Press Release

Living wage of women working in the informal and entertainment sectors in Nepal: Provisions, challenges and way forward

Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) and Women Forum for Women in Nepal (WOFOWON) jointly organized a national workshop titled “Living wage of women working in the informal and entertainment sectors in Nepal: Provisions, challenges and way forward” today at Hotel Annapurna, Durbarmarg. The participants at the program included women working in the informal and entertainment sectors, representatives of related state and non-state stakeholders: government institutions and commissions, women right activists, representatives of various organizations, unions and networks.

The program commenced with an inauguration ceremony jointly by the chief guest Ms. Radhika Aryal, Joint Secretary at Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) and earthquake affected women workers, where a brief picture of current situation, the idea of living wage were given through pictorial presentation and provided hope that Nepal will rise again with identity, justice and transformation.

A large number of women are working in the informal and entertainment sectors like dance restaurants, gajal/dohori restaurants, massage parlor, open and cabin restaurants in Nepal. Through this, women are able to sustain their individual and family livelihood, promoting economic self- dependence as well as contributing to national economy along with cultural promotion and tourism development. However, in a patriarchal society like ours, the work of female is barely recognized, valued or protected. So, the program aimed at sensitizing the related institutions on the issues of living wage and various interconnected issues of women workers, to realize, visualize and fulfill their responsibilities, as well as creating a platform for expanding relation and coordination amongst women workers and various stakeholders, and formulating strategies for more effective advocacy.

Speaking at the program, Ms. Aryal said that the issue of living wage of women working in the informal sector is of great concern but it cannot be addressed without the support of Ministry of Labor and Employment. “Instead of managing the informal sector, it is important to turn them into a formal sector and this is not possible without making proper policy and coordination from all the sectors,” she said. Among other guests at the program were Purnima Chand from Nepal Police Women Cell, Sunita Nepal from MoWCSW, Surya Bahadur Deuja from National Human Rights Commission, Shanti Kumari Sharma from Department of Labor , Upendra Aryal from Department of Foreign Employment, Benu Maya Gurung from AATWIN and Surya Bahadur Kunwar from Nepal Independent Hotel, Casino, Restaurant Workers’ Union.
At the program, five women working in the informal sector shared personal life stories and difficulties faced while working in this sector. The moving stories forced those present at the
program to give a bitter picture of the informal sector, as the problems and challenges have only increased as the effect of devastating earthquake and how women, despite hardships, are working bravely and taking care of their families.

A presentation on legal provisions and gaps was done by Advocate Dal Bahadur Dhami. The government has fixed 8,200 rupees as minimum monthly salary, which is, in fact itself not sufficient to sustain livelihood in city areas like Kathmandu. The minimum salary is also not secured for women working in the sector. Women are compelled to work in as much as 1,500 to 6,000 monthly salary, which is also frequently denied by the business owners according to their will. As there are no specific laws to ensure rights of women workers, the businesses are run in the will of the owners, based either on complete personal will or a few regulations that are set by the owners themselves. Due to lack of living wage, women workers are compelled to live with lot of economic hardships. So, the workshop was organized with the aim of discussing and highlighting the pre and post disaster situation and issues of livelihood and wages of women workers working in the informal and entertainment sectors and to discuss strategies for taking forward the advocacy for living wage.

The panel discussion towards the end of the program highlighted the interconnected issues of women working in this sector, focusing on the living wage situation; reflecting on the pre-existing problems and challenges and the new challenges in the lives of female workers, as the effect of the devastating earthquake; existing legal policies, practices, gaps and work out on the ways forward from various dimensions to mitigate the challenges. Similarly, there was discussion held on the possibilities and pushing forward the stakeholders for the formulation of new law and mechanisms for effective re- construction, without the compromise of women workers’ rights.

“The employment of women working in this sector should be given the recognition, identity and respect as labour, ensuring the human and labour rights. The state should seriously initiate security mechanism for provision for rehabilitation of earthquake affected women workers, who are now displaced into living under tents and open skies, with scarcity of basic needs. If the issue is not addressed in time, vulnerability towards risks of human trafficking, abuses is possible to increase”, stated Srijana Pun, chairperson of WOFOWON.

Finally, incorporating the discussions, conclusions, and such demands, the workshop came up with 18 pointer “Kathmandu Declaration 2015”.

Srijana Pun Chairperson
Women Forum for Women in Nepal (WOFOWON)

Situation of women working in the informal and entertainment sectors, and the roles of stakeholders and Cultural Program: "Connecting People through Culture

- At the Peoples’ SAARC Convergence

With the overarching theme of People's SAARC: People's Movements Uniting South Asia for Deepening Democracy, Social Justice & Peace, the people from south Asia came together at Lalitpur, Nepal from 22nd to 24th November; with widespread voicing of ideas and experiences against challenging systematic marginalization of people, groups and communities. Representatives from eight SAARC countries shared common platform for raising diverse issues concerning human rights, equality, just and sustainable development and inclusiveness as well as demanding state's accountability towards the issues. It was a historic event conveying feminist solidarity, acknowledgement and support at national and regional level.

Women Forum for Women in Nepal hosted two events: interaction and cultural program at the People's SAARC entitled, ‘Situation of women working in the informal and entertainment sectors and the roles of stakeholders' and in coordination with COCAP, cultural program entitled 'Connecting People through Culture' on 22nd and 24th November, 2014 respectively at Nepal Administrative Staff College, Jwalakhel, Lalitpur.

Summary of the interaction program
Women working in the informal and entertainment sectors (dance restaurants, duet restaurants, massage parlors, cabin and open restaurants), lawyers from Nepal and India and representatives from various human/women rights organizations were present during the interaction program which was focused on issues of social and legal recognition of work and legal protection of rights of women working in the informal and entertainment sectors. The event was a platform to widespread the knowledge regarding the 'verdict and guideline passed by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2008, against sexual exploitation against women workers at the work places like dance bars, dance restaurants' and discussion on the status of implementation of the guideline, including lack of state's ignorance and lack of accountability in the issue; reflected through lack of implementation of the guideline (even after more than six years) and lack of formulation of necessary new law to ensure rights of women workers at the work places and in the society. 

A power point presentation with a background of the guideline and its content, analysis was presented by advocate Mr. Dal Bahadur Dhami during the program and the overall program was facilitated by Ms. Srijana Pun (Chairperson of Women Forum for Women in Nepal – WOFOWON). From the intense discussion, it was concluded that it is necessary to change discriminatory social structures based on patriarchy which has created stigmatization of work of women workers in the sector, resulting in various forms of violence and human rights violations, social exclusion and marginalization. Despite the fact that women are able to earn livelihood and contributing to the state's economy through employment in the entertainment sectors, women are deprived of rightful recognition and value of the work. It is recommended that the state and civil society organizations should bring about changes starting from individual level from thinking to behavioral practices and commit to ensure the rights through national legislations and implementation along with formulation mechanisms of monitoring and accountability; to achieve overall change for equality, recognition and value of women workers in any occupation, especially in the entertainment sectors. The organized movement of women workers through affiliation in trade unions, continuous advocacy and campaigns should be strengthened by integrating intersectional issues in all people's movements with national and regional level solidarity and actions.

Summary of the cultural program
The cultural group of members of Women Forum for Women in Nepal (WOFOWON) presented various duet songs and dance performances in the program. The cultural program highlighted various issues like human rights, women rights, violence against women, gender based and sexual identity based discriminations; and conveyed a message to speak up against such discriminations and to strengthen regional solidarity. The event was able to celebrate unity in diversity, cross boundaries and bring people together with the acknowledgement of power of culture and music. The success of the program reflected the art, strength and empowerment of the cultural group of WOFOWON.

(WOFOWON anticipates the SAARC Summit to address the issues of women workers working in the informal and entertainment sectors)

Rally Program organized by WOFOWON for the Celebration of 125th International Labors’ Day

With the slogan “Lets make the 125th International Workers’ Day grandly successful and initiate to ensure the rights of women working in entertainment sectors” and with the objective of sensitizing all stakeholders, state, related institutions and general public for creating an environment to formulate new law, to ensure labor rights and human rights of women workers; a rally program was organized in leadership of  Women Forum for Women in Nepal (WOFOWON), which is a network and organization of labor women working in entertainment sector, in coordination with other women right organizations, today on 18th Baisakh, 2071. The rally started from Sundhara and ended at Lainchor, passing through Thamel.

This is the first time that a rally was organized and successfully accomplished in coordination of women workers and women right organizations independently on active participation of women workers, men workers, representatives from women right organizations, students, media persons and general public.

In the program, a signature campaign launched by WOFOWON to mark solidarity of various persons to ensure the rights of women workers from entertainment sectors was also given continuity. The campaign has aimed to collect maximum signatures and submit it to the related government institutions and law making bodies in order to pressurize the stakeholders to formulate new law, ensuring the rights of women working in this sector.

Chari Maya Tamang of Shakti Samuha, Dr. Renu Rajbhandari (Chairperson of National Alliance of Women Human Right Defenders), Sumnima Pradhan from CIWIN represented from their respected organizations and exchanged greetings along with solidarity in the issue in the program. There was presence of more than 200 participants in the program including women workers, women human right activists, students, general people, representatives from various organizations, media persons along with representatives from Spa and Massage Owner’s Union.

Addressing and forwarding the program, Srijana Pun, Chairperson of WOFOWON, stated that, given the situation where the state has not provided recognition or value to the labor of women workers in the entertainment sectors, we all should continuously emphasize to establish rights of women workers. She also stated that our movement will be continuous till our demands are fully addressed.

The rally was grandly accomplished in enthusiastic participation of women workers and women right activists, students. Demands such as ensuring labor rights, job security, minimum and living wage, social security, end of violence at work place, positive vision from the society, effective implementation of the directive passed by the Supreme Court of Nepal in 2008 to control sexual violence against women workers at workplaces in entertainment sectors and formulation of new law to ensure rights of women workers were strongly voiced during the rally.

Srijana Pun
Women Forum for Women in Nepal (WOFOWON)
Gongabu, Kathmandu
Phone number: 01-4381686