26 May - 1 June 2017 #860

Madam Mayor

Kantika Sejuwal

I was just 14 when they got me married, I had my first baby one year later and dropped out of school. I had always dreamed of going to college, but I wasn’t about to give it up. I rejoined school and passed the SLC exams when my husband, Manab Sejuwal, was in jail in Kathmandu for taking part in the 1990 Democracy Movement. My husband was freed but became even more active in politics, rising to be the Jumla District President of the NC. He was away most of the time. I started teaching at a government school in Jumla while raising my baby. I became principal, and founded a non-profit to support underprivileged communities in the Karnali.

After my husband was killed in the Nepal Airlines plane crash in Arghakanchi in 2014, I quit teaching to be more active in politics. When I became Nepal’s first woman Mayor, it was not just because of my political credentials but because of my social work.

The people of Jumla know me as a hardworking single woman committed to transforming the image of the Karnali. They voted for me because they know I deliver what I promise.

I have already assumed office as Mayor of Chandannath Municipality and my first decision is to transform Jumla into a Smart City – this doesn’t mean highrise buildings and a metro it is to turn it into a clean and green city with adequate drinking water supply, 24-hour electricity and blacktopped roads.

People in Kathmandu are happy to get rid of load-shedding after 10 years, but here in Jumla we are still suffering power outages not just because electricity is in short supply but so many transformers destroyed during two Maoist attacks have not been replaced.

Irrespective of which political party they support ideologically, most women in Jumla voted for me. During my victory rallies, many women held on to my hands and told me not to let them down. They have faith in me, and I will not betray them. Even the men who have upheld Jumla’s traditionally patriarchal society have shown faith in a woman Mayor.

Despite gains, women are still discouraged by political parties, including my own NC, from joining politics and holding public office. This is the right time to change their attitude. Women are more accountable and transparent, and that makes them more suitable to lead local government. Devolution is good for grassroots democracy and local development. It will be even more impactful if women are encouraged to take the lead.

Kantika Sejuwal is the newly elected mayor of Chandannath Municipality in Jumla

Read Also

Including the excluded, Om Astha Rai

Radically decentralised, Dinkar Nepal

Federal Feminine Republic of Nepal, Editorial

Women, Dalits in local polls, From the Nepali Press

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