The Kathmandu Post, 30 June 2017
Participation of women in the second phase of local elections held on Wednesday was higher than that of men, which is an encouraging sign as it indicates an increased awareness among women when it comes to exercising their franchise.
But this also brings a grim fact again into focus: lack of ample opportunity at home, which forced men to migrate to different countries to make ends meet.
Election Commission (EC) data show women voters accounted for 53 percent of total votes cast.
Sociologist Ganesh Gurung says strong migration flow to different countries to find work is the only reason for higher women voter turnout.
Of the 4,740,522 votes cast in 35 districts of Provinces 1, 5 and 7, a total of 2,515,465 ballots were cast by women.
The number of total male voters stood at 2,169,750. The figures, however, do not include the number of voters in two polling locations in Rupandehi and Bajhang where voting was postponed. Fifty-seven voters were third genders.
“Had all the male voters been in the country, they would have certainly gone to the polling centers to exercise their franchise as these crucial local elections are being held after a gap of 20 years,” said Gurung.
According to the EC, of the 35 districts (including parts of Nawalparasi and Rukum) where voting took place on Wednesday, male voters outnumbered women only in two districts—Taplejung and Kapilvastu. Male voter turnout in Taplejung stood at 25,793 while female turnout was 24,556. Likewise, male turnout in Kapilvastu was 111,225 compared to the female turnout of 109,171.
Though exact numbers of Nepalis working abroad are not available, estimates show around five million Nepalis are out of the country.
Experts said the data on men-women voter turnout must prod the newly elected representatives, who now will local governments in the grassroots, to focus on creating employment opportunities at home and spur development which has been halted for more than a decade and a half.