Nepal: Hisila Yami. Minister within Interim Govt, promises to prioritise women's rights Print E-mail
 / May 25 2008


The female face of Maoists


Hisila Yami, one of the three women ministers in Nepal, says gender issues will be a priority for her ministry and government.

In touch with ground realities: Hisila Yami

Hisila Yami is the Minister of Planning and Physical Works in the current interim government of Nepal. She is one of the three women in the interim cabinet to head a full-fledged ministry. She is also the female face of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists). Married to Maoist second-in-command Baburam Bhattarai, Yami, with a degree in Architecture from Delhi University, was a candidate in Nepal’s recently concluded historical elections. She contested from Kathmandu’s constituency No. 7 and won the seat. A few days before the elections, I met Hisila Yami at her headquarters. The building was more like a commune, swarming with young Maoist cadres. Excerpts from an interview…

You are the best known woman politician from the CPN (M). You are also running in direct elections?

Yes, I am. I am a first-past-the-post candidate from Constituency No. 7. My main opponent is a male CPN-UML member. I have been campaigning the whole day today. Tomorrow at 6 a.m. again I have a campaign programme which the Chairman will be attending.

And is it difficult to campaign?

Well, we have a lot of support from the people and our party of course. We are using badges, posters, calendars. I’m from the Tuladar caste, and we have very few women in politics from my caste. So they are happy that I am there, even the Newars are happy so I don’t feel handicapped that I’m a woman.

There are attacks on us. And the media is being sponsored by corporate houses in big countries. So there is a bias against us. But we condemn all violence

And you expect a win?

Well, because we know the people are with us. We know the problems because we work at the grassroots. The people want change and they know this. We have managed to bring issues concerning the marginalised classes like Dalits and janjatis into the mainstream.

And is it easy being a woman minister?

In the beginning it was quite difficult. In my sector, for any inaugural function a man from some other ministry would be invited, perhaps even junior than me. Ultimately, I said that I would stop the flow of funds if this continued, and then the practice was stopped. This is just an example of the patriarchal mindset.

Your party is said to have the most gender-friendly agenda…

Well, we work at the grassroots and many of our members are drawn from there. So we are in touch with ground realities. We were instrumental in passing the legislation for women to have a share in and own parental property.

We have always felt women to be part of the community so we have many women members in Parliament and many women running for direct elections too ­ 18 per cent of all FPTP candidates are women. Forty per cent of our party members in Parliament are women. So women’s issues are another area that we have brought into the mainstream.

But many women activists feel that when it comes to specifics Maoist women members simply repeat the party line.

Well, the party is the most important and within it we try to maintain gender parity. We brought women to the forefront. Earlier all political parties had woman’s wings but we included women in all our wings ­ the youth, peasants etc. We have 30 women in the People’s Army. We encourage women’s participation in everything.

What is your agenda for women if you come to power?

More representation in State affairs; 50 per cent of representation at all levels of government; basic education for women, basic health guaranteed by the State should be implemented; and make refusal of parental property to girls and women a crime; Equal right to private property.

And do you have any plan to combat trafficking of women and girls?

Well, we are thinking of it. We wanted to close down dance bars, but we understand that many people earn their livelihood from it. We are looking into it and we will take steps to curb it. The first responsibility is to create job opportunities here so that women do not have to migrate to other places for jobs. We want to make Nepal a welfare State.