Dear male Maobadi comrades,
Mao Zedong said women hold up half the sky. But there is not a single woman in your negotiating team with the government.
For the past seven years, you have tried to convince us of your more enlightened view on the role of women in society. You have tried to raise our status in various ways, especially in the midwest where gender discrimination is at its worst. You broke the taboos, gave us a political identity, and involved us in your movement.
It may not have been right to send women with guns in their hands to fight and kill, but you challenged tradition by empowering women, and showed us that given the opportunity Nepali women are as capable as men and can perform any job given to them.
We never agreed with the brutality of your methods, we condemned the abduction of school children, the terror, extortion and intimidation. But now that you have agreed to a ceasefire and are involved in negotiations with the government, we are worried that you could go back to the old ways.
Don't you trust your women cadre enough to involve them in the peace process? Haven't you thought of the sacrifices made by women in the remote regions? Aren't you thinking of the tears of the mothers and sisters who gave up their sons and brothers for your cause? And what about the hundreds of women who were inspired by the hope of emancipation that you provided? Did you ask the grandmother in Rukum who gave you water when you were tired after walking all night? Did you ask the women who broke down the walls of jails? Did you consult the women lawyers, writers, doctors and nurses who have helped you at considerable personal risk even though they didn't agree with everything you did?
In 1990, Nepali women came out onto the streets, some went to jail leaving their babies at home. All so that an era of equality and liberty would dawn. But the political leaders who came to power after that (all of them men) promptly began to squander the freedoms we had won. They would give florid speeches extolling the need to involve women in the development process. But they were empty words, and we were just decoration. In the last few years, under immense pressure from civil society, parliament did pass some laws reforming property rights and reproductive health, but the men continued to monopolise positions of political power.
Despite being a revolutionary party with strong egalitarian belief, you are behaving no differently than our "men-stream" political parties. We never expected our male-dominated government to involve women in the peace process, but we thought you were going to be different. You are engaged in peace, but you are neither involving women nor are you listening to them. This way, it will just be a piece of talk about power, and not a peace talk.
If her women live in insult and misery,
Tell me, truly, is that country free?
(Dr Aruna Uprety is women's health and reproductive rights activist.)