Profile: Manushi Yami Bhattarai

As International Women’s Day approaches http://www.myrepublica.com has profiled a series of women in Nepalese society including Manushi Yami Bhattarai, president of the Free Students’ Union at Tribhuvan University, and leader of the Maoist-run All-Nepal National Independent Students’ Union (Revolutionary). Com. Manushi talks about the political goals of her student organization (all of which I support as education is indeed a right and not a privilege and thus should be free to all), how she got involved in politics and the difficulties of being a female leader in Nepal today. Her mother Com. Hisila Yami, a Central Committee member of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and member of the Constitutive Assembly, has written a brilliant book (which can be purchsed here. There is also a very interesting short pamphlet that include an article by Com. Hisila Yami and a critique by Butch Lee which is available here) on the role of women in the people’s war and the role that women play in the communist project.

Com. JMP at  M-L-M Mayhem! gave me a copy of Andrea Dowrkin’s Intercourse as a gift and so I have decided that I will have finished the book by IWD.

MANUSI YAMI BHATTARAI
General Secretary, Free Students’ Union (FSU) at TU

I grew up in a political family witnessing the People’s Movement at its peak. So I was politically conscious since childhood. But my decision to be politically active came only with college politics when I was in India, and I’m continuing it at TU.

Major agendas of the group

Though we’re aligned with our fraternal political parties, we no longer just want to be a tool for them to add to their numerical strength.

Education has to be made a fundamental right in Nepal – that’s the first agenda, and then, we can move on to different policies. We demand free and equal educational opportunities for all because right now there are two social classes: One with money to spend in private institutions, and the other who depend on government institutions that lack quality. Concerned stakeholders are more interested in privatization and benefiting from education being commercial.

We’re not saying that private institutions be closed but at least stall their numeric growth and focus more on the improvement of government educational institutions.

Another focus is on the restructuring of syllabus and preparation of one that suits the country rather than copy paste it from elsewhere. There should also be more vocational-oriented courses because the current education is not producing the different manpower the country needs.

We’re also promoting the idea that people should be able to get at least basic education in their own mother tongue with their choice.

On the gap between students’ unions and students, and the unions’ strategies to bridge that gap

I think publishing regular bulletins is an effective way to bridge the communication gap. At TU, we’ve also short-listed those professors paid by the government but who’re taking classes in private colleges rather than contributing their time to ensure fair educational practice in the university.

Building trust starts with small things. Like when organizing a tournament, it must be ensured that there is a proper implementation of rules and prize distribution helps a lot in building accountability.

Students’ unions also have to focus on academic programs and come up with ideas on how to connect the syllabus with the ongoing scenario of the nation. That way, students will be able to gain more and feel the significance of a student group.

We’re also strongly rooting for a calendar with all the events and academic routine, dates and information mapped out. In recent years, student union activities, such as frequent protests, have created obstacles to follow the academic calendar. But all the unions have to cooperate. We’re willing to do it; we’re even demanding that a calendar be followed for smooth operations.

Challenges you face as a woman student leader

Being a woman makes a difference in our society. As an individual, it depends on your confidence; but your leadership depends on the organization and comrades. However, it’s a challenge to work when you’re numerically marginalized.

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