Let’s break the silence and speak up for our rights

Usha K.C.
Posted February 13, 2012 from Nepal

Immediately after the microbus stops, people hurry up to ride. After dashing and pushing each other, usually the males and the young get seats first, so people who need extra care are compelled to stand, often without even a handhold.

In Nepal, using public vehicles always entails “the scuffle” as we call it. Whether we use bus, micro-bus or tempo, there are hassles. Moreover, it’s extremely toilsome for people with special needs: elderly people, pregnant woman and women with children. However short the distance may be, it feels longer in that suffocating environment. Another cause for concern in public vehicles is the commonly occurring sexual harassment of women.

The Nepalese government passed the Public Transportation Code of Conduct 2067 B.S. at the end of 2010. This code declared reserved seating on public vehicles for people with special needs, elderly people and women. The government’s move in passing this code is commendable, but the problem is not impacted because no one is enforcing the law. The hard reality is that change is very slow for the customs and habits of people in Nepal.

Culture of silence:

Once, several women and I were hanging from the holds near the door. I noticed the lines written on the micro bus’s wall: “3 seats for woman and 2 for disabled.” I saw no women sitting there – but five men. I could not stop myself from speaking because a pregnant woman was hanging along with me. I pointed out the notice and asked for seats, but those passengers refused to vacate the seats. They said they had come first. And the vehicle conductor agreed with them. I became so upset with this, but anger in public to men from women is extremely unacceptable in Nepal, so I had to hide my feelings. Even my pregnant friend remained silent.

Dil Bahadur, a person with special needs, shared his worries, “I hail the bus, but the drivers don’t stop. Even if they do stop I cannot always ride, as all the vehicles are not disability-friendly, and we can’t use those seats. So the reservation for us is worthless.” I put a question to him whether he has spoken up about his worries. “Who will hear our voice?” He explains his silence with his desperate answer.

My friend Sunita always uses public vehicles, but she doesn’t care about the reservation seat. “Why?” I question her. “Nobody supports me when I say something. Besides, it’s disgraceful to be the only one saying something.” Oh! Having fear of being odd among other silent people is her cause for being silent.

The culture of silence still exists in our society though the people are educated and aware. I expect to get support from others when I speak against wrong. My expectation is dashed when bystanders do nothing but stare or smirk. Frustration begins to kill my passion, and I cry at this bleak behavior.

”The law should be equal for all, regardless of gender.” A college boy shares his opinion about the issue. I agree, the law should be equally enforced for all. I agree with him that when a teenage pair or young people travel together, it’s no matter whether the boy or the girl takes the seat. But when a man or a college boy takes a seat and others who need to sit must stand – that makes me feel that our society is not even civilized! Regardless of codes and laws, we should show caring and compassion for our fellow humanity. Our 21st century society shouldn’t have this problem to begin with.

I urge all the people who share this concern: let’s band together and break the silence! We can and we must demand enforcement of the public vehicle code. With our voice and pressure, we can meet, plan, and insist together on monitoring and enforcement of the public vehicle reservation code. Complaints must be heard and consequences shall be given whenever the code is not followed. All the people – women, men, disabled persons, and youth – can raise our voices together, into action for our safety and our rights.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Voices of Our Future 2012 Assignments: Op-Eds

Comments 33

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  • Anna Sontag
    Feb 13, 2012
    Feb 13, 2012

    Sign me up, Usha!

    I like the way you put your passion in here, Usha. You get me all riled up with you. It isn't fair! That's not the way people in the 21st century are supposed to behave!

    I also like the quotations from other people that show the reality of people not being ready to "buck the system" despite being upset about it. And the ;picture !

    Best wishes,

    Anna didi

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 14, 2012
    Feb 14, 2012

    It's my pleasure, catching always love, encouragement, power and care from you. Thank you so much dear DIDI. HUGSs

  • Stella Paul
    Feb 13, 2012
    Feb 13, 2012

    Dear Usha sis

    Thanks for raising an important issue. Govt policies are meant to benefit people.But its people's duty to claim the benefits. Thanks and love

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 14, 2012
    Feb 14, 2012

    Thank you sister . I am happy that you found the topic important. Thank you alwyas giving me supports.

    love

  • Monica Clarke
    Feb 14, 2012
    Feb 14, 2012

    Dear Usha

    Your article is mesmerizing and so, just so real, an experience which is reflected all over the world in public transport. Like you say, you are indeed a global lady and your writing shows this. My anger started boiling again as it does everytime this injustice happens in public and one is the only one speaking up. But we need to continue speaking don't we, else what hope do we have?

    Well done for a well written article. I really enjoyed reading it!

    Love and hugs from Monica in France

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 14, 2012
    Feb 14, 2012

    Monica sista,, yeah we should continue to speak up. when educated and aware and young people dont speak it hurts me . :( Thank you sisi for making commnents .

    hugs

  • Celine
    Feb 14, 2012
    Feb 14, 2012

    Thank you dear Usha for raising this important issue. Government policies is to benefit the people, but sometimes sensitization is needed to make the policies more effective. Thank you for championing this cause.

    Hugs, Celine

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 14, 2012
    Feb 14, 2012

    :))) Hi Celine, thanks alot dear sista.

    hugs

  • Kat Haber
    Feb 14, 2012
    Feb 14, 2012

    I like that you are calling for many to collaborate to solve the problem of devaluing women globally. I love that you gave personal example of how you have been impacted.

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 14, 2012
    Feb 14, 2012

    Thank you Kat for your good words on my Op-ED.

    Love

  • Tuula Fai
    Feb 15, 2012
    Feb 15, 2012

    Dear Usha,

    I want to thank you for another insightful article. When I was in Nepal, I saw this kind of discrimination on the bus. As a tourist, I didn't say anything because I was scared of being culturally offensive. I also witnessed what you mentioned about it being unacceptable for women to be angry (or to laugh or talk loudly) with men in public.

    Your article gives me courage to say something the next time I see this kind of discrimination.

    Timro didi, Tuula

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 16, 2012
    Feb 16, 2012

    It's my pleasure that my post has gieven you a courge:) thank you so much dear dee. Eager to welcome you n Nepal Again.

  • BlueSky
    Feb 16, 2012
    Feb 16, 2012

    I think you make a terrific point dear sister Usha: "no one is enforcing the law". You didn't say the police aren't enforcing the law, or that the authorities aren't enforcing the law; you emphasize the common-sense fact that law enforcement is a community responsibility. And asking why we even need such laws established in the 21st century is a great question!

    This is a very down-to-earth article causing us to reflect on the basics of common decency and courtesy toward one another. Why is that a problem? Slap yourself and get right people! For goodness sakes.

    Thanks Usha.

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 16, 2012
    Feb 16, 2012

    hi Sista,, thank you so very much for comments dear.

    hugs

  • Rachael Maddock-Hughes
    Feb 17, 2012
    Feb 17, 2012

    I hope you pitch this article to your local newspapers! It sounds like something that people could get behind if they saw there were enough people supporting it. I have to say, even in the US, just because one speaks out on an issue that is obviously wrong, it doesn't mean people will publicly support you. People all over the world are afraid of speaking out, being seen as different. So it takes outspoken women like yourself to get the ball moving! One thing in your article confused me--why would it be okay for either the young man or young woman in a couple to take a seat? That doesn't seem like the real meaning of the law.

    Keep up the great work!

    Rachael

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 18, 2012
    Feb 18, 2012

    Rachael , Thank you so much for strengthening my voice giving encouraging comments. Yes, I already have sent my Op-Ed to local news paper. hopping for positive response.

    yeah, your question on my opinion : I agree Law is law:) but when young college boy and girl are together and both have same energy then it's not so important to girl to sit,, she can stand and her boyfriend can sit if girl feels comfortable. I don't mean that law is not applicable to young girls!

    hugs

  • Juliette Maughan
    Feb 17, 2012
    Feb 17, 2012

    Loved this piece Usha!

    Get out there and be that voice!

    J

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 17, 2012
    Feb 17, 2012

    Thank you Julie dear. hugssssssssssss:))

  • AmyM
    Feb 18, 2012
    Feb 18, 2012

    Usha, Your article is the best kind of op-ed -- it makes me want to DO something! I agree that this would be a great piece to run in the local press. I hope it gets picked up. In just a few paragraphs you've described the reality of riding on public transit in Nepal. You've explained that common courtesy does not exist on buses and that a law has even been passed to address this. And yet the law isn't being enforced, not by lawmakers, not by bus drivers, and not by bus riders. Your courageous voice is a ray of hope. Sometimes the enforcement of laws has to start with the grassroots, and in this case it's starting with you. Well done! Amy

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 18, 2012
    Feb 18, 2012

    :) your encouraging comments meant to me alot Amy. Thank you so much for such a praising and evoking words.

    Grateful to have your comments.

  • noreens
    Feb 18, 2012
    Feb 18, 2012

    Written from your heart! Good article, Usha

    Noreen

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 18, 2012
    Feb 18, 2012

    Thank you from the heart Noreen. :)hugs

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 18, 2012
    Feb 18, 2012

    Thank you from the heart Noreen. :)hugs

  • Paulina Nayra
    Feb 18, 2012
    Feb 18, 2012

    Great article Usha. It is so frustrating to be speaking alone and not understood and supported like you are an alien from Mars. I wish some NGOs or civic organizations can hear your call so that they can start awareness raising activities on that specific provision of the transport code. Also wish that your words will land in the editorial of the newspaper with the biggest circulation in Nepal. Nothing is impossible sister!

    Hugss.

    Paulina

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 18, 2012
    Feb 18, 2012

    :) hey sista, thank you so much for your good comments. You always give me power . hugs

  • ikirimat
    Feb 19, 2012
    Feb 19, 2012

    Usha I loved reading your OpEd. I have learned what goes on in this part of the world. Bravo once again

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 19, 2012
    Feb 19, 2012

    Thanx alot dear Grace for always appriciating my voice, It gives me much courage .

    hugs

  • Emily Brewer
    Feb 21, 2012
    Feb 21, 2012

    If I was living in Nepal, I'd definitely get behind your campaign, Usha! I hope that you have an oppotunity to spread the message more widely in your country, and then I'm sure it will make a big difference.

    I was interested in some of the other issues that you referred to in passing - especially the difficulties that women in Nepal have in speaking out publicly against men. I look forward to reading more inspirational pieces from you on that subject, and how the issue can be overcome.

    Emily

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 22, 2012
    Feb 22, 2012

    Dear Emily, I thank you so much for your supportive feeling. I wish I could fulfuill your desires to hear more about the issue.

    Thank you again.

  • Okeny-Lucia
    Feb 24, 2012
    Feb 24, 2012

    Hey, Usha , It is happening here too.In the 80s things were good but with the ever changing lifestyle,it is a rush for man for himself and God for us all. You made me laugh even though it is serious.

  • Usha K.C.
    Feb 27, 2012
    Feb 27, 2012

    Thank you dear Lucia for reading. ^ o^

  • Olanike
    Mar 03, 2012
    Mar 03, 2012

    “3 seats for woman and 2 for disabled.” I saw no women sitting there – but five men. Very annoying but funny. I could not help but laugh as I read these words. It reminded me of the all too familiar manner of men: Ladies first, after men. On the issue of non enforcement of the Public Transportation Code passed by your country's Government, it just also reminded me of how my country has many well put together policies and laws on paper. What is the essence of a law or policy that is not put into effect? I hope our leaders get to know how frustrating it can be for their citizenry.

    I share your worries and concerns, importantly too, those of your respondents. Hopefully,the more we raise our voices together, we will be heard, and the needed change will come.

    All the best Usha!

    Olanike Olugboji

  • Usha K.C.
    Mar 03, 2012
    Mar 03, 2012

    Thank you so much Olanike for your commnets dear.

    hugs