Women’s Rights Champion Bidhya Devi Bhandari Elected As Nepal’s 1st Female President

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Just call her Madam President! In a historic move, Nepal has elected its first female president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari. She is known as a champion of women’s rights and minorities, and campaigns for democracy. Clearly she is doing something right as she successfully managed to end the 240-year Hindu monarchy rule in the country.

It has been a rough year for the country, as it was hit with two major earthquakes in April and May which saw a huge death toll, devastation, poverty and displacement sweep the areas that were affected. Now they have a reason to end the year on a high of some sorts, as Bidhya promises to usher in a new era for the Nepalese people.

She was the deputy leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and has been credited with ensuring women are getting leadership opportunities in the government. A third of politicians are now women thanks to her campaigning for a quota, and she also lobbied for the new constitution to require that either the president or vice-president be a woman.

Although the job is considered “largely ceremonial” according to a UK news report, Bidhya told the press her election is a step towards constitutional equal rights.

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“My entire interest will be the betterment of the country. I will complete my responsibility towards the country and the people,” she said.

Bidhya has been pursuing politics since she was a teen and ended up marrying a fellow communist, Madan Bhandari. After her husband was tragically killed in a car accident in 1993, she became a leading political figure. From 2009 to 2011 she was the country’s Defense Minister, and will now lead a coalition government where her presidency means she is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The 54 year old’s election win comes at a time when the country is going through some major political change, which started in 2008 when Ram Baran Yadav became the country’s first elected president after Nepal abolished its monarchy. In September 2015, the country implemented a brand new constitution aimed at stabilizing the country and now defining the majority Hindu nation as a secular republic divided into seven federal provinces.

Bidhya is an ally of the Prime Minister, Khadga Prasad Oli who was elected in early October. Not long after his appointment, a woman by the name of Onsari Gharti Magar was elected as the parliament’s first female Speaker. It seems Nepal is poised for major change going forward.

There are some who have criticized her fight for women’s rights, saying she allegedly supports citizenship laws that are anti-women, according to the BBC. Bidhya will also have to fight to ensure the new constitution represents all citizens, as there are certain ethnic groups in the south of the country who want more territory and rights for the ethnic federal states.

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Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s election as the country’s first female president, and second president under the new democratic rule is a sign that things are changing for women globally. In many countries around the world there have already been a number of female heads of state break the gender barrier at the highest level of federal government, and of course here in the US we are poised to see whether the 2016 Presidential election will usher in it’s first female head of state.

What we are also seeing around the world is the increase in democracy, equal rights and progression which is a very encouraging sign indeed. Canada just elected Justin Trudeau from the Liberal party as their new Prime Minister, ending Stephen Harper’s 9 year conservative reign in the country. Justin is the son of former legendary Liberal Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and he has openly stated he is a feminist.

After taking office, one of his first announcements was to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, something the former PM Stephen Harper did not place much priority in. It is a sign that with the new era of equal rights politics being implemented around the world, women’s issues and rights are no longer going to take a backseat to everything else. What we are seeing with leaders like Justin Trudeau, Bidhya Devi Bhandari and hopefully many more, is the recognition that women are a vital part of the nation and the economy.

We love sharing positive news like this and know it will continue to happen. As for the people of Nepal who have suffered much from natural disasters as well as political instability, we hope today is the start of a more empowered future where all people can succeed in life.

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