially, economically, and politically.

This study thus examines the situation and explores the meaningful representation of Dalit women in politics through two different theoretical lenses: intersectionality and critical actor theory. Using an intersectional feminist lens this thesis hopes to bring to light the overlapping structures of oppression at work in the intersectional identities of Dalit women in Nepalese society. Critical actor theory adds a critical perspective to critical mass theory which I argue the government of Nepal adopted by regulating the provision of quota system regarding Dalit women. When considering a quota system critical mass theory mainly focusses upon the number of the participants without considering effective participation whereas critical actor theory focusses on both number as well as capability and capacity of the representatives. The government of Nepal concentrated on the number of the Dalit women by introducing a 'Dalit ward member quota' without considering a prior plan to develop their capability and capacity

This study is based upon secondary data sources, including 17 case studies of the elected Dalit women ward members at the local level after the 2017 election and examines the status of Dalit women in the society, their challenges and obstacles before, after and during the 2017 election. In conclusion, this study argues that the quota system is an important milestone for Dalit women in the 2017 election. This is the good start by the government to bring historically discriminated community in the mainstream politics of Nepal, however, at the same time government of Nepal is not paying attention to other factors that limit elected Dalit women's participation and meaningful leadership. This thesis ultimately argues that the government of Nepal must not only focus on the quota system and must also pay attention to social, economic and cultural factors that play a part in the failure or success of Dalit's women's positions in local government.

Keywords: Dalit women, critical actor, substantive representation, intersectionality

Subject: Women's Studies thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2021
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Associate Professor Udoy Saikia