Nepal’s Muslim Women – Low Literacy, Rampant Divorces

Nepalese Muslim women have come together to form the Nepal Muslim Women Welfare Society (NMWWS) which undertakes advocacy for Muslim women’s legal rights and political participation.
According to Seema Khan, Secretary of the Society, Muslims constitute 4.4 per cent of the population of Nepal which is now a secular democracy. According to 2006 Census, literacy among Muslim women is 26.5 per cent. Khan says, of the Muslims aged 20 and above, only two per cent people are either decently employed or hold positions in Government or are in the professional field. Khan told this scribe while attending the International Conference on the ‘Status of Muslim Women in South Asia’ held on March 6-8 in Hyderabad, that the Nepal’s democracy is still grappling with the problems of infancy and there is only a Constituent Assembly in the country. Of the 601 delegates in the Constituent Assembly, 18 are Muslims including five women. Surprisingly, the National Women’s Commission of Nepal is currently headed by a Muslim woman Sheikh Chand Tara. Of the four members in the commission, two including the Chairperson, are Muslim. The second of the two is Mohna Ansari, Nepal’s only Muslim advocate. The Commission was set up in 2010.
According to Report on ‘Gender, Caste and Ethnic Exclusion in Nepal’, 48 per cent of Muslims have never been to school in comparison of to 12 per cent Brahmans and Chhetris, the two upper castes who have traditionally ruled Nepal. The Report by Lynn Bennett of World Bank, puts Muslims among the most disadvantaged groups together with Dalits and Janajatis.
Khan says the Muslim women suffer from early marriage, traditional culture and gender roles, dowry and high poverty. The NMWWS is conducting ‘Enabling Muslim Women’s Access to Mainstream Politics in three Districts of Saptari, Rauthat and Parsa.
Society website lists marital woes of Muslim women in Nepal among whom there are a large number of divorcees saddled with children.
Contact for Nepal Muslim Women Welfare Society  (NMWWS), Ward No 31, Bagbazar,Kathmandu,Nepal, P. O. Box: 8975 EPC 5719, Ph: 0977-01-4253867, Cell: 9721320462/9803966692, email: [email protected]
This report is based on input of paper presented by Seema Khan at Hyderabad conference and information from the Society’s website as well as report of the World Bank.

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