Dr Antoinette JA R?egg, president, and Ilse Spritzendorfer, vice president of International Federation of Business and Professional Women were in Kathmandu for a recent congress. They spoke to Nepali Times about the social role of women and the importance of economic independence.
Nepali Times: Why did the International Federation of Business and Professional Women chose Nepal for the meeting?
Antoinette JA R?egg: We are a worldwide organisation founded at Geneva in 1930 with the main aim that women participate more as professionals in economics, politics and society. BPW will be celebrating its 75th anniversary next year. We are very active in networking, lobbying and learning from each other.
And that is why we chose Nepal. Nepal has an excellent strategy and has been a part of the federation since 1975.
Ilse Spritzendorfer: Nepal took the initiative. My compliments to the members of BPW Nepal. They did excellent work and are very active. I was surprised how many attended the congress. We are very pleased that Nepal is so active at the international level.
What is your overall impression of Nepal and its people?
IS: This is my second time here, and I like the country and the people very much. I regret the trouble going on because the Nepalis are such peaceful people, which make this situation hard to understand. Despite the difficulties, we had a very good conference. I must say the women in Nepal organised everything in a very professional way. I'm really impressed. The international delegates had to walk to the meeting [because of the banda]. This was really very exciting.
Apart from this conflict and despite the problems with travel, how did the conference go?
IS: It was very successful. BPW is, at the moment, working on the 'World of Peace' theme. We want to bring peace to Nepal as well. How can we do that? We want to strengthen women because women and children suffer most in any conflict. Women can bring peace. There must be more women in decision-making positions.
Where does the professional Nepali woman fit in?
AR: We heard different topics at the congress-peace, the environment, economic independence. I am convinced that economic independence is absolutely basic to the development of the nation.
Did anyone stand out?
AR: I can say that, if ever you have a leader in a country who is able not only to put herself forward but the whole group, then you have a very, very strong situation.
IS: And if we have to mention her name, it would be Ambika Shrestha.
Any role for the menfolk?
AR: We like to work together with men in a real partnership, to take part in the development of women's work. It addresses our whole society's evolution. Forty years ago, women stayed at home and took care of the children. The men did the earning. But after raising the children, mothers are still strong and that means the rules had to change.
IS: At BPW, we believe in life-long learning. This means even if you're in your 40s, you're not too old to learn. Children grow up and women begin new careers. Our aim is to see that girls are well-educated.
AR: Because when women have that, then society benefits as a whole.