Woman leader vies for top job in local polls

Srijana Lama was elected deputy chair of Naukunda Rural Municipality of Rasuwa district five years ago when she was just 22. She is so enthused by what she could achieve in her tenure that she is campaigning to be voted for top job in the 13 May local election.

Srijana is from the UML, and is standing against her current boss, Nurbu Sangbo Ghale from Nepali Congress. She believes she can work much better to serve her village, and also continue the social projects she has initiated.

Srijana comes from a political family, and has been immersed in local issues from a young age, inspired by her father who was a former ward chair from the UML party.

By the time she was in Grade 8, she was already elected to the student council and was a key member of the UML’s youth association. She was then member of the district committee of the previous Maoist–UML alliance.  

Being active in rescue, relief and reconstruction in the Naukunda region which was badly hit in the 2015 earthquake gave her confidence in her capacity to serve the public, she says.   

Read also: Women leaders set example for rest of Nepal, Laxmi Basnet

After being elected as vice-chair in 2017, she mobilised the Judicial Committee and resolved many local disputes from property claims to divorce settlements. Female deputies of municipalities like Srijana across Nepal have proven themselves in the past five years to settle land disputes in Siraha, resolve domestic disputes in Bardia, and Srijana herself has prevented child marriage in Panchthar and addressed domestic violence in Doti.

Srijana Lama is a multi-tasker and has also monitored, and laid special emphasis on the education status of her municipality and improving health services. Even though she and the chair were from different parties, she felt that shouldn’t stand in the way of working together for the public good.

Even as the two parties drifted apart at the centre and the UML went from being in Nepal’s government to an opposition party, Srijana has still managed to remain committed to her focus on the socio-economic employment of citizens in this scenic but rugged part of Nepal 40km north of Kathmandu. 

“Once elected, we will initiate skills-based trainings to produce women entrepreneurs, clean kitchen programs, and have health insurance for pregnant women,” says Sirjana Lama who plans to rescue women facing domestic violence, start a legal aid women protection fund, and  begin women prosperity and development programs.

In her new electoral platform, Lama has now included youth-centered program so that jobs are created locally and young men and women do not have to migrate to the cities or abroad for work.

Read also: Can Nepal elections change its male-stream politics? Aditi Adhikari

What matters most to people of Naukunda are jobs, proper roads, farming support, health and education, which Sirjana Lama intends to continue if she is elected as chair for the next five years.

Her goals include building and maintaining roads, bridges, hydropower plants and giving subsidies to farmers as well as finding access to market for produce.

“The village has a lot of resources compared to other rural municipalities, and it can be utilised through agriculture, small businesses and building infrastructures to promote it,” says Srijana.

Her main goal if elected is to utilise Naukunda’s abundant water resources by bottling and selling it in Kathmandu to generate revenue to fund her projects. “Just the income and self-reliance that this will bring our community will be huge,” she says.

Lama is currently pursuing a Master degree in Political Science and Bachelors of Law (LLB) in Kathmandu, and she feels that having educated women in leadership positions will improve governance.  

In the five years since transitioning into the federal system, Nepal’s  local governments, especially women leaders have garnered much trust among voters.

A new constitutional provision meant that in the 2017 election, many deputy mayors and chairs were women, with some municipalities even having female mayors and deputy mayors.

Although many want to stand for mayor and chair in this election, coalition compromises for candidacies will probably mean there will be fewer women leading municipalities and wards.

Despite this, Srijana Lama is confident about her ability and optimistic that her voters will reward her with another term.

Translated by Aria Parasai from the Nepali original in himalkhabar.com

Read more: Deputies drive development in rural Nepal, Laxmi Basnet

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