May 26, 2012


Ladies of Nepal are your "Didi" (elder sister). That's the ubiquitous polite way of addressing a Nepali lady. You'll see them running grocery stores, tea stalls, restaurants, working in fields, carrying big loads across mountainous Nepali landscape and may be managing the hotel you're staying at.
Ongma Didi, busy maintaining business correspondence on a snowy morning in Manang. Ongma manages a hotel in Manang with her husband, Tashi.

Nepali women in general have more freedom and get to share more responsibilities compared to their counterparts in neighboring countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan). This in turn creates a better balance in the society. Manifestation of this freedom is noticeable in their behavior, even in minute details. Women in Nepal don't walk with their heads bowed. They stand straight, smile bright and look straight in the eyes. They also grow up to be stronger both physically and mentally.
Two of my colleagues, Sanjay and Devita splitting wood. Nepali woman grow up strong, physically and mentally

For me, grown up in a male dominated society where women mostly take the back seat, the contrast was a pleasant shock. I was observing a society with lower level of male supremacy than I'm used to with. Nepali women didn't look at me with a submissive gaze. Didn't put me on a pedestal just because I was born as a man.

But whys is this so ? Why do women in Nepali society has more freedom their counterparts in neighboring countries of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan ? Religions of those countries have a role to play for sure. But there should be more to it. Economic structure, geography and may be history as well. Nepal doesn't have a history of colonization. This question has to be answered by an anthropologist or sociologist, which I'm not.