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Land Rights for Women in Nepal

“Earlier, we had tongues but could not speak. We had feet but could not walk. Now that we have the land we have the strength to speak and walk!” This quote from women who received land titles in India’s Bodhgaya Land Rights Movement perfectly portrays how land rights empower women.

The struggle for women rights in Nepal has been an on-going battle with property rights being an important component. Although the situation as detailed below is pretty dismal, we have come a long way. From a civil code that limited inheritance rights for women and biases that determined property rights according to marital status and age, to passing of the Gender Equality Act and the Constitution forbidding gender based discrimination, thus granting daughters and sons equal rights to inherit property, progress is evident.

Furthermore, numerous progressive policies are currently in place to help increase land ownership of women. These include:

  • Tax exemptions of 25%-50% (depending on geographical area) available to women during land registration, provided she does not sell the land within three years.
  • 35% tax exemption for widows during land registration.
  • 50% tax exemption when land is transferred within three generations of daughter or granddaughter.
  • Joint Land Ownership which can be obtained for just Rs.100.

Why then is women land ownership in the country still dishearteningly low?

  • Many women are unaware of the rights and benefits they possess.
  • Women do not receive help in the implementation of their rights.
  • Deep seated patriarchal norms make women feel that they do not need to own land, especially because of the fear that they risk divorce if they ask for land.
  • Families are concerned that women owning land will deprive the family of an asset in the event of marriage or re-marriage and so they are discouraged from getting citizenship certificates.

Sneha Pradhan

About Sneha Pradhan

Sneha Pradhan is a Researcher at Samriddhi Foundation with an interest in good governance. She is a graduate student at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pursuing a Master of Science degree in Public Policy and Management. She also has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics and Statistics with a minor in Complex Organizations from Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts.

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Nepal’s Displaced Patriotism

History dictates, without some level of patriotism, the economy of a country has seldom prospered: Japan- after the Second World War, South Korea – after the 60s and the US after the great depression. There was always some nationalistic slogan- without which prosperity there is often questioned. How does Nepal relate to these instances?

Most of the popular cyber criticisms aroused here relate to patriotism in terms of birth place of Buddha, expressing anger over a comedy show in the US which makes fun of Nepali diplomats not speaking proper English, or even remarks over Kumari and the shape of our flag, Mount Everest being in Nepal and so on. Most of these cases deal with natural phenomenon, historical coincidences and other minor attempts to make ourselves unique in the global arena, like the shape of our flag, or the mercenaries who originated from our nation and achieved in wars fought by other countries. It has always been unbearable to us if any of these integrities are questioned. All of these integrities that we have held so dear to our heart have one aspect in common- we never worked for any of these aspects that we are proud of.

Take the case of Lord Buddha being born in Nepal. It was one of the main agendas of the deliberation made by the Indian Prime Minister Modi at our Constituent Assembly. Strategically set, and aimed at garnering public support in Nepal. It was not because of some planning by us Nepalese or any other achievement that led to Buddha being born in Nepal. It was sheer coincidence. He could very well have been born across the border if only some of our historical treaties had been twitched a little. Moreover, the cyber critics and anger they display, every time this fact is questioned don’t state any logic on why this aspect is so much of an importance to us. Are we, as a nation, so insecure that no other human achievement made in our land stands out in this respect and therefore we need to state the same fact in our hundred rupee bill? Robin Sharma, the motivational speaker and the author of the book ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari,’ was also born in Nepal. That doesn’t make him a Nepali citizen! Nationality and birthplace are very different aspects. Even more so, at a time when neither Nepal and India, nor these nationalities existed. There is a greater issue that surrounds this matter.

Why isn’t our patriotism reflected in the poor GDP per capita we have, or the political mess we are in, or the dysfunctional systems we have in our country? According to the World Bank data for 2013, our GDP per capita ranks 170 out of the 189 countries studied. The CIA fact-book shows we stand 176th out of the 191 countries studied. So basically, we are nowhere. If we look at the ease of doing business, we rank 105th out 189 countries; corruption perception index by transparency international ranks us 116th out of 175 countries; education index by the UN ranks us 153rd; the Human Development Index ranks us 145th out of 187 countries; WHO’s world health care index ranks us 150th. Look at any other index.  We stand close to the bottom. Our patriotism would yield some result if the national sentiments were centered here.

The Asian Tigers should serve us as inspiration. Each of these places was in a pretty displaced state before the 1950s. National focus of these countries was strengthened because of exemplary leaders like Lee Kuan Yew who transformed Singapore from a third world country status to where it is at present. Though other countries among them have their own rich history that drove them to the present level of economic success, their national value system was never limited to patriotism fettered with identity and geographical pride. An economic priority was always there, talk about the “Chaebol’s” in .South Korea or the “Keiretsu’s” in Japan- the economic priority was always juxtaposed into the national priority.

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In the long run, a patriotic shift towards economic and growth related issues would trigger something of the sort that was experienced by the Asian Tigers in us as well. The very reason behind the sorry state of our economy is that people are not aware of issues at all. For instance, the Upper Tama Koshi Hydro IPO is planning on issuing thousands of shared to government officers (CIT, EPF and Beema Sansthan) who don’t have a stake in the investment at all. If someone were to ask why they are getting those shares, there is not logical argument to be made. The same way, if our patriotism were to shift a little to the activities of Nepal Rastra Bank or the policies that govern doing businesses in Nepal, a lot of the government activities would have to be more accountable to the people than they are at present. Why is the rate of interest what it is at present? Why aren’t bonds being issued for profitable hydro prospective? What is happening to the tax money? Why is our fiscal tool only limited to the Budget Speech once a year? And so on.

Stephan Dercon, the chief economist of DIFD and the professor of Development Economics at Oxford, in many of his works argues that the norm and value of the nation as a whole is more important the competency and qualifications. Simply, if the value system of a country isn’t committed to making a change it simply cannot spring up. This raises a simple question of our patriotism and value system. Why isn’t it focused on economic growth and prosperity? Why is our sentiment fixed around issues like the birthplace and the natural records our country claims? Has our patriotism already accepted economic failure so fast? Is our patriotism that displaced?

Serene Khatiwada

About Serene Khatiwada

Serene Khatiwada is a Research Intern at Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. He did his Economics Honors from Hansraj College, University of Delhi.

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Wedding Bells & Prosperity Swells

nepali wedding‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la … Nope it’s not Christmas! But it sure is a time for joyous celebration all over the country. Bright lights, women donning beautiful colorful attires and fancy jewelry, men in handsome suits, groovy music, delicacies of all sorts; Kathmandu is buzzing with wedding festivities this time of the year. I love weddings just as the next person and these past couple of years I’ve noticed in these revelries that the clothing are a little more refined, decorations a little more tasteful, food a little more lavish and well the parties a little more grander. When all is said and done quite a lot of people may see unnecessary profligate spending and wasted opportunity to invest in productive economic activities beneath all this merriment; however I see prosperity with plentiful economic activities in action.

Just the fact that exclusive boutiques are so swamped with work that they cannot accept additional orders even with 2-3 weeks’ notice and ultra-expensive pieces of clothing and jewelries sell like hot cakes; the economy certainly does seem to be doing well compared to a few years back. People are increasingly able to spend more and so they do and economic prosperity seems to be on the rise. While investing somewhere else is obviously the smarter thing to do in terms of monetary return for themselves; monetary gains isn’t always the most important thing. Why do people earn if not for consumption of goods and services that give them the most utility? Everything has opportunity costs and tradeoffs and if throwing a grand party is what makes people happy and they can afford to do so; so be it!

Caterers, flower shops, decorators, boutiques, hotels, party palaces, party planners, beauty parlors are just a few of the many sectors that are flourishing due to wedding celebrations. So to say that wedding celebrations have no productive economic impact when in fact it generates plentiful entrepreneurs and with that numerous jobs; is flawed. It is of course unfortunate to see people succumb to societal pressures and spend more than they can afford by taking loans which take some years and in some extreme cases entire lifetimes to pay off. This ugly side unfortunately surfaces way too many times. The celebration of two people tying the knot should be a fun and enjoyable affair which embraces our rich culture and reflects the families’ happiness; instead of a stressful show of wealth. I believe it’s important for the society to accept all types of celebrations be it huge parties or simple gatherings of well-wishers, without any judgments.

Economically speaking, spending lavishly in weddings is actually helping a lot of industries to grow and prosper. Does that mean the NRs. 20, 000 you spent on that lehenga or party shoes couldn’t have been put to a better use? Absolutely not! It most definitely could have been spent on a number of other more important things; invested to get higher returns, or given to charity. However, it does mean that you are helping the retail industry prosper and also indirectly create job opportunities; thus you don’t have to be too guilty for your splurge as long as you can afford it and it makes you happy. The wedding expenditures show that the nation or at least the capital is getting a little more prosperous and the standard of living has potentially increased. On that positive note, I wish you all a very happy wedding season and happy spending!

Sneha Pradhan

About Sneha Pradhan

Sneha Pradhan is a Researcher at Samriddhi Foundation with an interest in good governance. She is a graduate student at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pursuing a Master of Science degree in Public Policy and Management. She also has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics and Statistics with a minor in Complex Organizations from Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts.

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